Friday, January 2, 2015
Pretzel, Cranberry and Toasted Coconut Bark
Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed ringing in 2015, whether you spent it at a festive party or a quiet night at home. I've never been a fan of New Year's eve, and prefer to spend it at home. When I was growing up, my parents always fixed a spread of exotic foods like pâté, salami, smoked mussels, smoked salmon, pickled herring, olives, cornichon, and an assortment of cheeses to enjoy with champagne in the hours leading up to midnight. I thought it was elegant and special, and developed quite an appreciation for a variety of foods and flavors at a young age. To this day, I like to follow that tradition (minus the pâté, which, quite honestly, I do miss).
During the holidays, I love trying new recipes, both savory and sweet. Shortly before Christmas I splurged and bought two boxes of Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate. I'd never purchased it before, mainly because of the price, but I understand the importance of using good quality chocolate when making candy and baked goods. I wanted to make a recipe for pretzel, cranberry and toasted coconut bark, which I found on a food blog called Inspired Taste, and thought it would be a good time to splurge on more expensive chocolate. I can honestly say it was worth it.
Before making the bark, I came across this video on how to temper chocolate like a professional. Tempering is the process of heating, cooling and reheating chocolate to specific temperatures. The process prevents "bloom," which is the dull, whitish sheen that occurs when the cocoa fat rises to the surface of improperly melted chocolate. As I watched the video, I thought, "Boy, that looks tricky ... and time consuming." I had also recently visited a local chocolate factory where the owner explained to us the fussiness of the tempering process, which is why they have a fancy machine to do it for them.
Feeling slightly intimidated, and knowing my expensive chocolate bars were at risk, I reviewed the video carefully, at least twice. I wanted to give it a try, but the whole thing seemed like a bit of trouble. So I threw caution to the wind and simply melted the chocolate in a "double boiler" (a glass bowl set over, but not touching, a pot of barely simmering water), paying no attention to temperatures. I think my bark turned out okay without any bloom. I do know it looks pretty and tastes great!
A couple of notes about the recipe. I did not use unsweetened coconut flakes, as called for. Instead, I used sweetened shredded coconut and toasted it in the oven for at least 6 minutes, checking and tossing it every minute or two.
To make this treat gluten free, I used Snyder's of Hanover gluten-free mini pretzels, which are delicious (my husband and I like them even more than regular pretzels).
Lastly, I did use the sweetened dried cranberries called for in the recipe, but I think dried cherries would also be delicious in this bark. So would candied orange peel and chopped almonds. The options are endless!
So tell me, do you have a favorite brand of chocolate? Have you tried tempering chocolate or do you take the lazy way out, like I did?