Chocolate Peppermint Bark

In the market for a last minute treat for your holiday table or hostess gift?  Look no further!  This chocolate peppermint bark is quick, pretty, and tastes great.  I’ll be giving it to the research assistants in my lab this week =)

 Chocolate Peppermint Bark | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need:

  • 12 oz. chocolate candy melts
  • 12 oz. dark chocolate chips
  • 12 oz. white chocolate candy melts
  • 12 oz. white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract, divided
  • 1/4 cup Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips, optional
  • crushed candy canes, for topping

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate candy melts and dark chocolate chips.  Remove from the heat and add 1/4 tsp of the peppermint extract and stir to combine.  Pour the melted chocolate onto the prepared baking sheet and spread it out evenly, using an offset spatula.  You can stash the chocolate-covered baking sheet in the fridge for 20 minutes or so to speed up the cooling process.

Again, using double boiler, melt the white chocolate candy melts and chips until smooth.  Remove from the heat and add the remaining 1/4 tsp of peppermint extract and stir to combine.  Add the Andes peppermint baking chips, if desired, and stir to combine.  Some of the chips will start to melt, creating a red swirled effect in the white chocolate.  I thought it was pretty.

Pour the white chocolate on top of the cooled dark chocolate and spread it in an even layer, again using an offset spatula.

Top the white chocolate with crushed candy canes.

Stash the baking sheet in the fridge again to help speed the cooling and hardening process.  Once the chocolate is hardened, use a sharp knife to break it into irregularly-shaped pieces.  Enjoy!

 Chocolate Peppermint Bark | A Nerd Cooks


Peppermint Buttercrunch

So, the Christmas holiday has come and gone.  I fully intended to post this before the 25th, but… you know how that goes.  I made two batches of this candy to take to my parents’ house for their annual Christmas-day party.  For one, I used dark chocolate as the original recipe recommends.  For the other, I used white chocolate, just for something a little different.  They were both delicious, and enjoyed by everyone who ate it.  The recipe is a little time consuming, and you’ll need a candy thermometer for this one, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor and investment, especially since it’s so tasty and pretty and you can pick up a cheap thermometer at Walmart.

Peppermint Buttercrunch | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe is in the December issue of Food & Wine magazine.

You’ll need:

  • 1 stick, plus 6 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbs water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 12 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup peppermint candies, crushed (I used the Andes peppermint crunch baking chips)

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  Set it aside.

In a saucepan, preferably with a heavy bottom, combine the butter, sugar, water, and salt.  Cook over moderate heat, stirring pretty much continually.  Cook until the mixture reaches 298 degrees F on a candy thermometer (~10 minutes).  Remove the pan from the heat and add the extracts, stirring well.  Immediately pour this buttercrunch onto the prepared baking sheet. Using a spatula, spread it into an even layer.  Allow it to cool and harden completely.

Once the buttercrunch is set, you’ll want to start topping it with chocolate and peppermint chips.  Using a medium-sized glass bowl, heat half of the chocolate in 30-second intervals in the microwave, stirring between bursts, until it is melted completely and is smooth.  Pour this melted chocolate onto the buttercrunch.  Using a spatula, spread it all around in an even layer until everything is covered.  Top with half of the peppermint baking chips.  Allow the chocolate to cool and set.

Once the chocolate is set, you’ll want to gently lay another large baking sheet flush on top of the hardened chocolate.  Holding the two baking sheets together, sandwiching the candy, you’ll want to carefully flip them over so that the chocolate side is now facing down, and the bare buttercrunch side can be seen on top (once you remove the parchment paper/silicone baking mat and other cookie sheet, of course).  Melt the remaining chocolate as you did before, and pour it onto the buttercrunch, spreading it around evenly.  Top with the remaining peppermint pieces and allow it to stand until firm and cool.

Break the buttercrunch into irregularly shaped pieces.  Eat!

Chocolate Halloween Bark

For once, I thought I’d be on the ball and show you some holiday-related treats before the holiday.  Radical notion, I know.  Sean and I are having a Halloween party this weekend, and this is one of the tasty noms we’ll be enjoying.

I was inspired to make this chocolate bark after seeing this recipe on Live, Love, Pasta.

