(Hi! This post is the first of a few to come out about chocolate bark – it’s our latest obsession. Today’s includes coconut, cranberries, almonds, sunflower seeds, and graham crackers. More posts are to come very soon about our other favorite flavor combos and tips for the perfect bark to be raved about. If you want to keep in touch, follow us to get emails every time we post! It’s a great way to see what we’re up to and get the scoop on all things food.)
I swear, if there is some part of baking that is almost impossible to get wrong, it’s bark.
It’s a simple concept: chocolate mixed with fun things like nuts, candy, dried fruit, cookies, etc. You can stop there, but for a little extra flair, you can add a base of crackers – here I used graham – , pretzels, or something else crunchy. (If you can pull off a potato chip bark, please. tell. me. I must learn your ways.)
A classic and one you’ve probably had a lot is peppermint bark – white chocolate, dark chocolate, and crushed candy canes on top. Yummm! But I’m not normal, so I went with a completely different route here on this particular bark. Coconut, cranberry, almonds…droolin’ yet?
And the thing is, bark’s just so easy to get right!
I like to call it “pantry bark” because it can literally be whatever you have in your pantry. Sunflower seeds? Yeah! Pistachio nuts? Yes! A chocolate drizzle on top? Bring it on.
Breaking the bark by hand always makes it look so pretty, too! I’d recommend only trying that on thinner barks, though (not this one!). Thicker barks need a nice knife to saw the hunk into little squares or triangles.
Also, if you’re planning on adding a chocolate drizzle (do iitttt!) on top of it all, hand breaking it will mess it up. So stick with the knife unless its thin and has no drizzles on top!
For this bark shown and described in this post, I tried to hand break it but it was way too thick. (Graham crackers on the bottom, a nice thick layer of chocolate in the middle, a whole heap of toppings, and a chocolate drizzle) So I went with my trusty knife to cut it into cute squares. Love!
OK, enough pictures, now explanation. How must you go about creating this beauteous concoction you call bark, you ask? Good question.
This bark has a base of graham crackers. I spread them out on parchment paper for easy cleanup.
I first melted some semi-sweet chocolate and spread it all over the layer of graham crackers. Then I sprinkled on (correction, totally dumped on) the toppings. Prepare yourself.
Here is what I threw on top of the chocolate: toasted coconut (I baked some unsweetened flaked in the oven for a while), dried cranberries (I used Craisins), slivered almonds (mine were pre-slivered in the package because I found them in the pantry!! Score!), and sunflower seeds. I even found a tiny bag of Ritz crackers and some of them were slightly crushed so I crumbled a few of those over the bark. A bit of sea salt just for flavor, and then I was done. Honestly, it was all just what I had on hand. Easy.
Then a nice chocolate drizzle. I had leftover chocolate in the bowl, still warm, so I spooned it into a plastic bag, cut a whole in the corner, and “piped” it out diagonally onto the bark.
Do I sound like a totally lame, “a pinch of this because why not” baker now? I think I do.
But look at my masterpiece! How did this beautiful piece of art come from my fingers? It’s a mystery. Please believe me when I say that bark is so darn easy to make, and most types take no time at all.
But there are a few ways to go wrong, so I’m going to outline them here so you can have the same success I did! Here are some tips for conquering that bark:
- Melt the chocolate right. Overheating chocolate leads to something called “breaking.” The chocolate will turn into a hard block and refuse to melt no matter what you do. If chocolate breaks, throw it away and start over with new chocolate. But how do you make sure you don’t overheat it and break it? If you’re using the microwave, only heat chocolate on half power for 30 second bursts. After each burst, take out the bowl and stir it and check if it’s ready. Also, don’t add anything to the chocolate that could make it “seize up” and harden. (That would be water, oil, or any other liquid) And lastly, be extra careful when using white or milk chocolate. These contain dairy solids and are extra sensitive to heat. They can burn a bit easier, but that doesn’t mean they’re not doable! (I say go for it)
- Utilize tried-and-true flavor combos. Yes, I say to throw anything on and see what happens, but that’s not exactly the full truth. There are certain flavors that don’t mix with a lot of things (like peppermint) and need to be paired with a few things or nothing at all. Here are some good tried-and-true combos I know you’ll love: cranberry-toasted coconut-pistachio, peppermint-white chocolate-dark chocolate, peanut butter cups-chocolate-pretzels-peanuts, popcorn-chocolate-pretzels-peanuts-raisins-M&M’s, cranberry-dried orange peel, freeze dried raspberries-white chocolate-almonds. There are more, but those are just a few. Think a bit before you throw on the toppings – but if you’re not sure, just put it on a little corner of your bark. You can sample it later and decide if it’s a good combo.
The best part is that you can be so creative with it! That’s why it’s called pantry bark! Use any type of chocolate you want, or swirl a few types for a marbled look. Ooh la la! You can use crackers (may I recommend Ritz or graham??) as a nice crunchy base or just pour chocolate straight on the parchment paper.
Then comes the fun, crazy, throwing random stuff on top part. Add some marshmallows, popcorn, leftover candy, crumbled cookies, caramels…the possibilities are endless. I’m not going to include a recipe with this post because I didn’t even follow one. It’s pantry bark, people! Just have fun with it and see what happens.
That’s what I did.
And this is what happened as a result.
I’m pretty proud.