This recipe is called Peanut-Chocolate Bark, but in reality, it is a discussion about how to work with chocolate, to temper it, and thus use it as a coating for some types of things. Using the tempered chocolate with some salty nuts, makes an excellent candy by itself. I have made other Barks using almonds, and even once with toffee chips. With this recipe, and my notes, we will cover all of these matters.
Peanut Chocolate Bark
- 12 oz Milk Chocolate (a bag of chocolate chips)
- 1 Tablespoon Shortening
- 4 oz. SemiSweet Chocolate
- 2/3 cup Salted, Roasted Peanuts
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- Melt the Milk Chocolate. The original recipe used the microwave technique, but if you want to use a bain marie, it will work just as well.
- Stir-in the Shortening
- Stir-in the SemiSweet Chocolate.
- Spread on parchment-lined cookie sheet.
- Sprinkle on the Peanuts, and press into the chocolate
That is as simple as it is; the trick is to not burn the Milk Chocolate. So discussing how to melt the Milk Chocolate is what follows, as well as a discussion on tempering the chocolate.
You can melt the chocolate in a bain marie; you know, the bowl set over a simmering kettle of water that does not touch the bowl. It is the most controlled method for melting the chocolate, and after using it a few times, I am now an advocate. However, I note that some of the chefs are now using the microwave technique.
To melt the chocolate in the microwave, heat the bowl on HIGH for 15 seconds. Take the bowl out of the microwave and stir the chocolate; you want to move the melted chocolate from the bottom center where the heat is highest, up the sides of the bowl. Now repeat the heating and stirring. After a few iterations, the remaining chocolate will melt just from the heat in the chocolate that is already melted. Keep stirring until all of the chocolate seems melted. Do not over heat the chocolate in the microwave; it can scorch very easily with the high heat created in the microwave.
The latest time I used the microwave technique, there seemed to be no change in the chocolate chips after the first couple heatings, then the spatula seemed to be sticky and drag for another couple heatings, finally, after the fifth or sixth heating, the chocolate stopped grabbing the spatula and seemed to be smoothing out. This is when I stopped using the microwave and just stirred until the chocolate was all melted.
Once you have most of the chocolate melted, use a spatula and work the chocolate for a few seconds to move the hot chocolate around. After the chocolate is melted, add the Shortening and work it in, then add the SemiSweet Chocolate and work it in. Finally, spread the whole thing thinly on the parchment paper cookie sheet and sprinkle the nuts on the chocolate. (I have occasionally added the nuts to the chocolate, stirring them in, so that they don’t fall off when I break the Bark into pieces).
While the recipe calls for peanuts, you can use any type of nut- salty tastes good with chocolate. You can even use prezels, or fruit like raisens. It all works the same.
Using less Chocolate While the recipe uses a total of 1 pound of chocolate chips mixed between the milk chocolate and the semi-sweet chocolate, I didn’t like having to open a second bag of chocolate chips and not using all of them. In fact, you can make the Bark by dividing the milk chocolate chips (or whatever flavor you decide to use). You need to reserve 25% of your chocolate for the tempering action, so if you have a 12 oz. bag of chips, measure out 3 oz. for the role of what is the semi-sweet chocolate in the recipe.
Tempering Chocolate All chocolate we buy is already tempered; that is what makes it hard and snappy. But when we melt it, it loses its temper. Now the wonderful thing is that a small amount of tempered chocolate added to the melted chocolate convinces the melted chocolate that it wants to be tempered and so it sets up its crystals as tempered chocolate. That is why we hold out some of the chocolate until we are nearly finished working with it, and then add it to the mixture. Tempering gives the chocolate a more glossy look and a firmer, more snappy texture.
Coating with Tempered Chocolate Previously, I have suggested that we could coat fruit and other things with the tempered chocolate to give them a nice coating. I am going to back away from some of those thoughts. There are a couple problems to overcome.
First, using the microwave technique for melting the chocolate seems to leave the temperature of the chocolate just above the melting value. I find that there is not enough time to work with the chocolate before it is trying to set up and gets too stiff to use as a dip.
Second, we must keep all moisture away from the chocolate, or it seizes. When chocolate seizes, it becomes hard and grainy. A single drop of water or whiff of steam triggers particles in the cocoa butter to solidify into a dull mass. (Some chefs think the steam from the bain marie is somehow getting into the bowl of chocolate, and why they are looking at the microwave technique for melting)
When we try to coat fruit, we are suddenly bringing moisture into contact with our chocolate. I can only say that for now, I have to leave the chocolate coated strawberries and bananas to the professionals. We can, however, coat our truffles, or the pretzels.
I use a separate bowl for the chocolate that I am using for coating; primarily, this is to keep from contaminating the main bowl of chocolate. If somehow what I am coating is not perfectly dry, then I don’t lose the whole batch to seizing.
Cooling the Bark and other Tempered Chocolate If we thought the chocolate was persnickety with respect to moisture and needing guidance to become tempered after being melted, then there is one more area in which we need to be careful. Tempered chocolate doesn’t like to be cooled too fast! It wants to be kept at a temperature of about 68 – 70 degrees until it is fully set. That means you don’t want to refrigerate it. When we cool it too fast, the fats (cocoa butter) set up first, and the result is the chocolate gets grey streaks through it and does not have the sheen that we were trying to get with tempering.
I purposely cooled the pan on the left in the refrigerator to hopefully help you understand what happens. This close-up shows the dull, grey streaks in that chocolate.
I think something else also happened; when I broke the slab up, it did not have a temper, but was limp. I think there was free moisture in the refrigerator which caused seizing.
While the basic recipe for making a Bark is very simple, I have taken this opportunity to expand your knowledge about working with chocolate. Luckily, truffles are not tempered chocolate, so while they may seem more complicated than the Bark candy, they don’t have many of the problems that show up when we do more than just make the Bark candy with tempered chocolate. Do try to make Bark candy, using the peanuts, or any of the other suggested flavors; then, when you feel comfortable with the basic tempering, move forward and try coating something that doesn’t add moisture to the chocolate. Look at how pretty the truffles appear with their coating of tempered chocolate.