I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but Ria and I have some food themes going on. She is, very clearly, The Queen of Breakfasts. Looking back she’s posted a veritable bevy of breakfast recipes. Including:
(When we stayed with Ria and her beloved (“DH”) I distinctly remember being thrilled to be asked “What do you want for breakfast? Savoury or Sweet?” Knowing, full well, she did not mean supermarket toast with a combover of vegemite vs a bowl of limp cornflakes. Kid makes a mean breakfast feast, let me tell you.)
On the other hand, I’m the first to admit I’m no natural chef. I much prefer the term ‘food enthusiast’ and can cook, will cook, but mainly like to eat. When scanning cookbooks I look for short lists of ingredients and not too many steps. If the recipe has so many steps it walks itself onto the next page then woah, it’d better be good ’cause I’m already starting to switch off. (And when I say “good” you know I mean “sweet”. And when I say “sweet” you know I mean “chocolate”. I make exceptions for chocolate like it’s a youngest child)
Best of all short-recipes-with-few-steps is a chocolate recipe. Even better is one that includes a little savoury – salt, spices, nuts – and even better than that is one that involves very little actual cooking. I joke that I’m better at “assembly” than cooking. I call it “assemblage” – a hybrid of assembly and collage – using already yummy ingredients, combining them, presenting them and shamelessly taking credit (I basically just want to get slightly fancied up chocolate into my cake-hole as fast as possible and pretend like I had a hand in making it taste so damn good. Don’t judge me.)
So when I read this recipe for Chocolate Bark last week, an idea for an easy Valentine’s gift, I was all “That’ll do nicely”. I make Peppermint Bark every year and this seemed, dare I say it, even easier. No chopping of candy canes and making of ganache. So, of course, I had to test it for all of you out there (oh the burdens). And now that I am not only a P-bark expert but have branched out into other choc-bark genres I have come up with a little formula for you to make your own. Because maybe you don’t have the exact fruit / nuts / spices recommended, but you want to make it anyway. Maybe you’re into a bit of assemblage yourself.
Chocolate Bark – The Formula:
Crunch + Chew + Savoury + Sweet + Chocolate = YUM.
Crunch: Nuts: hazelnuts, cashew nuts, pecans, seeds: sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, cacao nibs, candy-canes, popcorn. TOP TIP: oven roast or pan fry your nuts or seeds first, they will taste about a thousand times better.
Chew: Dried fruit – cranberries, mango, fig etc, jube lollies, marshmallows
Savoury: Anything from the “Crunch” list and also: seasalt and spices like five spice, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, chilli (smoked or regular). As with nuts / seeds the spices should be dry pan fried to get the best flavour out of them. Be careful not to burn the spices, whisk them off the heat as soon as they become fragrant.
Sweet: Anything from the “Chew” list and also: crumbled dehydrated fruit (e.g. raspberry), dried coconut, crushed hokey-pokey, crushed caramel popcorn.
Chocolate – Essential, clearly. Make it good stuff. If going dark ensure it is 65% plus and if going white / milk make sure there is a decent proportion of cocoa butter. Some white chocolate brands have NO COCOA BUTTER in them!! It’s a travesty.
Dark Choc + Cocoa nibs + candied ginger
White chocolate + cinnamon + roasted hazelnuts
Milk chocolate + roasted peanuts + marshmallows + jube lollies (ahem, they call this “rocky road”, see?)
Chop up all your ingredients.
Prepare a baking tray by lining it with foil.
Melt your chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water or in the microwave in short (10-20 second) bursts.
Mix chocolate with ingredients, reserving one third of your “Crunch”
Spread chocolate mixture over the foil, making it as thick or thin as your fancy.
Sprinkle remaining “Crunch” over the top.
Place in fridge until cold and hard and then chop into pieces.
Transfer pieces from tray into open mouth.
Honestly, this dish (can it be called a dish??) is such a crowd-pleaser and it’s easy as pie…if pie were actually easy. Do check out Annabel Langbein’s recipe if you want pointers (e.g. quantities or her favourite flavour combo) but also feel free to trust your instincts and get creative. Chocolate bark is there to be tweaked and made your own. You can alter it for any kind of dinner, any kind of theme, and when you serve it up with dessert wine or coffee or tea it looks like you’ve made an extraordinary effort when really you were just trying to get chocolate into your cake-hole with as little effort as possible.
Still, the kudos is nice and I suggest taking it.
P.S. Other (easy!) chocolate recipes I have posted: Rosemary and Chocolate truffles + Afghan biscuits, Chocolate Pots and cacao nib cookie crumb.