Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Time for Peppermint Bark

If it's chocolate and it's mint, I'm a fan. Especially if the chocolate is white chocolate! So of course I love Peppermint bark. A couple of years ago I decided to try to make it myself, and found that it's super easy!

I don't temper the chocolate, maybe I'll try it someday...but I just wanted a recipe I could quickly do so I could quickly get to eating it! I've melted the chocolate in the microwave and in a double boiler, both work well, but just be careful with melting the white chocolate in the microwave! I tried to with this most recent batch, in our new microwave, which is apparently hard core for a microwave, so instead of nice, smooth melted white chocolate, I got this:
Not really so appetizing. Although my husband  made me save it for him. So my double boiler (pyrex bowl over simmering water) went on the stove, and thankfully I had an extra bag of white chocolate chips. Voila!

Much better.

Peppermint Bark

1 bag semisweet chocolate chips
1 bag white chocolate chips (Nestle or Ghiradelli have the best tasting white chocolate chips)
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract (get the real stuff! Natural or Pure has the best taste)
6 - 8 candy canes
Unwrap 6 candy canes and break into small pieces in large ziploc bag.

Use the bottom of a pint glass to break the candy canes into shards and small pieces. I've tried a small food processor, but it doesn't give you the nice pieces that doing it by hand will.

Melt semi-sweet chocolate chips in 30 second intervals in the microwave, stirring after each interval. If there are still some unmelted chips, keep stirring. The residual heat will melt the rest of the chocolate.

Spread the chocolate in a thin layer on parchment paper or silpat on a baking sheet. Put in the fridge for about 5 minutes while you prepare the white chocolate

Melt the white chocolate, but in 15 second intervals in the microwave...unless you like cottage cheese white chocolate. Or to be really safe, use the double boiler method.

Once white chocolte is melted, Add 1/4 tsp of the peppermint extract and stir well.

Mix in half of the crushed candy canes into the white chocolate

Spread the white chocolate mixture onto the dark chocolate.

Sprinkle the remaining crushed candy canes on top.

Refridgerate til rock hard! (Usually about 20 minutes or so)

Break the bark into pieces.


Keep refrigerated !

This really makes a great gift for a hostess or a stocking stuffer! Grab some candy gift bags and put a pretty ribbon on it and you're good to go.
I've tried the peppermint extract in the dark chocolate, and it also tastes great, but the extract in the white chocolate lets the dark chocolate flavor come out more. I just think it's a better contrast. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

French Macarons

My husband and I recently came back from a fantastic trip to Paris, and it was one of the best trips we've ever taken. The pastry was unbelievable...I knew it would be, but the fact that we ate more pastry than food for two weeks really drove the point home!

My Aunt had told me about the Macarons at Pierre Herme and I read about the wonderful Laduree macarons, so I knew they were two stops I had to make. Little did I know we were staying literally walking distance to both Pierre Herme and Laduree. Quelle bonne chance! (No, I don't actually speak French, but I remember the phrase!)

French macarons are little nuggets of goodness. Nothing like macaroons here in the states, which are other little nuggets of sweet coconut goodness, French macarons are little (or big) meringue cookie sandwiches filled with a ganache or jam center. Good macarons have a filling that melts in your mouth with flavor that saturates only after you bite through the outer shell of meringue cookie with a slightly soft and chewy center. A unique combination that Pierre Herme and Laduree have mastered.

Pierre Herme we actually stumbled upon, and there wasn't a line out the door at all as is the norm apparently, but it was fairly early in the morning. The flavors of macarons at Pierre Herme were more unusual than Laduree's macarons, but were still lovely. I did have the BEST pain au chocolate (chocolate croissant) I had in Paris from Pierre Herme (and I sampled many, many pain au chocolates). The buttery, flaky pastry was unreal and unlike any I've ever had. I had crumbs all over my jacket, and wore them proudly, until my husband insisted I look presentable...we were in Paris after all!

So I must admit that was our only trip to Pierre Herme...I did however make approximately 4 trips to Laduree...I loved it. It satisfied all little girl deep rooted fantasies of pretty, dainty, pink, pastel shops I used to imagine as a girl. The sign outside, slightly rusted and weather worn, only intensified the Parisian feel.

The French women with aprons that were working behind the counter, and all the differently colored macarons neatly arranged in front of them, made every visit a visual treat. No pictures are allowed inside the shop, but my husband snapped these from outside.

We stopped by often as the shop was on our path towards the Seine almost daily, so we were able to sample many different flavors. The Raspberry was my favorite, the flavor of the raspberry just enveloped my entire mouth, I couldn't get enough! Chocolate was also magnificent and my husband's favorite.

On one of our last days in Paris, I went back to get more than just a few macarons, I wanted one of the little boxes to call my own! They have little, rectangular boxes in different pastel colors, all gilted with silver writing and curly-Qs, which fit just six macarons perfectly. It is very girly, pink and dainty...and I wanted one, even though they were kind of ridiculous in price, we were in Paris and I was going to splurge on a little pink box! The woman who served me, perfectly lined the box with tissue paper, and then filled with my choice six, and then put the little box in a little green Laduree bag!! Heaven...

They were all eaten within approximately 20 minutes...who could wait? I did control myself long enough to get back to our little apartment in Paris to take a picture at least. Oh, and I did get one chocolate macaron for my husband, honest.

My choice six? Two raspberry(the lighter red/pink above), a 'red fruit', the aforementioned chocolate, an orange blossom, and a lemon. Sigh...