Day 4: Bark
I don’t know anyone who does not like chocolate and so chocolate makes a wonderful gift for anyone. There are lots of easy recipes for chocolate barks out there, but we have never made them. Why not? Because of tempering.
Tempering is the process of changing a material’s molecular structure so that it is stronger and more stable. My engineering husband can tell you what they have to do to temper metal so that it hardens correctly and does not buckle under pressure. That stuff goes over my head a bit and I leave that kind of thing to the professionals. However, when it comes to chocolate, tempering is really crucial. Any chocolate you buy at the store has a snap and a slightly shiny appearance. In short, it looks good and it is tempered. But, once you melt a chocolate, it loses its temper and if you don’t go through the process to get that temper back, your chocolate will turn gray when it hardens. It’s just the cocoa solids surfacing and perfectly edible, but it’s really unattractive. It’s not a look that you want to have on your holiday gifts. In the past, we have tried doing chocolate dipped pretzels and strawberries and other things, but they always turn gray unless you keep them in the fridge.
So, when I decided to make some chocolate bark, I knew I would either have to use white chocolate (which won’t show the gray) or I would have to attempt to temper. Well, armed with a super accurate and fast thermometer and a simplified process, the boys and I went to work. For our first try, we decided to use a low quality chocolate, namely chocolate chips, because I hated to use the really good stuff in case it did not work out.
And work it was! My goodness! I was not expecting to be still stirring the chocolate an hour later. At first, we overheated the chocolate, so it had farther to go in the cooling down process. At the end, it took almost ten minutes for it to cool down one degree. This is where it was really handy to have little helpers in the kitchen. They took turns holding the thermometer for me and even stirred a little to give me a break.
We finally got it down to the right cooled temperature and then it was just a few minutes work to bring it back up to the right temperature so that we could pour it.
One of the signs of tempered chocolate is that it hardens quickly, and the edges of ours were pretty hard before we had all the toppings imbedded. The real test is letting it sit over night to see if it blooms.
It looks fabulous. So, we have successfully tempered chocolate, yay! I would highly recommend this article about how to temper chocolate; it was easy to follow, as long as you are prepared to stir for a long time. This opens up a whole world of chocolatey possibilities for us, which is super exciting. We swirled in some melted white chocolate chips to make it look fancier and used pistachios and dried cranberries for a festive touch. It’s beautiful and delicious.
Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway! Tell me what your favorite chocolate mix-ins are!