You’ll need:

Reese’s Pieces
Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
24 oz. milk chocolate
12 oz. white chocolate

Start by lining a cookie sheet with wax paper.  Scatter the wax paper with the candy.  Using your thumb, squish the peanut butter cups down so that they are about the same height as the Reese’s Pieces.

Melt the milk chocolate (either in the microwave in 30 second increments or using a double boiler on the stove) and spread it evenly over the candy with an offset spatula.

Put the cookie sheet in the freezer for 20-30 minutes until the chocolate hardens.

After the milk chocolate hardens, melt the white chocolate.  Spread it evenly on top of the milk chocolate.  

Then, add sprinkles!  Since we’re having a Halloween party, I naturally went with black and orange.

Put the cookie sheet back into the freezer to let the white chocolate harden.  Once it firms up, break the bark into pieces.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Store it in the refrigerator.

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Fudge

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Fudge.  Ya heard.  Plus a short roundup of how the Pacek family Christmas went (our first Christmas as a married couple!).

Between visiting Sean’s grandparents up in Punxsutawney, PA (yes… where the groundhog lives…) on Christmas Eve and spending a very relaxing Christmas day at my parents’ house, we had an extremely enjoyable holiday.  Everyone is healthy and doing well, so I can’t complain there.  I just wish I had thought to take more pictures of the food, because it was awesome: homemade pierogies, sauerkraut, turkey roll, mushrooms at his grandparents’ and pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, some tasty shrimp-filled wontons, and a ton of cheese at my parents’.  I may have overindulged.  Just a little.  Have I mentioned that I am borderline obsessed with cheese?

Left to right: horseradish, salsa jack, and apple-cinnamon.  This makes me happy.

We both got some really nice stuff, too.  Among other things, we received new luggage (badly needed), some books and clothes, and my parents got us an ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid mixer.  Be on the lookout for some ice cream recipes in the fairly near future!  My mom also picked me up a copy of Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl.  So… yeah.  Be on the lookout for a lot of PW recipes, too.  She has some really great looking recipes in this cookbook.  Maeby made out pretty well, too.  Gram Tam (my mom) got her a nice container to keep her dog food in (and of course it’s red to match my kitchen!), a well as some treats and a new Nylabone.  She was a happy little girl.

Anyway, on to what you’re really here for: the recipe.  I found this recipe on the blog A Spicy Perspective, and not only is it delicious, it is incredibly easy to make.  I don’t know why the word “fudge” always conjured up images of some ridiculously complicated preparation in my mind, but that’s definitely not the case.  

You’ll need:

14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 tbs butter, plus extra for greasing dish
1 lb. dark chocolate chips/chunks
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup Andes Peppermint Chunks

Grease an 8×8 baking dish.  Sprinkle half of the peppermint chunks into the bottom of the dish and set aside.

Place a medium sauce pot over medium heat with about 2 inches of water.  Place a glass bowl over the top, making sure the glass bowl doesn’t touch the water.  You’ve just created a double-boiler.

Pour the condensed milk and butter into the bowl and heat.

Add the chocolate and salt to the bowl.  Stir the chocolate until it melts and thickens.  The mixture should be pretty thick, like a thick cake batter.

Add the extracts and mix well.  

Pour the mixture into the baking dish.  Gently tap the dish on the counter for a minute or so.  This will help release any air bubbles that are trapped under the surface.  

Sprinkle the remaining peppermint chunks over the top and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, and possibly longer, until the fudge sets.

To cut, dip a knife in hot water, wipe off, and cut quickly.  You can dip and wipe between cuts (you’ll probably need to).  Cut fudge into desired shape and size.  I think I ended up cutting mine into 30 square pieces.  I do feel obligated to say that I had a devil of a time cutting this up and getting it out of the pan.  Is this always the case with fudge, or am I just challenged in this arena?

Despite having difficulty making very neat cuts, the fudge came out very well (if I do say so myself), and was smooth and creamy.  The chocolate/peppermint combination was perfect.  I admit that I had to order the Andes Peppermint Chips on, since I simply couldn’t find them in Baltimore.  They’re pretty cool, though.  I kept eating them out of the bag as I made the fudge.  They put me in mind of the big, soft, individually-wrapped peppermint balls, only softer.  Delicious.

I realize that this is sort of a Christmas-y fudge, but you could definitely get away with making it through the remainder of the winter, and no one would complain.  Or, heck, put this recipe in your back pocket for the next holiday season!  Either way, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.