Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday gifts and treats

I love to give homemade gifts and treats this time of year and now that I am no longer eating wheat, I find myself making even more treats and bringing them with me to parties so I can indulge a little too. One of my favorite treats is peppermint bark. I found a great recipe for layered bark at epicurious.com and have been making it for the last couple of years.

It has the traditional white chocolate and peppermint candies, but then in the middle is this decadent layer of dark chocolate peppermint truffle. It truly makes the candy spectacular.

This year, after making the peppermint bark twice, I decided to mix things up a little with the third batch and make a fruit and nut bar to go along with it.

WARNING! Extremely rich and delicious.

20 oz good quality white chocolate or white chocolate chips
10 oz good quality dark, bittersweet, or semisweet chocolate
5 Tbs half and half
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup (or to taste) toasted pecans, or the nuts of your choice, roughly chopped
1 cup (or to taste) dried fruit, apricots, craisins, blueberries, peaches, etc

prepare a cookie sheet by covering it with foil.
melt 10oz of the white chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Be careful, the white chocolate can seize easily if it comes into contact with moisture.

Spread the melted chocolate in an even layer on the cookie sheet. Don't expect for it to fill the entire sheet. Sprinkle the white chocolate with half of the nuts and fruit, pressing down lightly to adhere. Place the sheet in the fridge for at least 15 mins.

Meanwhile, melt the dark chocolate with the half and half, stirring to combine. Once melted and mixed together, remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Allow to cool for 5 mins.

Remove the white chocolate from the fridge and distribute the chocolate mixture over the top. I usually put big dollops all over it and then use and offset spatula to spread it evenly. Put back in the fridge for 25 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, melt the last of the white chocolate, allow to cool slightly and then apply to the bark in the same manner described above. Sprinkle with the remaining nuts and fruit, press to adhere, and put back in the fridge for another 20 minutes or so.

Remove from the fridge and cut into small wedges using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife. If it has sat in the fridge for longer than 20 minutes, return to room temp before attempting to cut into it. Put the wedges into a bag or tin and store in the fridge, or on the porch (if you love up north)

Enjoy!! (and if you get it as a gift from me, pretend you have no idea how easy it is to make!)

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