December 12, 2009

Treat Boxes with Peppermint Bark

Following in the vein of not-good-with-gifts, and tacking on my unemployed status, Christmas presents will be mostly edibles. For my far flung friends, which range from Alaska to Austin to Germany, I made Christmas treat boxes. I wanted a balance of interesting things that would satisfy a range of tastes, and after extensive thought four things made the cut.

The first was peppermint bark.

A layer of dark chocolate, a layer of Callebaut white chocolate with peppermint extract and topped with crushed candy canes. Also known as awesome.

The next were a spice cookie with lots of ginger, cinnamon, a pinch of this and that, and black pepper. Since my pepper grinder is pretty terrible, there are large bits of pepper that sneak up and bite your tongue off. It makes for an exciting cookie adventure mixed with a bit of pain. Just like the holidays right?

Third was some candied pecans.  I didn't actually put that much work into these, but don't tell the recipients ok?  They were left over from Nic's wedding, hanging around in my freezer like the annoying friend who can't catch the hint.  Originally they were wedding favors placed at the ceremony for people to munch on while watching the nuptials. Instead of popcorn.  Those damn pecans were the burden my mother, Nic's mother-in-law and I undertook two days before in the frantic push to finish all the projects. We made a grand total of seven pounds, all coated in egg white and spices, oven toasted and laid to rest in cute kraft paper bags. Then I left them at home during another mad rush to get to the ceremony and had my neighbor drive them over.  At least they are now out of my life.

After snappy, chewy and crunchy the final installment was...melty? Marshmallows!  That's right, I made marshmallows. From scratch.  And you can too! Seriously, all you do is mix some water and gelatin, melt some sugar and other forms of sugar, whip until you think the hand mixer is going to throw up its beaters in defeat, and pour into a final resting place.  Coated with cornstarch that gives me textural issues, these melted into hot chocolate and resembled Fluff most remarkably.

Here are the treat recipes that went in the boxes, slowly doled out one by one.

Peppermint Bark
Makes almost a full sheet pan

1 lb. dark chocolate finely chopped- I used Ghiradelli 60% chips
1 lb. white chocolate finely chopped- truth, the good stuff is worth it. I got Callebaut
12 candy canes- the 99 cent box is perfect
3/4 to 1 tsp. peppermint extract- optional, and to taste

1.  Prepare the pan first.  Layer a half sheet pan or cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  For the fancy folk, a Silpat.
2.  Create a double boiler to melt respecting chocolates.  Place a saucepan with a few inches of water over medium heat, bring to a gentle simmer.  Place dark chocolate in a glass or aluminum bowl, and put over water.  It should not touch the water, or it will scorch the chocolate and you'll lose friends.
3.  Melt the dark chocolate completely, then pour into prepared pan. Smooth chocolate to an even layer that almost reaches the edges.  Place in the refridgerator to cool while preparing the rest.
4.  In a food processor (or bag with rolling pin) blitz the candy canes until mostly chopped.  Mine created a lot of dust, so I scooped out the bigger bits to press on top and mixed the dust with white chocolate.
5.  Melt white chocolate in double broiler, using same process as above.
6.  Once melted, mix in the candy cane dust and peppermint extract if using.
7.  Grab pan from fridge, smooth white chocolate over the top, trying not to swirl the two into mixing.
8.  Press the remaining candy cane bits into the top, and chill again.
9.  Once hardened, break up the bark into any size pieces you feel like. Distribute in pretty cellophane bags, or be a hoarder and keep for yourself.

Store in an airtight container for probably up to 3 weeks. This is a guess, as it lasted nowhere near as long.