Chocolate is my love language, my BFF, my favorite. I especially adore it with crunchy nuts and sweet and tangy bits of dried fruit. As a child, I was a huge Raisinets and Goobers fan, always my choice at the movies. Ideally, I’d finagle a box of each so I could enjoy them at the same time, the crunchy, salty peanuts and the sweet raisins wrapped in sublime chocolate.
Here’s a more mature, sophisticated but incredibly easy version of nuts and fruit for your holiday giving and enjoying. I think a box of French Chocolate Bark tied up with a pretty bow would make a marvelous hostess gift and it’s perfect as an easy dessert after a holiday meal.
French Chocolate Bark
Recipe based on Ina Garten’s from her book, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients
- 1 cup whole, salted almonds
- 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup finely diced crystallized ginger
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup finely diced dried apricots
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Using a pencil, draw a rectangle that is approximately the size of a standard sheet of paper (8-1/2 inches by 11 inches) on a piece of Unbleached Parchment Paper
placed on a sheet pan, then turn the parchment paper over.
- Spread the almonds in a single layer on another sheet pan and bake for 8-10 minutes, until just toasted. Set aside to cool. (You will not need the oven after this.)
- You can melt your chocolate either on the stovetop (my preferred way) or in a microwave. Stovetop method — Put chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl that fits over a pot of barely simmering water (or put the bowl directly in a wide, shallow skillet of barely simmering water). Stir from time to time until the chocolate is melted and smooth then remove from the heat. Don’t let water come in contact with the chocolate. Make sure your bowl and spoon or spatula are completely dry. Even small amounts of water can cause chocolate to “seize,” or turn into a stiff, grainy mess. Seized chocolate can be brought back to a smooth state by adding cream, but this won’t work with this recipe so be careful not to get any water in your chocolate!
- Microwave method – Place the semisweet chocolate and half the bittersweet chocolate in a microwave-safe glass bowl and microwave on high power for 20 to 30 seconds. Stir with rubber spatula. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second intervals until the chocolate is just melted. Immediately add the remaining bittersweet chocolate and allow It to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.
- Pour the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper and spread it lightly into the drawn rectangle.
- Sprinkle the top evenly in the following order: ginger, nuts, cranberries, apricots, raisins. Set aside for 1 to 2 hours until firm. Cut the bark in 18 to 20 pieces and serve at room temperature.
- Store in airtight container in a cool, dry place for several weeks.
Spread the melted chocolate in a rectangle on your parchment paper covered cookie sheet.
Sprinkle with assorted nuts and dried fruit and let harden. Then break into pieces and enjoy!
- I refrigerate the bark after it hardens. I think it keeps longer that way.
- Feel free to use whatever combination of roasted nuts and dried fruit you like. Dried dates, figs, pineapple, mango, macadamias, pecans, pistachios, pine nuts, the combinations are endless! Be creative and have fun.
- Add a sprinkle of sea salt or Himalayan Pink salt for an added crunch.
- Or, add a 1/4 teaspoon of Cayenne or ground black pepper for a savory snap!