Holiday Gifty Ideas #1: Vegan Peppermint Bark
Right now I'm in full production mode for holiday gifts. Here's the first: vegan peppermint bark! I got the idea when in Whole Foods the other day. Theirs is NOT vegan but I liked the idea of peppermint bark. I thought, well, I have all the ingredients and hey, wouldn't it make a great gift? I wasn't quite prepared for how well it turned out. I couldn't stop nibbling! And a recipe that calls for chocolate, mint, and smashing things with a hammer..well, that sounded like fun to me.
I improvised a bit..I had natural peppermints from WF that had no food coloring in them so they were a not so exciting off-white color. I added some swirls of organic food coloring to liven it up a bit. It seems that some peppermint bark is just with white chocolate but I really like it "livened" up with a layer of dark chocolate. I should warn you in advance that the only hard thing about this recipe is that vegan white chocolate chips are hard to find. Luckily I had picked up the last bag at the Boston Vegetarian Festival last month and had some on hand, otherwise, you can always make your own (they don't have to be in chip shape for this recipe). The key ingredient is really nice quality cocoa butter (food quality). Hannah from Bittersweet has the following recipe:
What we are basically doing is tempering the chocolate by microwaving it..if you're not sure what tempering is all about this site explains all! If you're a pro at tempering and prefer to do it stove top, do it!
The recipe I more or less followed for the bark is this (my own modification from the variety of recipes out there):
2 cups vegan white chocolate chips
20-25 crushed peppermints or candy canes
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract OR 3-6 drops peppermint essential oil (taste to your preference)
1 cup vegan chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (I used unsweetened Scharffen Berger chocolate with a few squares of Equal Exchange's mint chocolate bar for sweetness..you can get creative here depending on how sweet you like your chocolate)
Line any size cookie sheet with parchment paper. Next, remove your peppermints from their wrappers (if in wrappers) and put into a mortar and pestle OR food processor and gently crush into small pieces..but not so small that you end up with peppermint dust!
Then take a microwave safe glass container and nuke your white chocolate chips 30 seconds at a time. Check at 30 seconds and see if they are melting. You want them partially melted..they should still retain some of their shape. If they are not at that state yet, nuke them another 30 seconds. I know the temptation to do more without checking but you're burn your chocolate if you do. Just keep doing 30 second increments until you get there. Every microwave is different of course..mine took four 30 second zaps.
When the white chocolate is partially melted, remove from microwave and stir with fork or spoon to slowly dissolve the remaining solid. Eventually everything should be melted. Add the crushed peppermints and extract or essential oil..mix. Optional: swirl in a few drops of red food coloring. Don't mix too much or it just turns pink..I was going for a sort of swirls of red look.
Next, working quickly spread the mixture out on your cookie sheet using a rubber spatula. Remember to inhibit any perfectionist tendencies (note to self!)..it's bark and it's supposed to look rough. It's okay if it doesn't make the corners of your cookie sheet. Just keep the mixture about 1/8 thick. Let cool at room temperature until solid.
After the white chocolate cools, melt your dark chocolate the same exact way as the white and gently stir the chocolate to a completely melted state. Pour/spread on top of your white chocolate mixture. Again, don't worry how it looks (should I tell you now that we've going to chop this up with a hammer so it really doesn't matter how it looks?). Let cool until solid.
Take the bark on the cookie sheet and put it in the freezer for 10 minutes to make it harder. Remove from the freezer and take another sheet of parchment paper and place on top of the bark. Using a small hammer gently break the bark into bite-size pieces.
Place into cute bags or containers and tie with a bow. I trimmed the tops of the bags with pinking shears. They make great holiday gifts. I've got some more gifty ideas coming soon--stay tuned!
And more vegan peppermint bark from other bloggers:
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