Peppermint bark has recently taken over my life. And because I’m so generous, I’m sharing my method for making peppermint bark so it will take over your life, too. (You’re welcome!)
Why do I love making peppermint bark so much? So many reasons. Number one, it is ridiculously quick and easy. Number two, it tastes amazing and my whole family loves it. Number three, it just looks and tastes like Christmas.
But possibly the biggest reason for my adoration of peppermint bark? No matter how sloppily you make it, it looks amazing. And for someone who isn’t exactly great at making beautiful desserts, this just makes my heart sing.
So here’s what you’ll need to make peppermint bark:
Hardware, i.e., equipment:
(yes, I totally stole this designation from the great Alton Brown)
Something with which to crush peppermint candies: a gallon-sized ziplock bag, a dishtowel, and a hammer or cast-iron skillet; or (preferably) a food processor
Double boiler OR medium-sized saucepan and a metal bowl
(make sure the metal bowl can sit just inside the opening of the saucepan without touching the bottom)
Software, i.e., ingredients:
16 oz vanilla almond bark or white chocolate chips
16 oz chocolate chips or baking chocolate (use your favorite kind — milk, semisweet, or bittersweet)
Peppermint extract (optional)
1. Crush the peppermint candies. Now, let me warn you, you will almost certainly make a mess when you do this. I put the peppermint candies inside a ziplock bag. Then inside a second ziplock bag. Still wound up with peppermint dust everywhere. If you have a food processor, save yourself a lot of mess and use it to crush your candies. If not, well… here are the methods I tried: hammer (in retrospect, a mallet might have been neater), a rolling pin (didn’t work at all, don’t bother), and a cast-iron skillet. The latter was my neatest method, but it still wasn’t completely neat. A friend of mine, after the fact, recommended covering the lot with a dishtowel. I will try this next time.
My advice to you is, if you don’t have a food processor or a cast-iron skillet, put the candies inside a plastic ziplock bag, cover it with a dishtowel, and have at it with a hammer. And be prepared to clean up the mess afterward. (Trust me, it will be worth it.)
How many candies? I took a half of a bag of peppermint candies and crushed them, and so far I’ve gotten 3 batches of peppermint bark out of it – AND there’s still plenty for more. You don’t really need much for one batch of bark, but bear in mind that this is the lengthiest part of the process. So make more than you think you’ll need. You will want to make more, and you’ll be delighted you don’t have to crush more candies.
2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Use the largest sheet that will fit in your freezer.
3. Put water in the bottom of the double boiler or saucepan and set it over medium heat. Make sure that water level will be no less than 2 inches from the bottom of the top part of the boiler or the metal bowl. Ideally you’ll want the water simmering before you put either the top part of the double boiler on or set the metal pan over the top of the saucepan.
4. Fill the top part of the double boiler or the metal bowl with either chocolate (white or milk/semisweet/bittersweet). Which one is up to you. The first time I made this bark, I melted the brown chocolate first and then topped it with the white, then sprinkled the peppermint on top. The second time, I reversed the process. I found I liked the look of the brown chocolate with the sprinkled peppermint better than the white-on-white effect of peppermint on white chocolate. But this is totally up to you. Basically, whichever chocolate you don’t want sprinkled with peppermint, that’s the one to melt first.
5. Set the top part of the boiler or the metal pan over the bottom part of boiler or the saucepan. As the chocolate begins to melt, stir it with the spatula to help it along. If chocolate starts creeping up the boiler or bowl, scrape it back down with the spatula.
6. Once the chocolate has melted, remove it from the top boiler or saucepan and set it aside. Let it cool for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to help it along. If you’re starting with white chocolate, this is the time to use a drop or two of the totally optional peppermint extract. (Peppermint extract adds a nice counterpoint to the brown chocolate, but if you’re not that big a fan of mint, you can skip this part if you want.)
Be careful with the peppermint extract if you use it. A little goes a long way. It’s best to add a drop or two at a time, stir, and taste. If it doesn’t taste minty enough, you can always use more.
7. Pour the chocolate over the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Spread it out as thinly as you like with the spatula. Here’s the great part: no need to be neat. You don’t even have to reach the very edges of the cookie sheet. Even if you make a mess with the spreading, it doesn’t matter. Isn’t this awesome?
(Special note, though: try not to make this layer of chocolate too thick. I mean, you don’t want to be able to see the parchment through the chocolate, but you’ll regret a too-thick layer later. Trust me.)
8. Pop that baby into the freezer and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes.
9. Now, repeat the process with the other chocolate. This is actually another reason I like to start with the white chocolate; by starting with brown chocolate, you might feel the need to wash out your boiler or metal pan before melting the white chocolate. (You don’t have to, of course. You can always just leave the brown chocolate behind and create a sort of marbled look. I promise you, it won’t make the bark look awful!)
10. When the chocolate has melted, remove from heat and allow to cool. (Remember, if this is the white chocolate and you’re using peppermint extract, this is the time to add it.) After you’ve removed the chocolate from heat, get that cookie sheet back out of the freezer. We’re going to leave that out for a few minutes along with the cooling chocolate. Why? You’ll see in a minute.
11. After about 3 minutes of cooling time (for the melted chocolate) and warm-up time (for the hardened chocolate), spread the melted chocolate atop the hardened chocolate. This is why you want to let the hardened chocolate warm up a tiny bit. I learned the hard way that if you try to spread that melted chocolate over straight-from-the-freezer hardened chocolate, the melted chocolate becomes hard too quickly. That makes it a lot harder to spread!
It is possible that as you spread the melted chocolate, it may melt the hardened chocolate underneath a little bit. But don’t worry about it. Just smooth it over with your melted chocolate. No one will ever know.
12. Once you’ve finished spreading the top chocolate, it’s time to sprinkle some crushed peppermint on top! You could use a spoon, but honestly I prefer to use my (clean!!) fingers. You have a lot more control that way. Oh, and you can certainly try to make it a nice even layer, but again, it’s not necessary. Uneven scattered peppermint truly adds to the appeal.
13. The whole shebang is now ready to go into the freezer for 30 minutes.
14. Now comes the fun part: breaking up the bark! Now you can be all neat and precise and take a knife and cut it up… or you can just use your hands and break it apart all helter-skelter and willy-nilly. Guess which method I prefer?
Kind of obvious, isn’t it? Again, the more mish-mashed and messily you break apart the bark, the better it looks, at least to me. It makes me think of shattered glass, if the “glass” was actually made of chocolate and peppermint.
Did you goof and make the bark too thick? Are you feeling like a 90-pound weakling because you can’t seem to break apart the bark? No worries. Grab a metal spatula or a butter knife or really anything with a long, thin end, and a hammer. Press the pointy part into the bark, gently tap the top end with a hammer, and watch the cracks develop in the bark and feel amazed. (And don’t fret — how do you think I know to give these directions to you? Yep, I made my first batch of bark too thick, too. It happens!)
15. Take your broken shards of bark and place them in a container, then pop them into the freezer or fridge. Doesn’t matter which. But make sure it is kept cold. Not only does peppermint bark taste better cold, it also, you know, prevents it from getting melty.
And that’s it! Really, it’s that simple. The entire process takes about 2 1/2 hours from start to finish, and most of that is waiting for the chocolate to harden. The longest part of the process is crushing the peppermint, and again, if you crush more than enough, you’ll have enough for several batches. And you will want to make several. Trust me on this.
So give it a shot! I guarantee you won’t have a quicker or easier homemade holiday treat.