This is the absolute best and easiest dessert for any occasion. The definition of “Bark” is simply a sheet of chocolate that is usually covered with nuts, dried fruit, candies and even additional pieces of chocolate. The long sheets of chocolate sometimes resembling the bark of a tree with the swirls and bumps. The very best part of this delicious sweet is that it can be made a month in advance and adorned with toppings, colors and flavors of any occasion.
Chocolate bark, chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate lollipops etc. have become very popular along with the many cake and candy stores that sell everything you need to make your own. These stores sell candy molds, bags, toppings and bags of various colored & flavored chocolate disks to produce perfect candy treats.
These chocolate disks all melt easily and have a perfect consistency to pour in molds, dip strawberries, pretzels and spread in a sheet for making bark. The problem… these small round disks are not “real” chocolate. They are made with Hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors and colors. I have found that so many people do not like white chocolate because they don’t realize that they probably have not had “real” white chocolate. OF course for the chocolate connoisseurs like my sister Penny, who only eat the best quality like Godiva or Lindt know the difference.
The chocolate disks from these Cake/Candy stores tastes good, especially if you are dipping or adding fruits, nuts and other candies etc . I just want you to realize that you are not eating real chocolate. The chocolate I use is “Real Belgian Chocolate”, I buy white, milk and dark chocolate. You can find real chocolate in the grocery store and in some of the candy stores, you will pay a bit more, but it is worth it.
In writing this article I realized that I have been making “Candy Bark” for over 20 years, yikes! So let’s just say that I have had plenty of years to get it right, haha. It all started in the kitchen of my good friend and neighbor Missy. She opened her home every year right before the holidays teaching us and helping us to make an assortment of bark for holiday gifts or entertaining.
White chocolate with apricot and almond, peppermint, toasted pecan, oreo, cranberry walnut were some of the favorites. This was so much fun, a girl’s night out for so many of us with young children plus we walked away with pounds of beautiful bark. Then our children grew up, our lives became crazy so it has been at least 15 years since we all gathered at Missy’s to make Bark. It is not only a wonderful memory but it was a great learning tool for perfecting the art of candy making. Missy is still a very good friend and is so gracious with her time, always offering help and support to anyone that knows her! Of course since then the neighborhood girls have had many fun girl’s nights out, but we have replaced the candy making for a glass of wine!
For years the traditional way to melt chocolate was using a double boiler. This method is a pot filled with water, heated to the simmering temperature, then a smaller pot or heatproof bowl is placed on top. The chocolate is placed in the top and slowly melts. Well Missy taught us that you can use a microwave to achieve the same creamy consistency as a double boiler. The key to microwaving is using a very low temp. at small intervals so the chocolate does not burn. We would fill a Pyrex bowl halfway with the chocolate and microwave for 1 minute at 50% power, removing a stirring after each minute. I am a little low on patience when it comes to melting chocolate, so over the past few years I have experimented and found two new ways to speed up the melting process.
One is microwaving for 2 minutes at a time on 40% power. It cuts the time in half and the chocolate comes out perfect. Now, the other way is pure genius, I just discovered this method and wish I had known of it 20 years ago, I could have saved a million minutes on the microwave, LOL! This has been my salvation and cut the time to make candy in half. This my friends is the oven method, yes the oven… and the chocolate melts in the pan that you are spreading it on, virtually no cleanup! No more microwave or double boiler, just the aluminum foil and the sheet pan. If you are careful not to spread the chocolate over the edges of the foil, then once you are finished, throw away the foil and the sheet pan is still clean, it’s the best!
This is super simple in the newer ovens that you can reduce the oven temperature to 170 degrees. If your oven only goes down to 300 degrees no worries, it can still work. You will line your sheet tray with foil, then place your chocolate disks or in my case chunks of chocolate right on the foil. It will melt quicker if you spread the disks evenly or cut your chunk of chocolate into smaller pieces and spread them apart. The time saver is being able to melt all of your pans of chocolate at one time.
If your oven goes down to 170 degrees, shut the oven door all the way. If your oven only goes to 300 degrees, leave the oven door half open. Many of you with newer ovens may not even realize your oven temp can go this low. The reason newer ovens have this technology is because of the baking craze, healthier cooking etc. A lesson on oven temps… 100 degrees is for proofing dough, 170 degrees is for keeping cooked food warm and baking begins at 300 degrees or higher. Another great tip for you if you are in the process of buying new appliances for your kitchen, OMIT the warming drawer. The temperature in most warming drawers is 170 degrees. Your new oven will certainly go that low therefore it can keep things warm in your regular oven. No need for the added expense and you get more cabinet space. My warming drawer is used for storing my trays and muffin tins!!!
Ok, back to the process for melting your chocolate. In your oven as it melts it will may even look as if it has kept most of its shape, but in reality it may be fully melted. This should take no longer than 15-20 minutes. You will know as soon as you take a spatula to it and smooth it to the ends of the foil. If it is not fully melted, just leave it in for a few minutes more. Another tip I am sure most of you know is about your foil. The box has two punch through tabs at each end of the box, just push them through and they will hold you roll of foil in place. This way every time you pull out a sheet, the whole roll doesn’t come out with it, the best idea ever! Check your aluminum foil box right now, haha, it the small things sometimes!
Now just remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle your favorite toppings, bang the tray down on a counter to get out any bubbles and it also helps the toppings sink in a little. Then pop it in the fridge for about 45 minutes, it needs to be rock solid when you touch it. This procedure is pure heaven and you are not standing in front of the microwave for an hour trying to make 2 pans of bark. You can even mix and match putting white and dark or milk chocolate on the same pan. When it melts just swirl it around and you have marble bark.
This is one recipe that has no exact measurements, if you want a thick bark you can melt more chocolate to spread on your sheet tray. In addition the toppings choices are endless and you can put as much or as little as you want even combining flavors and textures.
Candy Bark Recipe
Prep time: 15 min
Melting time: 15 min
Yield: 3 sheet pans
- 12 cups chocolate disks or block chocolate (white, dark or milk)
- food coloring for white chocolate
- Oreo Cookies
- Christmas Chocolate M&M’s
- Peppermint crush
- Caramel Candies
- Dried apricots, figs, cranberries golden raisins
- Toasted nuts ( almonds, pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts pistachio nuts)
If using the microwave place chocolate in batches in glass bowls or measuring cups. Microwave each bowl 2 minutes on 40% power several times until chocolate is melted, stirring in between. If using white chocolate and want to make a different color add food color at this time. Spread melted chocolate on prepared pans to the end of foil add toppings and refrigerate 1 hour until solid. If using the oven method, line 3 or 4 sheets with foil. For thinner bark us 4 trays, for thicker bark use 3 trays. Spread disks or chunks of chocolate on pan and place in a 170 degree oven 10-15 minutes until melted. Remove from oven and spread to ends of foil, add your toppings, bank pan on counter to settle and refrigerate 1 hour. When the chocolate has hardened break the sheet of bark into smaller pieces and place in a ziploc bag and refrigerate until ready to use. If using right away, break into small pieces and display in a basket or a candy bowl.
Your family and friends will enjoy this!