Almond bark has been a favorite candy since I can remember eating candy. It was always a special treat, as a child, when visiting fancy chocolate shops, my mom allowing me one small square of the coveted gem. Fast-forward to 2010 and an extended weekend visit to Brussels where a dizzying array of Belgian chocolates greeted me on every corner. One chocolate shop in particular, right off of The Grand-Place, had me at bonjour with its 10-foot long slabs of chocolate barks piled high behind a glass partition. No longer relegated to one small square, I asked the shop owner to overfill a bag of the dark chocolate version studded with swarms of dried fruits and nuts. I’d never seen such a bark! Hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, cherries and raisins. Oh, my! As much mix-ins as chocolate! Heaven! And so dinner was served as I strolled Old Town Brussels devouring my idea of the four food groups. Ah, such sweet memories.
Good news. Neither you nor I have to go to Belgium to enjoy this divine treat. (Though I highly recommend it if you haven’t been.) Making a fruit and nut bark is simple and easy if one is willing to forgo tempering the chocolate in a double boiler and using a microwave oven instead. The result is quite delectable.
The key is to buy good quality chocolate bars, preferably at least 65% cacao. Chocolate chips are too soft and won’t set up as well. Adding a few teaspoons of refined coconut oil (no coconut flavor) will add some of that shine and snap that tempering gives to chocolate. Please note that the nuts must be roasted or will be soggy once coated in the melted chocolate.
While I adore this fruit and nut version, the great thing about making your own chocolate bark is that you get to create your own version. I like lots of chewy and crunchy texture. You may like more of a creamy chocolate texture and want less mix-ins. Experiment and have fun.
Here’s a list of some ideas for making a variety of chocolate barks:
- Dried fruits such as raisins, cranberries, cherries, apricots, blueberries and shredded coconut
- Roasted nuts such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios and peanuts
- Salty snacks such as pretzel pieces and crumbled potato chips
- Sweet snacks such cookie bits, crisped rice cereal and sprinkles
- Toppings such as flaked sea salt, artisanal ground pepper and dehydrated fruit powders
Mix and match to your chocolate heart’s delight!
Dried Fruit and Nut Bark:
Please note that I used a generous 1/4 cup of each mix-in
1/4 cup dry roasted almonds
1/4 cup dry roasted hazelnuts
1/4 cup dry roasted walnuts
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried cherries, cut in half
3 3.5-ounce bars 70% dark chocolate, broken into very small pieces. I recommend putting the chocolate in a plastic bag and smashing it with a mallet or rolling pin
2 tsp. refined coconut oil
Line a baking pan or sheet pan with parchment paper. Make room in your refrigerator to chill the bark in the pan. Have all of your mix-ins measured and ready to go.
In a large microwave safe bowl put the chocolate pieces and the coconut oil and heat in 30 second increments at 50% power until 3/4 melted, stirring up at every increment. Then heat in 20 second increments at 50% power until only a few small lumps of chocolate remain. Remember, you’re slowly melting the chocolate, not cooking it.
Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir up chocolate until fully melted and coconut oil incorporated.
Stir in your mix-ins and combine well, making sure all of the fruits and nuts are evenly coated. If the chocolate seems very runny, let it rest for a few minutes in the bowl.
Pour the mixture in the lined pan; spreading out to the thickness desired using a silicon spatula. Make sure that the chocolate bark is at an even level.
Refrigerate immediately for at least an hour. 3 hours is even better.
When the bark is firm and set, remove from the fridge. You can break the bark into jagged pieces or cut into squares with a very sharp knife.
Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place, out of the sun and heat