Tag Archives: dessert

Easy Winter Peppermint Bark

One of my all-time favorite holiday treats is peppermint bark. I’m particularly taken with the Ghirardelli version which uses dark or milk chocolate layered with white chocolate, and what appear to be crushed up bits of candy cane.

IMG_0262

But I sometimes feel like store-bought chocolates can be a bit waxy and I strongly prefer dark chocolate to other kinds. (85% cacao is an excellent mid-afternoon snack to wake up and because it’s so strong, no fear of eating the whole bar!) It seems like most of the peppermint bark in stores has at least some element of white chocolate in it, which I could do without.

So I decided to make my own wintery peppermint bark with deep dark chocolate, crushed up candy canes, and a bit of peppermint extract for an extra minty kick.

Note that you can use other kinds of chocolate to suit your preference! It’s such a simple recipe, but you’ll need wax paper or even better, shallow silicone ice trays which will make perfect little rectangles! Or you could find some fun holiday shapes like pine trees! Or make your own Hanukkah gelt if you find a tray with circlular molds.

Here’s what to do:

Melt your chocolate. I chose a mix of 70% and 86% cacao which is bitter but still palatable as a dessert. (Pick your mix of favorite chocolates!) Use a glass bowl set over a pot of boiling water (not touching the water) and continually stir the chocolate until it’s a smooth glossy liquid. Start with either a bag of chocolate chips or 5 standard size bars. This will make enough treats to eat yourself and share with a few friends.

Depending on how much chocolate you use, you will want a candy cane ratio such that each bite gets some chunks. For 5 chocolate bars, I used a total of 8 regular candy canes (they taste so much better than those round red and white dinner mints). First I finely crushed up 3 candy canes in a Ziploc bag using a meat hammer (you could also use the back of a frying pan).

Once the chocolate was melted and smooth, I turned off the stove heat and mixed in my 3 crushed candy canes and ½ tsp of peppermint extract to really amplify the mint flavor which can get lost in the overpowering dark chocolate (guess that’s why it’s standard to use white chocolate).

Line a pan with a lip (I used a pretty small one since I only used 5 chocolate bars) with the wax paper so that the paper hangs over all the edges. Pour the chocolate mix onto the wax paper and use a spatula to spread it evenly (or evenly pour the mixture into your silicone ice trays).

 

Then, in the Ziploc bag, I crushed up the remaining 5 candy canes into a mix of small and medium chunks. Don’t crush them into too fine a powder or else you won’t get that satisfying candy cane crunch in your bark.

Sprinkle these crushed candy canes over the chocolate along with a smattering of sea salt (a trick I learned from Carla Hall on The Chew).

Refrigerate until hard. Either pop the chocolates out of the silicone mold or break up the large chocolate sheet into bite sized chunks with a knife.

Wrap them up in cellophane or craft paper and make cute tags for friends and family! Yum!

Image

Marshmallow Fluff: What Happened?

As children, we often made peanut butter/marshmallow fluff sandwiches for school lunches. They were super yummy – the fluff made the peanut butter less stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth sticky and added an extra hit of sugar. We would eat it on white bread which made for a very homogeneous texture. Or sometimes we would make the sandwiches with rye….yes, I know that sounds really weird, and it was, but rye bread was our growing up bread-staple, so we didn’t mind. This was less smooshy than white bread so actually added some diversity to an otherwise big blob of softness.

I hadn’t had marshmallow fluff in years. Sometimes I would see it in the store and think, hm maybe I should get some. But since I no longer regularly eat peanut butter sandwiches and I don’t have any other reason for buying the fluff, I always restrained myself. Until recently.

We hosted an ice cream social at work, and I was in charge of getting a bunch of toppings. I went with the usual sprinkles, Magic Shell (the chocolate sauce that hardens when it hits the ice cream creating a satisfyingly crunchy shell), chocolate chips, and caramel sauce. I also grabbed a jar of marshmallow fluff for good measure.

First off, I realized that the iconic Kraft jar is no longer glass, but a hard opaque white plastic, made to look full of fluff. Okay, that’s cool I guess. But then I tasted it.

Or rather, didn’t taste it. I put a little glob on my ice cream sundae and it just blended in, not lending any distinct taste to the dish. I guess my bowl was already overwhelmed from the forty-five other toppings swirling around in there.

So I took the fluff home and figured it would be a good treat for later. Side note: while I would never say marshmallow fluff is healthy it dooooes only have 45 calories for every two tablespoons, and only 8g of sugar which is less than a lot of cereal. There isn’t any high-fructose corn syrup or partially-hydrogenated stuff in there. Just regular corn syrup, which…ehhhh….is bound to happen.

I was excited to have a sweet treat for dessert one night, so I spread some fluff on a graham cracker. All I tasted was graham cracker. A few days later, I sandwiched some fluff between two gingersnaps. And it just tasted like gingersnap. Hmfph. Is it just me, or didn’t marshmallow fluff have a distinct taste to it? Like marshmallows? It seemed like no matter what I spread it on, it didn’t have any flavor besides whatever the vehicle was to bring the fluff to my mouth.

I resorted to eating straight spoonfuls of fluff right out of the jar. It has a flavor. It just isn’t very strong. I started to question my memory. Why did I think this was so good? I mean, it isn’t bad, but it isn’t what I remember. Did they change their formula? Or is this a case of thinking something is so much better than it actually is? Like the TV shows I watched growing up that are terrible if re-watched as an adult (sorry Step-by-Step).

As a last resort, I created a half peanut butter, half fluff spoon. (FYI in case you didn’t know, a slowly savored spoonful of peanut butter is an excellent dessert. Even better if you press raisins into it.) Surprisingly, this seemed to work. Maybe it jogged the taste memory center of my brain, but the combo of the peanut butter and the marshmallow seemed to actually bring out the flavor of the marshmallow more. Hm. Still not quite the punch I remember, but getting warmer.

Now that I think about it, the other use of marshmallow sauce (runnier than fluff) was in Friendly’s Reese’s Pieces Sundaes. if you haven’t ever had one of these, you must find a Friendly’s immediately and get one. They are the best. thing. ever. But again, this is a peanut butter – marshmallow pairing. Maybe this is the key.

Well anyway, suffice it to say, I won’t be purchasing anymore marshmallow fluff for a long time. Sad, and yet it always feels good to realize that you aren’t missing out on something you thought you wanted.

photo (5)

Addendum: Oh my goodness I just realized this is called Marshmallow Creme!! Is this different?!?!? Did they change the name? What is going on!?!?! Look at this article about how Fluff was created in Boston:

http://www.bostonmagazine.com/arts-entertainment/blog/2013/09/26/where-was-fluff-invented-festival-somerville-2013/

Did we call this Kraft Marshmallow Creme “fluff” because our mom grew up with the original Fluff in Boston? Questions…..Needing answers.