One of my favorite pastimes (besides hockey, of course) is making chocolate truffles and barks. Handmade chocolate is a perfect gift for a friend or loved one at any time of the year. It’s my go-to gift of choice for my parents’ and in-laws’ birthdays or at Christmastime. The best part about making your own chocolate is how diverse and creative you can get with the flavor combinations. Sometimes I’ll get a stroke of inspiration for a chocolate flavor that will snap me out of that elusive relaxed, dreamy state right before sleep. It’s a blessing and a curse, really.

This chocolate bark didn’t happen upon me in that way at all, however. After a particularly un-inspired Christmas with no chocolate factory action whatsoever at my house, I was in a rut and just wanted to make something. Sometimes finding a new ingredient can turn the light bulb back on, and in this case it was dried cherries. I knew instantly I wanted to pair them with almonds and chocolate, and thus a new bark emerged, perfect for Valentine’s Day.

DSC00692Ingredients

Dried cherries (or another fruit if you prefer)
Semi-sweet chocolate chips (I ended up using about half a bag)
Sliced Almonds
*Optional
Contrasting color chocolate to drizzle
Candy sprinkles
Silicone baking pan (this makes it SO much easier to remove the chocolate for cutting when you’re finished, but if you don’t have one, just line a regular baking pan/sheet with wax paper)

Directions

  1. In a microwave-safe dish, melt a little less than 1 cup of chocolate chips in the microwave in short bursts, stirring between each heating. I started with 2 20-second waves, then about 3 10-second ones which was perfect.
  2. Spread an even layer of chocolate in your pan. If you’re using silicone, you can even heat the chocolate directly in the pan and smooth it with the back of a spoon.
  3. Drop dried cherries onto the melted chocolate layer, being sure to distribute them evenly across the bar. I also used about half the bag of cherries here, and I chopped some of the larger pieces so they more closely resembled raisins in size.
  4. Drizzle some more melted chocolate over the cherries, I used white chocolate to make the bark more colorful. Then, sprinkle sliced almonds over the fresh chocolate. We added more chocolate in this step so that the almonds would adhere after the cherry layer.
  5. *Optional: Repeat step 4 for a double layer of sliced almonds and chocolate. In this step I switched back to the semi-sweet.
  6. Finish off with another drizzle of chocolate, and optional candy sprinkles to suit the occasion. I was very light-handed with my sprinkles as I only wanted the tiniest pop of color.
  7. You can let the bark harden overnight, or if you’re impatient pop it in the fridge for 30 minutes. Once it’s solid, take it out of your pan and cut it into more manageable pieces. I opted for some slanted rhombus slices.
  8. If you’re giving it as a gift, pile the slices into a nice tin or candy box. The dollar store always has very cute tins for the holidays, but you can also find boxes at a craft store.

The great thing about bark is – if you don’t like any of the ingredients, you can swap them for something else, or omit them altogether. So you can take this recipe as a guideline or springboard for your own imagination, but if you do happen to follow it to the letter, I promise it will not disappoint.

And look how gorgeous it is…

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Born in the “non-traditional” hockey market of South Florida, Elizabeth (Beth) quickly grew to love the sport at a very young age after her Buffalo-bred family introduced her to the Sabres. High school friends who didn’t care about hockey couldn't understand her withdrawals during the 2004-05 lockout, but college would bring a hockey loving boyfriend (and best friend) to whom she could finally relate. A South Florida native himself, and an avid Florida Panthers fan, he got her into the home team. Together they work for their college hockey club (the FAU Owls), broadcasting games. Beth is a huge USA Hockey fan and hopes to see them win Olympic gold in her lifetime. Between her 2 favorite NHL teams, her college squad, and USA Hockey, it's hard to tell which team she loves most, but she is passionate about them all.

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