Either way, chocolate + dried fruit = holiday heaven in my book. Add nuts and you really send me over the moon. So I made some bark. And since it is my mission in life to sprinkle a little bit of Italy into everything I do, I sprinkled some Italy into my bark, in the form of Bronte (Sicilian) pistachios and Trapani sea salt.
I had bought the pistachios ~ not only shelled, but also peeled ~ to make torrone. The purchase was a splurge, but if you have ever had to peel the papery skins off a small mountain of pistachios, or even just 10, you’ll know it’s worth it. Even so, time got away from me. Consequently, bark in place of torrone, which is much more finicky and laborious to make. Bark, on the other hand, is nothing more than melted chocolate, poured out and decked with pretty edible jewels. Once hardened, you simply break it into shards.
There are many ways to “Italianize” your bark. You could add a splash of Punch Abruzzo or other Italian liqueur to the chocolate as it is melting. Or maybe a little espresso powder. You could scatter strips of candied orange peel on the poured out melted chocolate, along with some chopped dried figs and almonds.
I used bittersweet chocolate and decorated the bark with the pistachios and some chopped almonds, along with dried cranberries and chopped dried apricots. It wasn’t until later, when the bark had completely hardened, that I thought: Wait! Salt!
Inspiration had struck too late. Or had it?
Here’s what I did: I melted a chunk of milk chocolate, drizzled that on the bittersweet bark and sprinkled the flakes of Trapani sea salt on top. There you have it ~ Italian-style bark. It’s the perfect last-minute hostess gift or dessert for your holiday buffet table. Not to mention late-night snack to enjoy with your favorite Christmas movie.
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Incredibly, friends, we’ve come to the end of another year. I want to thank each and every one of you for visiting this blog, for reading the posts and chiming in with your thoughtful own comments, and for sharing your love of Italian food and cooking. I’m grateful for this wonderful community. Buon Natale e felice Anno Nuovo!
Delicious, bittersweet chocolate bark gets an Italian makeover with Bronte pistachios and flaky sea salt from Trapani. Packaged in tins or in cellophane bags, this jeweled candy makes a wonderful holiday gift; feel free to make your own variations. The possibilities are pretty much endless.
- 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I use those big bars of 72 percent from Trader Joe's)
- Splash of Punch Abruzzo or other liqueur, such as Cognac or Grand Marnier (optional)
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder (optional)
- Topping suggestions (2 cups total):
- Chopped dried apricots
- Dried cranberries
- Dried sultanas
- Dried chopped figs
- Strips of candied orange peel
- Coarsely chopped lightly toasted skinned almonds
- Peeled pistachios (I splurged on a jar of pistachios from Bronte, Sicily)
- Toasted and skinned hazelnuts, halved
- Lightly toasted walnut halves or pieces
- 2 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
- Coarse or flaky sea salt (I used coarse salt from Trapani
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Melt the bittersweet chocolate: Put the pieces in the top of a double boiler set over (but not touching) barely simmering water. Or put the pieces in a heat-proof bowl and set over (but not touching) a pan of barely simmering water. Heat, stirring gently, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. To melt in the microwave, put the pieces of chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and zap at 50 percent power in 30-second intervals until melted and smooth. Stir after each interval.
Pour the chocolate onto the parchment and use a silicon spatula to spread it to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Sprinkle the toppings over the chocolate. I used dried apricots, dried cranberries, sultanas, chopped almonds, and pistachios. Set the bark in a cool place to harden completely (I put mine in a safe spot in the garage). You can let it harden at room temperature but it will take a few hours.
When the bark is hard, melt the milk chocolate (see instructions above). Using a honey dripper, a fork or a spoon, drizzle the milk chocolate over the bark, Jackson Pollock-style. Sprinkle the sea salt on top. Return the bark to a cool spot and let harden completely. Use your hands or a knife to break the bark into bite-size pieces. Store it in a tin lined with waxed paper. Or pack it into cellophane bags and give it as gifts to your favorite people.