Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Bark

The Christmas Season is such a fun time to make desserts, traditional and new. The candy cane is a symbol for Christmas, and the perfect accent for goodies. The bright colors add a festive perk to any treat, and the sweet, minty flavors sing, "Christmas" (they do!!)

One of my favorite things to do each year, is make Christmas bark. I usually use peppermint (red and white) AND spearmint (green and white) candy canes, together. The flavors blend well, and the red and green together are sooo pretty. This year, we are having flooding rains, and I didnt feel like going out for the spearmint candy canes, so I am making the traditional peppermint version.

The hardest part of this recipe is crushing the candy canes. In years past I have ended up with candy cane dust all over the place. What works best for me, is to put unwrapped candy canes in a plastic zipper bag, and then wrap in a towel (paper or cloth) and lay it flat on a hard surface. I then use a hammer to pound strongly, and firmly, smashing the candy into small pieces.

While smashing up my candy canes, I am simultaneously tempering my white chocolate. I use the Rev 1 tempering unit. It is a commercial grade machine, about the size of a shoebox, designed for at-home use. It takes less than 30 minutes to temper up to 1.5 pounds of chocolate.

At almost every chocolate party, someone mentions that white chocolate is not really chocolate. I tell them that is true for most brands. The FDA has standards for chocolate (basically, that it actually contain chocolate)..and since many companies do not use real cocoa butter, they are not allowed to call their candy, "chocolate", but resort to names like, "candy coating" or "white chocolate flavored candy". Candy melts often found in the baking aisle are not chocolate at all, but flavored animal fat. This is true for the dark chocolate too....you will find "candy coatings" that look like chocolate, but contain nothing from the actual cocoa bean. Dove white chocolate is a true and legal white chocolate, using high quality cocoa butter.

Anyways.....nothing but real chocolate for my bark :)

I then pour the mixture into tempered white chocolate.

Mix the crushed candy cane thoroughly through the chocolate. The large chunks add bright colors, and the dust gets soaked in, flavoring the chocolate.

Spread the chocolate onto parchment paper. You can make it as thin or thick as you want. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Once set up, break into pieces....they look pretty in a bowl or on a platter, and can be packaged into goody bags for gifts.

Id love to see your holiday favorites...feel free to post your treats in the comments.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


In our house, it's a holiday tradition to make marshmallows. Each year, we make batches and batches of the fluffy stuff to give as gifts (ok, we eat some too!) I used to make homemade cocoa, put it in cute containers...add a baggy of thick, marshmallows, and a plate of goodies....and deliver loving baskets of yummies to neighbors, friends and teachers.

Since joining Dove, I have foregone the cocoa, and instead give Dove Chai Teas and Sipping Chocolates. My old recipes of cookies and truffles have been replaced with chocolate dipped candy canes and spoons, and homemade designer chocolates. And now this year....Dove has come out with gourmet marshmallows....and while it's tempting to give the Dove chocolate covered marshmallows, I simply cant give up my traditional Sprague Marshmallows.

I have tried many variations of marshmallows over the years, and have found this recipe to work out best:

3 (1/4 ounce) envelopes gelatin (Knox Gelatin)
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or other flavoring)

In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 C of cold water, and let sit for 10 minutes. The water will absorb the gelatin, and it will look like this:

In a medium saucepan, on medium heat, mix granulated sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 C of water. Continue to mix until granulated sugar is disolved. Then turn to high and bring to hard boil for one minute.

Pour sugar mixture into gelatin, and add salt. Using hand mixer, mix on high for 12 mninutes.

12 minutes of mixing is a long time, so you might want to enlist the help of a cutie like this..... (and notice that my refrigerator is missing in the background! The house is still in an upheaval from the foundation leak back in OCTOBER..ACK!!)

As you mix, the marshmallow mixture will get creamy. Here is a picture from the 5 minute mark...

As mixing continues, the marshmallow will get fluffy and grow! Here is a picture from the 10 minute mark, notice how much higher it is in the bowl....

After 12 minutes, quite honestly, the marshmallow has expanded so much that it is crawling up the top of the mixing paddles. This is the time to add the vanilla, or any other flavoring you might like (kahlua, caramel, peppermint, orange....)Make sure you mix it in well.

You will want to cover the bottom of your pan with powdered sugar. Make sure the entire surface has sugar...this will keep the marshmallow from sticking.

Pour mixture into your pans. I double the recipe and use one 9x9 and one 9x13 glass pan. This yields me 40 large, thick squares.

Cover the entire surface with more powdered sugar, and let sit out overnight.

When ready, you can use a warm knife to make sure that marshmallow separates from the sides of the pans. Then cut into squares.....and ENJOY!

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