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Chocolate bark is one of the simplest and most versatile homemade treats you can make (and gift) for the holidays. The chocolate base — whether it’s bittersweet, milk, white, or a combination of any type — can be personalized with almost anything. Buddy the Elf would be overwhelmed by the options: candy of any kind, nuts, candied citrus peel, salty snacks, dried fruit, and even edible flowers.
But because the ingredients for chocolate bark are so simple, the little details make all the difference. These tips will help you make stunning sweets that look as good as they taste.
1. Use quality chocolate.
Chocolate chips contain stabilizers, which help them keep their adorable candy kiss shape when melted, but when making bark you want chocolate that melts smoothly and is pourable. While you can use chocolate chips for making bark, for the smoothest results, pure chocolate is a better bet. For bark-making, use the best chocolate within your budget, either in bars or discs meant for melting and baking. Valrhona, Callebaut, Scharffen Berger, Guittard, and Ghirardelli are all good options.
2. Heat the chocolate gently.
Not to scare you, but when chocolate clumps from overheating, it’s a no-fix situation. You can’t simply re-melt and start again, so take it easy. If you’re melting chocolate in the microwave, heat it in short bursts and stir frequently. If your microwave has a 50 percent power option, use that. Yes, it will take a little longer, but it will also give you more control.
For melting chocolate on the stove, use a double boiler ($40 from Amazon), or if you don’t want to buy a specific piece of equipment, try a heatproof bowl set over a small pan of barely simmering water. You can also us a heat diffuser plate. Any of these options will help distribute the heat more evenly so the chocolate won’t burn.
3. Don’t refrigerate it!
The whitish film, streaks, and spots that sometimes appear on chocolate are collectively known as bloom, which can occur when chocolate is subjected to drastic temperature changes or stored in a too-warm place. To prevent this from happening, let your chocolate bark set in a cool but room-temperature spot in the house — don’t stick it in the fridge or the freezer to try and speed things up.
Similarly, you should store the chocolate bark in a cool room-temperature place like the pantry. Another reason to eat it up quickly!
4. Use a cheat if you don’t want to temper chocolate.
Most chocolatiers and candymakers recommend tempering chocolate for bark because it gives chocolate a beautifully glossy finish and a satisfying, clean snap when broken. It also sets up more quickly and keeps longer at room temperature.
Although the process of tempering chocolate can be easier than you think (especially when using our favorite double boiler method), you can always use this hack: Add 1 teaspoon vegetable shortening or coconut oil per 6 ounces of chocolate as it melts. This helps speed up the setting process for untempered chocolate and adds a bit of shine.
5. Try a layered chocolate bark.
While you can easily swirl two types of chocolate together to create visual and flavor contrast, if you really want to go fancy, you can also easily create a layered bark.
Here’s how to do it: Spread out the bottom layer of chocolate and wait until it’s mostly hardened — about 80 to 90 percent there — then pour on the next layer. This helps Velcro the two kinds of chocolate to each other, so they won’t split apart when chopped or broken with your hands.