Three-layer peppermint bark is a Christmas treat. (Photo by Teri Robl/Homer News)

Three-layer peppermint bark is a Christmas treat. (Photo by Teri Robl/Homer News)

Kachemak Cuisine: Peppermint bark is a Christmas treat

I’m always looking for tempting new recipes to try when I’m surrounded by mountains of butter and clouds of powdered sugar while making the usual Christmas goodies.

One of my mom’s and my favorite blends of sweets are chocolate and mint. Mom had a rough year and I would like to make her a special new treat to send her way.

Three-Layer Peppermint Bark

Yield: about 36 pieces, or more, if you cut them smaller

This bark consists of three layers. The top and bottom are white chocolate, onto which you sprinkle crushed peppermints, and the middle layer is a bittersweet ganache, slightly soft and truffle-like, spiked with peppermint extract. It’s pretty and also unusually delicious: heady with mint, only moderately sweet, and surprisingly sophisticated, crunchy in parts and smooth in others, like a proper chocolate confection.

Ingredients:

17 oz. quality white chocolate, such as Callebaut or Lindt, finely chopped

30 red-and-white-striped hard peppermint candies, coarsely crushed (Starlight mints)

(crush the peppermints coarsely, I used a heavy glass jar)

7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, such as Ghirardelli 60%, finely chopped

6 Tbsp. heavy cream

¾ tsp. peppermint extract

Directions:

Turn a large baking sheet upside down, and cover it securely with aluminum foil. Measure out and mark a 9- by 12-inch rectangle on the foil.

Put the white chocolate in a metal (or other heatproof) bowl, and set it over a saucepan of barely simmering water. (Do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water.) Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and smooth; on a candy thermometer, it should register 110°F.

Remove the chocolate from the heat. Pour 2/3 cup of it onto the rectangle on the foil. Using an icing spatula, spread the chocolate to fill the rectangle. Sprinkle with ¼ cup of the crushed peppermints. Chill until set, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the bittersweet chocolate, cream, and peppermint extract in a heavy medium saucepan. Warm over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is just melted and smooth. Cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Then remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator, and pour the bittersweet chocolate mixture over the white chocolate rectangle.

Using an icing spatula – make sure you cleaned it after using it for the white chocolate, above – spread the bittersweet chocolate in an even layer. Chill until very cold and firm, about 25 minutes.

Rewarm the remaining white chocolate over barely simmering water to 110°F. Working quickly, pour the white chocolate over the firm bittersweet layer, using your (again, clean) icing spatula to spread it to cover. Sprinkle with remaining crushed peppermints. Chill just until firm, about 20 minutes.

Carefully lift the foil from the baking sheet onto a large cutting board. Trim away any ragged edges of the rectangle. Cut the bark crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips. Using a metal spatula, slip the bark off of the foil and onto the cutting board. Cut each strip crosswise into 3 sections, and then cut each section diagonally into 2 triangles. Or, alternatively, just cut each strip into smaller pieces of whatever size you like.

Pack into an airtight container, with sheets of wax paper between layers of bark to prevent them from sticking to one another. Store in the refrigerator. Serve cold or, to emphasize the slight softness of the bittersweet layer, let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

Note: This bark will keep for up to 2 weeks. If you plan to pack it with other holiday sweets, be sure to wrap it separately in plastic wrap. Or maybe wax paper and then plastic wrap, so that it doesn’t sweat. If it is mixed in with other cookies or candies, everything could taste and smell like peppermint.

While we were dating, the first trip the Other Fisherman and I made together out of our home state of Wisconsin was to Florida. We discovered square coconut and chocolate patties at Stuckey’s during a driving break. I’ve never forgotten them and how I thought their square shape was so unique. This recipe makes their shape a ball.

Florida Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Patties

Yield: 18 pieces

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 egg white

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) unsweetened coconut, packed, plus additional for rolling patties

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, cut into small pieces*

Directions:

Make the coconut filling: In a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, butter, egg white, and salt until very liquid and warm to the touch, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and, with a spoon, stir in the coconut and vanilla until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, up to overnight.

When ready to coat the coconut, in a small heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water melt the chocolate. When almost melted, turn off the heat and let the chocolate continue to melt completely, stirring occasionally. Keep the bowl over the warm water.

Form the balls: Line a small tray with parchment paper. Using a scant ounce of the coconut mixture, roll into a small ball and place on the parchment-lined tray. Repeat with the remaining mixture, forming 18 balls. Arrange 18 paper or foil mini-cups on the tray.

Place additional coconut in a shallow pan or bowl. Gently place 1 of the balls into the warm melted chocolate and, using 2 forks, roll the ball in the chocolate until well coated. Lift (do not pierce) the coated coconut ball with one of the forks, allowing some of the chocolate to drip back into the bowl. Roll in the additional grated coconut, if desired, and carefully place in 1 of the prepared cups. Repeat with the remaining coconut balls and melted chocolate. Refrigerate until the chocolate has hardened and use as desired.

*If using milk chocolate, add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil while melting.

Merry Christmas and blessings to you and yours.

Kachemak Cuisine: Peppermint bark is a Christmas treat

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