Thursday, December 23, 2010

Triple Layer, Triple Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Apparently some traditions do not take a long time to be established.  This is only the third year I have made peppermint bark for the holiday season and yet my boys have been talking expectantly about it for several months now.  I suspect that peppermint bark only took 2 years to become a tradition because of how good it is.  Something about the dark smooth chocolate peppermint ganache alongside the sweetness of the white chocolate and the crunch of the cool peppermint pieces is evocative of the season.

When I went to make this years batch I found I did not have enough white chocolate so I decided to punt.  Instead of going out for more white chocolate used milk chocolate as one of the layers.  There is happy agreement in the house that the new version is actually better then the original recipe.  So I guess now we have a new tradition.

Triple Layer, Triple Chocolate Peppermint Bark
Adapted from Orangette

Use only the highest quality chocolate in the recipe.  With such a simple recipe the ingredients all have to bring everything they can to the final confection.  White chocolate should list "coco butter" as one of the ingredients.  Steer clear of hydrogenated oil and artificial flavors.

9 oz's milk chocolate
30 striped peppermint candies (this year I used red, white and green ones, they were out of red and white ones.  I have often subbed 6 oz's of candy canes, but the store only had weird flavored ones left)
7 oz's bittersweet chocolate
6 Tbsp heavy cream
3/4 tsp peppermint extract
9 oz's white chocolate

Coarsely crush the peppermint candies using a can, a meat pounder, hammer, rolling pin...  Cover the back of a large baking sheet with foil and mark off a 9 by 12 inch rectangle on the foil.  Place the milk chocolate in the top of a double boiler or a bowl on top of a pot of barely simmering water.  Make sure the bowl is absolutely dry before adding the chocolate or it will not melt correctly.  The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water.

Gently heat the chocolate until smooth and completely melted, the temperature should be about 110° on a candy thermometer.  (I no longer bother to check the temperature, when it is completely melted it will be the correct temperature).  Remove the bowl from over the water and dry off the bottom before pouring the chocolate on marked rectangle on the foil.  Use an icing spatula to spread the chocolate out to evenly fill the rectangle.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup of crushed peppermint candies over the chocolate and chill until set, about 15 minutes.

While the chocolate is setting wash and dry the bowl and spatula.  You won't use the bowl again until melting the top layer but even the tiniest amount of water will cause the chocolate to seize instead of melting.  Alternatively you can just use a different bowl for the top layer, preventing the white chocolate from seizing and having to explain to your children that they "only" have homemade cracked wheat bread and jam for their teachers.  In my experience children do not like being told they cannot share a favorite treat with their teachers.

Stir bittersweet chocolate, cream and peppermint extract in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until just melted and smooth. Cool dark chocolate ganache 5 minutes before pouring the ganache slowly all over the milk chocolate and spreading in an even layer with the icing spatula.  Refrigerate 25 minutes until very firm and cold.

Place white chocolate in dry bowl over barely simmering water and melt until smooth, 110°.  Pour white chocolate all over dark chocolate ganache layer and spread into an even layer with the icing spatula.  Sprinkle with remaining peppermint candies before placing in the refrigerator to set.  Chill until set, about 20 minutes (alternatively you can chill it for longer, it will just need to warm up a little out of the fridge before you can cut it).

Carefully lift the foil and bark off the baking sheet and transfer to a large cutting board.  Begin by trimming the edges until they are straight.  Cut bark into 1 1/2 inch wide strips and slide strips off foil onto cutting board.   Cut strips into smaller pieces on a slight diagonal, forming diamond shaped pieces of bark.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.  The bark is best when it is allowed to come to room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.  However nobody ever seems to complain when served a piece straight from the fridge either.

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