I was taught that good guests never arrive empty-handed. At holiday time, I’m always looking for new homemade presents to bring instead of wine or flowers. This year I discovered a fabulous host/hostess gift – homemade chocolate bark candy with dried fruit and nuts.
There’s a lot to love about this chocolate bark. It’s super easy to make, no-bake, and quick too. It’s not messy to clean up afterwards, there are endless variations, and it looks fabulous presented in a gift box or bag, surrounded by nice tissue paper. It’s addictive too – sweet, but not cloying; unusual, but appealing to the less adventuresome eaters too. And at less than $5 for an 8 ounce gift box or bag ($6 or $6.50 if you count the fancy box or bag), it’s an inexpensive present.
The secret ingredient in this chocolate bark is ground anise seed. In large quantities or alone, anise seed tastes and smells like licorice. But added to a sweet in small quantities, it balances other flavors rather than overwhelming them. Mixing chocolate with figs and ginger may be unusual too, but trust me, it’s a marvelous combination.
This recipe is my take on the Toque Girls’ dark chocolate bark, which is, in turn, an adaptation of an Epicurious recipe. You can take it in lots of new directions too. Let us know how you adapt it when you do. Speaking of adaptations, I’m not a dark chocolate snob, although I do like it better than other types. I generally use dark chocolate because I like it, but I got a special request for milk chocolate bark and found it was delicious too. Semi-sweet would work well if that’s your preference. I think any “hard” nut would work and I’m planning to try the recipe with roasted pistachios and hazelnuts soon. (I prefer only one type of nut in a batch, so the flavor stands out.) Dark and light raisins and dried cherries are the dried fruits I haven’t tried yet that appeal to me as add-ons or substitutes for the dried fruits in this recipe.
Here is the recipe using a small bar (3.5 ounces) of fine quality dark chocolate. In a note following the recipe, I’ve also provided the quantities of other ingredients to use for a large bar of chocolate – approximately 1 pound (16 ounces) if you want to make a big batch for more than one gift. I promise not to tell if you eat a few pieces as you pack the rest!
Fabulous Chocolate Bark
Serving – Approximately 8 oz, Cost – $4.30
- 3.5-4 ounce bar of good quality dark chocolate
- Heaping ¼ teaspoon of anise seeds, finely ground
- 2 heaping tablespoons of chopped roasted almonds (I buy Trader Joe’s roasted, unsalted)
- 2 heaping tablespoons of chopped dried apricots and/or cranberries
- 1-2 heaping teaspoons of chopped crystallized (candied) ginger I made my own using David Lebovitz’s recipe, but you can buy it at a grocery or specialty food store.
- 2 heaping teaspoons of chopped figs
Equipment – besides microwave to melt chocolate (or pans if melting on stove)
- Wooden bowl & knife to chop nuts (or use butting board & knife used for dried fruit)
- Cutting board
- Knife for cutting dried fruit
- 2 medium sized bowls, at least 1 should be microwave safe
- Coffee grinder (or mortar & pestle) for grinding anise seed
- Measuring spoons
- Small cookie sheet
- Tin foil
For 1 pound of chocolate (Trader Joe’s sells blocks that are 17.5 ounces. These proportions work for those blocks too:
2 teaspoons anise seeds, 1 cup chopped nuts, 1 cup chopped apricots & cranberries, ¼ cup chopped ginger, ⅓ cup chopped figs.
- Cover the cookie sheet in tin foil
- Grind the anise seeds to a reasonably fine powder.
If using a spice/coffee grinder like mine, do it in short pulses, so you won’t blow out the motor. If you don’t have a grinder, a mortar & pestle works too.
- Chop the nuts and dried fruit coarsely into pieces smaller than your thumbnail. Set them aside, all mixed together, in 1 of the bowls.
The measurements of chopped fruit and nuts are approximate. I prefer my chocolate bark chock full. If you prefer to change the ratio to be more chocolate than fruit and nuts, don’t pile the chopped nuts and fruits in the measuring spoons.
- Break the chocolate into small pieces in the second bowl and melt in the microwave. Two minutes on medium (#6 on my microwave) did the trick for me. Be careful not to burn the chocolate – better to use a medium-low setting and check after 1½ minutes, then add more time if necessary. The pieces should be basically intact, but soft.
- Microwaved food continues cooking; after stirred for about a minute, it became thoroughly smooth.
Add the ground anise to the chocolate and incorporate it.
- Mix ½ of the dried fruit and nuts into the chocolate/anise.
Pour the mixture onto the tin foil-covered cookie sheet. Spread it to a layer about 6 inches. No need to be obsessive – just make sure there are no bare spots.
- Add the rest of the nuts and fruit on top and gently press them into the mixture, so that they will adhere to the bark.
- Leave the bark on the foil-covered cookie sheet on a counter to cool for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Gently peel the bark off the tin foil and break into irregular pieces. I got my bark off in 1 large piece, but that’s not necessary. Pulling the foil off the bark works better than pulling the bark off the foil.