Monday, December 19, 2011

Chocolate and Peppermint

I decided to go with a chocolate and peppermint theme for my homemade christmas gifts this year. That flavor combination always tastes best to me at Christmas time. In fact, the rest of the year, I think I forget about it. I used these little jars to put all my baked goods in, and made them look festive with some ribbons, red paper, and candy canes.
The bottom layer of the jar consists of balsamic fudge drop cookies (recipe found here). I used 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract in place of the vanilla, and I used crushed candy canes in place of the vanilla sugar. I love these cookies and have made them every Christmas, ever since I discovered the recipe a few years ago.
I made a double batch of these... TWICE. The picture below shows one batch of a double recipe. Got milk? (The almond variety, of course.)
The next layer consists of both peppermint fudge and coconut fudge (recipe found here). This recipe couldn't be any easier! It was by far the simplest thing I made- and just as delicious, chocolatey, and pepperminty, as everything else! (The coconut fudge is not pictured, because I decided to make it at the end of my baking marathon/photo shoot, since the peppermint one was so easy to make!)
The top layer in my gift jars is my absolute favorite- peppermint bark! I make this every year, but this year was different because I decided to make the white chocolate myself (recipe found here), so it would be dairy free! The hardest part of this was finding the ingredients. I had to go to several health food stores in order to find food grade cocoa butter and powdered soy milk. Actually making the white chocolate was the easy part, once I finally had all the ingredients. Note: you must QUADRUPLE this recipe for white chocolate, in order to have enough for the peppermint bark recipe below.
Once I made the white chocolate, I followed this recipe to make the peppermint bark (there is no need to harden the white chocolate in molds and then remelt it for the peppermint bark- just use the freshly made, warm/liquid white chocolate).

Peppermint Bark
(Print Recipe)

12 ounces chocolate chips
1 pound white chocolate (If you use store-bought, make sure it is the kind made with real cocoa butter- it makes such a difference!)
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup candy canes (or more), crushed

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a 9x13 inch pan with foil, letting it hang over the sides. Spray foil with oil. Pour the chocolate chips in an even layer on the foil. Place in oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, smooth with spatula or knife. Place in refrigerator until cold and firm (about 20 minutes).

Melt white chocolate in a double boiler (or follow and quadruple the recipe above, to make your own white chocolate). Stir in the peppermint extract. Pour the melted white chocolate over the chilled chocolate layer and spread it quickly and evenly. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes.

Chill until both layers are firm. Lift foil out of pan and shake off excess candy. Trim edges. Cut into 2 inch wide strips. Peel bark from foil and cut each strip as desired. Chill in a covered container.
To my family who will be receiving these goodies in the mail: First of all, SURPRISE, this is your gift from me. Second of all, don't be too disappointed when they don't arrive in this pretty package- I don't think they'd make it through the mail that way- think more along the lines of tupperware, with all the same treats inside.
Happy baking!