Kristoph and I are still full from indulgent Christmas Eve, Christmas and Boxing Day meals... We’ve both eaten far too much, too often, and should probably be limiting our next few meals to green vegetables. But as we loll around fire-side, it seems we’re both still reaching for a late comer Christmas hit: Spiced Christmas bark.
I came across this recipe over on Food 52, it was shared by Wanderash who writes the Smash and Sniff blog. Honestly, chocolate bark as never really captured my interest. It looks nice, but I always just viewed it as melted chocolate with a few nuts added. It reminded me of childhood “chocolate-making,” a common holiday activity in our house, which involved melting cooking chocolate and reshaping it into moulds. Lots of fun, but the chocolates weren’t winning any culinary awards, they tasted, well, like cooking chocolate.
Wanderash’s Ancho-Chilli Cinnamon Chocolate Bark however, aroused my interest. It was awarded the best edible gift contest at Food52, and included a delicious sounding mix of very Christmassy toasted spices – star anise, cloves and cinnamon. The recipe didn’t disappoint, the unique salty, spicy savoury and sweet mix, was a huge hit with our family and friends this Christmas.
We served it on Christmas Eve alongside the pine-nut and rosemary brittle, and presented it in jars as gifts to very pleased family members.
I altered Wanderash’s recipe a little, substituting dried cranberries for the cherries, and adding a little more star anise. Here’s the recipe:
3 whole star anise
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2" cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon dried chilli
2/3 cups pistachio
2/3 cups lightly crushed cashews
12 ounces dark bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa solids),
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Step 1: Make the spice mix: Pre-heat oven to 200C. Place star anise, cloves, peppercorns, chilli and cinnamon on a baking tray, and toast until fragrant. Remove from heat and grind the spices, either in a spice, or coffee grinder.
Step 2: Toast the nuts by placing them on the baking sheet and place in the oven for around 10 minutes. Once toasted, lightly crush using a mortar and pestle.
Step 3: Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Once melted, stir in the spice mix. Add one teaspoon at a time, stir and taste. The strength of the spice flavour is personal preference – you can make it very subtle or quite strong.
Step 4: Line a baking tray with aluminium foil. Spread out the nuts and cherries (reserving a few to use as topping). Sprinkle sea salt.
Step 5: Pour over the chocolate onto the pan, covering the nuts and cherries evenly. Add remaining nuts to the top of chocolate. Put the tray in the fridge and leave to set for 45mins. Once set, break into pieces and store in containers in the fridge.