Dark Chocolate Bark. My Homemade Holiday Gift.
Dark 85% chocolate (Fair trade & Organic) with raw cane sugar
Dark 71% chocolate (Fair trade & Organic) with raw cane sugar
Chocolate ‘baking’ chips 71% Belgium dark organic chocolate. I added a mixture of different kinds of dark chocolate to achieve the flavour I wanted, with the right amount of sweetness/bitterness. After a few batches of homemade chocolate, I decided this was the safest combo to recommend for you to try at home: 71% & 85% dark chocolate.
Pistachios (soaked and peeled to bring out their vibrant green colour) & Almonds home roasted
Dried mango and papaya / homemade candied ginger / candied orange peel
Unsulphured apple juice-sweetened cranberries / another variety of dried mango, cut into squares.
Home roasted hazelnuts & Sudanese peanuts.
Figs, sliced & unsulphured apricots.
Raw walnuts & cashews.
Espresso beans (freshly ground using a home coffee/spice grinder) Organic & Fair-Trade & Raw cacao nibs. Both cacao and coffee derive from fruit so ultimately they are ‘dried fruit’ too!
Matcha green tea powder.
Break up the chocolate into a bowl.
Using a bain marie or double boiler, boil a little water in a pot and set the bowl of chocolate sitting on top of the pot so that the steam melts the chocolate. Gently stir the chocolate until it melts. My bowl was metal, the same colour as the pot, so it looks like I am boiling directly in the water but I am not. I use a metal bowl as it inducts heat more quickly/for longer, affectively melting the chocolate faster. Turn off the heat before all the chocolate melts as the residual heat will melt the remnants of chocolate solids. Controlling the heat this way is important to prevent the chocolate from burning.
Pour the chocolate onto silpat or a parchment lined baking sheet and spread it out evenly.
Top the chocolate with the different nuts, dried fruit and other flavourings and textural ingredients. At the end, I sprinkled some himalayan pink salt over the top to enhance and balance the flavour of the chocolate, nuts and sweetness of the dried fruit.
My aim was to make each offer a different combination of flavours and textures.
Let the chocolate set in the fridge or freezer for an hour. Because it was so freezing outside, I stuck my chocolate bark out on my snowy balcony and it froze real quick!
Once the hardens solid it can be cut into ‘bark’ pieces. I chose to cut the bark like a pizza with a sharp knife into triangles…
…and into squares, as some of us prefer the square slice!
I also made a ‘chocolate bark bar’ using a mold…
… and individual ‘matcha bark chocolates’ by mixing some of the dried fruit and nuts in a bowl with the melted chocolate and spooning it into metal molds.
I had a field day wrapping up my chocolate bark! I printed ‘faux bois’ paper and covered large matchboxes with it. Considering its name of chocolate ‘bark’, I thought the wood grain theme would be an appropriate representation of the product. I then used coffee filters to line the boxes, cutting the extra bit of filter paper around the top and laying the chocolate inside. My ‘rustic’ packaging job is a sign of it being a homemade gift!
I also packaged some of the chocolate bark in metal tins, lined with paper coffee filters.
For smaller gifts I packaged individual pieces of bark using simple parchment paper and string.
I thoroughly enjoyed the process of making these sweet treats as much as I did giving them to my family as holiday gifts! It is a wonderful feeling to give something you have made with love to your loved ones.
1. When buying nuts and seeds, choose raw un-roasted and un-salted varieties and lightly toast and season them yourself. This helps preserve the nutrients in the nuts and seeds and allows you to control how much oil or salt is added.
2. Choose unsweetened and unsulphured dried fruit which are unprocessed, higher in nutrients and without added chemicals or refined sugar. Unprocessed dried cranberries are naturally a more subdued colour rather than bright red and dried apricots are a warm brown colour as opposed to bright orange sulphured fruit. If you live in Montreal, Frenco (3985 St-Laurent Boul) has a wide array of high-quality dried fruit, nuts, and cacao sold in bulk. I sourced the apple juice-sweetened dried cranberries and apricots there.
3. Dark chocolate has recently been marketed as a ‘health food’ due to its high level of potent antioxidants. I personally would not put chocolate in the same health category as kale or blueberries for example, but DARK chocolate does offer nutritional value and is better for you than milk chocolate. Dark chocolate has significantly higher levels of minerals including iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, manganese and selenium. It also has less fat compared to milk chocolate, especially from saturated (unhealthy) fat. A report by Mauro Serafini PhD, of Italy’s National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research in Rome, found that milk interferes with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate, and may therefore negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate (1). However, this is not an excuse to eat lots of dark chocolate everyday. When you are enjoying some chocolate on special occasion, like during the holidays, it is optimal to choose dark chocolate over milk – the darker the healthier!
The specific antioxidants in dark chocolate are plant-based phenols found in the cacao bean or seed of the cacao fruit. The group of polyphenols in dark chocolate are called flavonoid antioxidants and are also found in tea, red wine, plus certain fruits and vegetables (2). Flavonoids have been found to:
- Decrease LDL “bad” cholesterol as a result of stearic acid and oleic acid, found in dark chocolate.
- While stearic acid is a saturated fat, unlike most saturated fatty acids, it does not raise cholesterol levels.
- Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fat and works to reduce cholesterol levels, thus supporting blood flow in arteries and the heart and helping lower high blood pressure
- Boost serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain (pleasure center) improving mood (2).
(1) Daniel J. DeNoon, WebMD Health News. Dark Chocolate Is Healthy Chocolate Dark Chocolate Has Health Benefits Not Seen in Other Varieties. Aug 27, 2003. www.webmd.com/diet/news/20030827/dark-chocolate-is-healthy-chocolate
(2) Healing Foods Pyramid™. University of Michigan Integrative Medicine. www.med.umich.edu/umim/food-pyramid/dark_chocolate.htm