traditions. we all have them. they have been passed down from generation to generation, maybe your family created then, perhaps you started them on your own. making peppermint bark falls into the latter category for me. my mom loves peppermint bark, so one year i decided to try and make it myself. can't be too hard, i thought. and guess what! i was right. three little ingredients are all it takes.
start with a pound of dark chocolate. you can also use milk chocolate, but i prefer the dark variety. melt the chocolate in a double broiler, then pour the whole thing onto a cookies sheet lined with wax or parchment paper. (you could also melt the chocolate in a microwave but it takes longer and your chocolate can start cooking, like turning back into a solid of sorts but not a hard piece of chocolate. i don't know how to describe it, but trust that it happens. i did it one year.) smooth the chocolate out with a spatula you would use to frost a cake, then throw into the refrigerator to harden. i usually keep mine in there overnight.
the next step is crushing up a box of candy canes. getting the wrappers off the candy canes really takes the piss out of me, if you'll allow me to be british for a second and say that. so my advice is - buy thin candy canes, and snap the top, rounded part of the candy cane off. this allows the wrapper to easily slide off the two parts of the candy cane you now hold in your hands. put the candy canes into a plastic bag and crush, which i usually do with a rolling pin. if you have any holiday frustrations, i find this part of the recipe to be quite enjoyable. post office not deliver your package? crush a candy cane. boyfriend acting like a good for nothing type of brother? crush a candy cane. no one coming to your holiday party? crush a candy cane. pants getting too tight after all the holiday season eating? crush a candy cane.
really, it cures all sorts of ills.
while you're busy pulverizing the candy canes, melt the white chocolate in the double broiler. i usually use a little less then a pound and i make sure to buy baker's white chocolate. white chocolate chips usually aren't a good substitute here simply because they're not as pure of a form of white chocolate, but if you're in a pinch you'll get by just fine. and you know those sayings about a watched pot doesn't boil and all that stuff? it should a watched pot of white chocolate doesn't melt. melting white chocolate is damn annoying. it's nearly impossible to do in a microwave (again, trust me on that one). it melts unevenly. it's thicker than the silky melted dark or milk chocolate. so i say unto you - don't get frustrated. just let it melt for about ten to twenty minutes and that should be melty enough to go onto the last step. but before that step, pour all of the crushed candy canes into the melted chocolate, reserving a tablespoon or two.
now, instead of pouring all the melted white chocolate out at once, do it piecemeal. pour a little out onto the dark chocolate, smooth it out with your spatula, and quickly move on. the heat of the white chocolate will start melting the dark chocolate, so you want to smooth it out as best you can before it starts mixing together. in the picture below you can see some parts (near the edges) where this happened a bit. remember - this is homemade peppermint bark. you aren't packing this up and stamping ghirardelli on it. it can have a few kinks and quirks and swirls. it's what makes it so nice ;)
when it's all smoothed out, sprinkle the reserved tablespoons of candy cane pieces over the peppermint bark and pop it back in the fridge, letting it harden over night. the next day i usually flip it out of the pan, lay it down on a towel with the wax paper still covering the back, and use a rolling pin or, yes, a hammer to break it up. (brian calls it a kitchen hammer. it's just your plain old hammer. used in a kitchen).
and there it is - peppermint bark! all without turning on your oven. there are many things i like about this recipe, but the most is that you can do it over a course of a few days. melt the dark chocolate on a sunday. crush candy canes on a tuesday. melt the white chocolate and complete the process on a wednesday. it's just nice to not have to do it all at once. and for those people who you really feel like you don't know what to get so you just end up getting them a gift card, pairing it with a little bag of homemade peppermint bark makes it seem more personal and thoughtful. it can also make a great hostess gift. basically - having homemade peppermint bark around the house during the holidays can be quite a resourceful tool. and delicious.
brian recently told me he was about to buy some peppermint bark but stopped himself, remembering that we make our own peppermint bark at christmas. because slowly but surely a new tradition has been set. i couldn't be happier, and the peppermint bark couldn't be more delicious.