Bark Up This Holiday Tree: Chocolate Bark Three Ways

As promised, we're ending the week with a little tutorial on making the easiest holiday snack of all time. It's chocolate bark, and today I'm serving it up 3 ways to satisfy almost any taste bud. Let's get down to the goods, shall we?

Hold up. Before we go any further, how about a quick lesson in chocolate melting? I refuse to give in to the double boiler, so I go with the good old-fashioned microwave instead. I've done this many, many times and burned many, many bowls of chocolate, so I think it's only right to give you, dear reader, a quick rundown.

Here's how I get it done:
Place chopped chocolate in a shallow bowl (yup, if you aren't using chocolate chips, you really need to give it a rough chop for the chocolate to melt evenly - if you are in fact using chips, carry on as is). Microwave chopped chocolate at 15 second intervals (trust me! I have burned a LOT of chocolate in my day - don't be tempted to add additional time, even when after the first couple of intervals it will seems as, though nothing is not give in. It must be at 15 second intervals), stirring in between each time, even when it seems like nothing is happening. It will.
When the chocolate seems like it's just about done, but still has a few lumps, remove from the microwave and stir quickly. This will melt the remainder of chocolate chunks without microwaving, and therefore burning, the already fully melted part. It should look something like this:

That's it. Now enjoy perfectly melted, photo op quality chocolate.

Cranberry Orange White Chocolate Bark
4-5 oz white chocolate, roughly chopped (I use Baker's Chocolate, found in any grocery store baking aisle and premeasured into 1 oz squares)
1/3C Dried cranberries
1 tsp Orange zest
After melting your white chocolate, stir in dried cranberries and orange zest. Step lightly, as the chocolate will cool off and harden very, very quickly. Immediately spread out in a thin layer on a sheet pan - I lined mine with parchment paper for easy removal and clean-up. It may require a bit of elbow grease to spread it out, but use a spatula, get your hands dirty, and get 'er done. Let sit for a few minutes and then press aluminum foil down on the bark to hold it in place.

The next morning, with foil still on, bang all over with rolling pin. Remove foil, and break up pieces with your hands.

The result: A creamsicle tasting piece of goodness. The dried cranberries cut out some of the super white chocolate sweetness, leaving a perfect flavor combination that I will be devouring as soon as the clock strikes noon.

Chocolate Cherry Almond Bark
6 oz semisweet, white, or milk chocolate
1/3 C Dried cherries, chopped
1/3 C Slivered almonds, toasted in small pan for about 2 min - don't let them burn!!
After melting your semisweet chocolate, stir in cherries and almonds. Repeat steps above.

And after a night of cooling and being bammed with a rolling pin...

The result: I'm a huge fan of dried cherries so I had high hopes for this one. It did disappoint, however. I went with the semisweet chocolate and I think it was just too bitter to counterbalance the sour cherries. Next time, I'm going milk or white chocolate and I think it will be the winning combo I'm looking for.

Traditional Peppermint Bark
6 oz Semi-sweet chocolate
1 C White chocolate chips
4 Candy canes, crushed
1/2 tsp Peppermint extract
Melt semisweet chocolate and stir in peppermint extract. Spread out on sheet pan and let sit until semi-hardened. Next, temper white chocolate (I used chips here because I ran out of Baker's Chocolate) and carefully spread out on top of the semisweet chocolate. Mine ended up running together a bit, but it doesn't have to be perfect. Sprinkle crushed candy canes on top and press down with aluminum foil.

When it's all put together...

Keep aluminum foil on top of bark, as above, and the next morning you'll get...

The result: What can I say? Nothing beats a classic. This was my favorite of the bunch. Crunchy candy cane on mint chocolate is a dynamite combination in my book. And this version give Williams-Sonoma a serious run for their money.

Now, before you break it all up and reap the sweet rewards, you need to let these cool completely. Even when you think it's done, it's probably not. I'm hesitant to put in the refrigerator since it tends to turn the chocolate into crumbly gray. Instead, I recommend finding a very cool area, like the garage or in a particularly cold room in your home. I laid the pans out in my living room, which gets pretty darn cold in the evening hours. The next morning, with the bark still covered with foil, bang 'em with a rolling pin for an imperfect break. Enjoy!

So what do you think? Do any of these sweet confections make your sweet tooth tingle? Do you have any other holiday barks that you love this time of year?

*Note: I made these in very small batches since I was making all three in one night (all I can say is thank god I'm not a big chocolate eater or I'd be about 400 pounds). If you want more, adjust recipes accordingly.