Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ready or Not...

Well, Christmas is here whether we are ready or not. I'd say for me that is a definite not! But the kids are so excited they are about ready to bust a gut. I can almost feel their auras vibrating (if I believed in that kind of stuff). Today my friend (God bless her!) took them out on a long hike and we are both hopeful that our children will go to bed early so we can start wrapping. Every year I tell myself that this is the year I will be prepared, this is the year I will not stress, this is the year that I will truly relax and see Christmas through my children's eyes. Well, I blew it again, evidently. But that is alright....my great husband helps keep it all in perspective. I did manage to make some more candied walnuts today, shop for our Christmas Eve turkey and make peppermint bark.

I like to make things like candied nuts and peppermint bark during the holidays mostly because not very many people do. Most folks I know make cookies, which by the way is fantastic. I consider it a perfect trade...you do the hard work and mess up your kitchen, and share with me, and I will give you something yummy that you probably don't already have sitting on your kitchen counter in packages ready to give away. But the secret is, that even though peppermint bark looks fabulous and complicated it is WAY easier than making cookies.

Many chocolate making recipes call for something called tempering, which is basically a very scientific process of heating and cooling the chocolate to specific temperatures so that when it sets it won't get that gray or dusty look. My recipe doesn't mess with any of that, mostly because I layer the white chocolate on top of the dark, so that you won't see that dustiness, and also, because I simply cannot be bothered. I am not a professional chocolatier. I melt my chocolate in the microwave and that works just fine. The bark is rich and creamy and cool with mint, and crunchy on top from the crushed peppermint candies (I like to use handmade candies, but any candy canes will work well).

Peppermint Bark

2 packages of good quality semi sweet chocolate chips
2 packages of good quality white chocolate chips (make sure it contains plenty of cocoa butter)
2 t peppermint extract
1 extra large or 2 regular sized candy canes, crushed (use a large zip top bag and smash with a rolling pin)

Put the semi sweet chocolate chips in a large microwave safe bowl and microwave on high in one minute intervals, stirring between each, until chocolate is completely melted. It should take about 3 minutes, depending on your microwave. Stir in one teaspoon of peppermint extract. Spread the melted chocolate on a wax paper lined cookie sheet to about a 1/4 inch thickness. If it helps you, you may draw about a 10x14 inch rectangle on the back of the waxed paper for a guide. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer. Melt the white chocolate chips in the same manner. It may take a minute less or so to melt them. Stir in remaining extract into white chocolate. When dark chocolate is soft set, carefully pour out melted white chocolate on top and spread with a rubber spatula. Press gently so that you don't press through into the chocolate layer, and smear the two kinds of chocolate together. Sprinkle over the crushed candy canes and return to the freezer or refrigerator to completely harden. Break into shards.

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