Sunday, December 23, 2018

Cranberry Pistachio Dark Chocolate Bark

plate of broken up bark
Simply Chocolate, Nuts, and Fruit

Recipe adapted from Kaiser Permanente

It’s Bark!! And according to Kaiser, my health care provider, it’s “food for health.” They’re the experts, right? They offered a version of this healthy-ish treat on their website this holiday season. I tweaked their recipe a bit, by simplifying the process and upping the proportion of chocolate. While it’s not entirely keto-friendly, it is vegan and gluten-free. So it’s a reasonable (and fast!) choice for potlucks. Plus, it’s chocolate!

chocolate melted in measuring cup
Melting Moments
Kaiser uses a double boiler to melt the chocolate. I find the microwave a faster and less messy substitute. Use any kind of shelled pistachios: raw, roasted, unsalted, or lightly salted. Raw nuts have the greenest color, but I prefer taste of roasted—so I used half and half. Most dried cranberries contain some sugar, and personally I don’t think unsweetened would taste good in this recipe. I used a combination of plain and orange-flavored organic dried cranberries from Trader Joe’s. TJ’s is also the most economical place to buy large quantities of Belgian dark chocolate.

Topping the bark with coarse sea salt adds an elegant touch and a pop of unexpected flavor. I use Maldon sea salt, because the large, flat crystals add a decorative element without adding overpowering saltiness. Any coarse sea salt will work fine. Fleur de sel, with its large crystals, can easily get too salty, so use it with a light touch.

For Efficient Prep: Put Ingredients in Bowls
Smoothing the chocolate into a thin, even layer before adding the goodies is non-trivial. A flat plastic tool that can be held from the top is best, like the Pampered Chef pan scraper or the King Arthur bowl scraper, or anything with a similar profile. For ease in preparation, assemble this and other necessary tools: rubber spatula/s, small stirring spoon, spoon rest, and parchment, before starting the melt. Also, before or during melting, measure out pistachios, cranberries, and salt into 3 shallow bowls that can be accessed with chocolate-y hands.

Try this bark at a party, for holiday gift giving, or for any occasion that demands chocolate. I’m bringing a plate to a New Year’s Eve party to get 2019 started off right. Happy Holidays to All! (Recipe below closeup pic.)

closeup of bark showing salt crystals
The Final Masterpiece

block of chocolate, packages of pistachios, cranberries, Maldon salt
Only Four Ingredients
Cranberry Pistachio Dark Chocolate Bark
serves ~ 10 - 12

12 oz. dark chocolate, at least 70%
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup pistachios, raw or roasted
a few pinches of Maldon sea salt

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Break up chocolate while still in the wrapper by smacking firmly and repeatedly a weighted mallet. Unwrap and slide chocolate into a 4-cup pyrex measuring cup.

Melt chocolate in the microwave. Times may vary, so do cut down on the time if your microwave is super powerful. Also, remember to stir, stir, stir between ‘wavings:

Microwave for 1 minute. Stir melted chocolate from sides and bottom of cup.
Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir to distribute unmelted chocolate.
Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir thoroughly until almost all of the chocolate melts.
Microwave another 30 seconds. Stir till chocolate is thin, glossy, and consistent in temperature and texture throughout.

Pour out chocolate onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Scrape out measuring cup with rubber spatula. Spread chocolate out into an even layer with a small pan scraper or similar tool. Even out with a larger scraper if desired.

Sprinkle on about 1/3 of the pistachios, as evenly as possible. Follow with 1/3 of the cranberries, distributing as evenly as possible. Fill in with a second round of pistachios, followed by a second round of cranberries. Then, on the final rounds, fill in any gaps, especially around the perimeter. Finish with a light sprinkling of salt.

Press down gently with hands to ensure that nuts and berries are embedded in the chocolate. Add a bit more salt if desired.

Place bark in freezer for 20 minutes. Do not over-freeze, or chocolate surface can get powder-y (learn from my mistake!).

Remove from freezer and break up into pieces with your hands, for serving plate or gift tin.

It’s easy to make several batches of this at once. While the first batch is freezing, break up and weigh the chocolate into the measuring cup for the next batch. Measure out more pistachios and cranberries into their respective bowls (salt level is probably fine). Wash and dry the plastic scraper that you used to level the bark on the baking sheet. Cut another sheet of parchment to line the baking sheet for the second batch.

No need to wash the chocolate measuring cup, stirring spoon, baking sheet, or spatula used for scraping chocolate out of cup between batches if they’re made within a short amount of time.

bark with pistachio sprinkling
Start with 1/3 of Pistachios
bark with pistachio and cranberry sprinkling
Add 1/3 of Cranberries
Bark filled with fruit and nuts
Fill in with Pistachios and Cranberries
bark complete with fruit, nuts, and salt sprinkle
Finish with Maldon Salt

bark broken up on plate
Break into Pieces and Enjoy

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