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Chocolate Bark

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On New Year’s Eve 2015 I was invited to a Spanish themed dinner on the Northern Beaches in Sydney. My friends were celebrating the acquisition of 2 enormous paella pans and had cooked up a storm.

What to bring? Churros? Crema Catalana? Too tricky for the first, too hard to transport for the second. Chocolate Bark was the answer, really easy to make, and you can use glacé fruit and nuts left over from the 25th December.

There are lots of recipes around for this after dinner chocolate treat. But it’s less of a recipe and more of make-it-up as you go along kind of sweet thing.

I recently acquired Nigel Slater’s new book “The Kitchen Diaries Volume iii”. I have long been an admirer of Nigel’s food philosophy, recipes and writing. Among other lovely recipes, Nigel makes his version of this with chocolate, crystallized fruit, rose petals and hazelnuts.

My version has orange blossom flavoured sugar, lots of nuts, fruit and sea salt.

The principle is easy: just melt dark chocolate, pour it into a large tin, then scatter over whatever you feel like, ending with sprinkling of flavoured demerara sugar and sea salt. I have specified varying quantities of glacé fruit and nuts – it really depends on how much you feel like putting in.

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Ingredients

1 tsp demerara sugar

1 or 2 drops orange blossom water (or any flavour you like eg rosewater, vanilla, peppermint)

400 g dark chocolate at least half of which is 70% cocoa solids (or the whole lot)

300-400  glacé fruit (eg apricots, pears, peaches, figs, pineapple, ginger)

100-150 g unsalted nuts (eg macadamia, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds) – toasted or not, up to you

a few grinds of sea salt flakes

Ingredients

A couple of hours before making the bark, or even the day before, prepare the orange blossom cugar. Sprinkle the drop(s) of orange blossom water over the demerera sugar and stir to mix. If the flavour is not strong enough , carefully add another drop. If it’s too strong, add more sugar. Y0u can always us ethe flavoured sugar as decoration for cupcakes, big cakes, pies or biscuits. It’s crunchy and quite delicious!

The sugar needs to be left to dry out – it shouldn’t be too damp.

When you’re ready to make the chocolate bark, heat a glass or china bowl over simmering water in a saucepan. Make sure the bowl does not come into contact with the water. Carefully break up the chocolate into pieces and place in the bowl. With the heat turned down to low, let the chocolate melt slowly. Don’t be tempted to stir it  – gently prod it to move it around the bowl if there are bits that aren’t melting.

While the chocolate is melting, chop the glacé fruit into pieces, some bigger than others for texture and look. Roughly chop the nuts.

Line a baking tin with baking paper. I used a 23cm (9″) x 34cm (13″tin.That allowed for quite a thick bark, as pictured. To make a thinner, more brittle bark, just use a bigger tin – or less chocolate!

When the chocolate has completely melted, pour it carefully into the tin, spreading it out with a palette knife to the corners. Scatter the glacé fruit pieces and nuts over the chocolate. Don’t push them in – they should lie artfully over the chocolate wherever they come to rest.

Finish off by sprinkling over the flavoured sugar, and grinding some sea salt over too. Don’t be tempted to overdo the sea salt – once on, it’s difficult to take off.

Leave to set in a cool place or for an hour or so in the fridge. The chocolate loses its gloss if refrigerated for a long time – but on New Year’s Eve – summer in Sydney – the bark would have been mud if I hadn’t wacked it in the fridge for a couple of hours!

When set, break roughly into bark pieces, or shards, if your chocolate is thinner. Great with coffee and after dinner alcoholic treats!

Oh, and it was a sensational dinner and lovely to be with good friends seeing in 2016.

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