‘Tis The Season (for holiday gift bags)

I’m  loving December. I’m loving the decorations, I’m loving the lights, I’m loving people’s energy as they get excited for the holidays, and most of all I’m loving this lack of actual cold Toronto has been experiencing. I know this is not a popular sentiment among my much more Canadian friends, but bring on that Spring feeling!

This year, I will be making some holiday goodies to share with my friends and colleagues. My aim is to make a couple of different types of cookies, as well as a few types of chocolate bark and then package them simply (and cheaply) using gift bags and ribbon from Dollarama. With adequate planning, some not too complicated recipes and pre-made cookie dough I can store in the freezer, these gift bags should be ready to go in no time.

Here are my goodie bag contenders:

  1. PB&J Sandwich Cookies – childhood comfort food jazzed up in cookie form (Food52)
  2. Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies –  a twist on the classic  (Smitten Kitchen)
  3. Dark Chocolate Pistachio Ginger Bark – not quite a cookie, but it’s crunchy and chocolate, so it totally counts  (recipe below)
  4. Milk Chocolate Swirl Peppermint Bark (recipe below)

The thing I was most worried about was working with chocolate – I am a total chocolate n00b, and based off every baking show that I watch (#GBBO for the win!), everyone seems to hate chocolate week. But to be completely honest, making this chocolate bark was a breeze! I used my microwave instead of a double boiler which was a revelation, and the chocolate tempered perfectly.

Not everything went as smoothly as the chocolate however. I did run into an issue while taking stock of my pantry when I realized that the huge bag of brown sugar I had bought a few weeks ago was no longer soft and crumbly, but had turned a solid mass! What to do?! Well, The Kitchn also has the answer to that conundrum- you really can find all the answers on the internet!

Below is my basic recipe for the two types of chocolate bark I made.  To be completely honest though, you don’t need a recipe, or even to measure any ingredients to make gorgeous chocolate bark. All you need is some good quality chocolate and your imagination! Variations I have made include: milk chocolate+macadamia, dark chocolate+dried cherry, cookies and cream (white chocolate+oreo) ,milk chocolate+popcorn and white chocolate+goji berry. Go to town, and let your imagination, and sweet tooth guide you!

Dark Chocolate Bark with Candied Ginger and Pistachios

Ingredients:

600 grams semi-sweet chocolate (I got the chocolate coins from Bulk Barn)
Pistachios
Candied ginger
Flaked Sea salt (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Prepare your toppings: Chop your pistachio into smaller pieces, and finely slice the candied ginger.
  2. Put 60% of your chocolate in a microwave proof bowl. Microwave at 50% power in 30 second bursts and stir between rounds. Once chocolate starts to melt, shorten to 20 second bursts, still stirring between rounds. You don’t want to burn your chocolate so patience is your friend here- when melted your chocolate should be very shiny and pourable.
  3. Add remaining solid chocolate to the bowl of  melted chocolate, stirring to help it melt. If needed, put back in microwave for 15 second bursts until completely melted.
  4. Line sheet pan with parchment paper. Pour melted chocolate onto pan, and use either an offset spatula (or do what I did and pick up the pan and tilt it around) to spread the chocolate evenly across the pan. Distribute toppings across the chocolate, and add a few sprinkles of flaked sea salt if using.
  5. Put sheet pan in fridge to set- chocolate should be set completely in a few hours, but preferably left overnight,
  6. Break into shards and package (or eat!)

Milk Chocolate Swirl with Peppermint

Ingredients:

500 grams milk chocolate (I got the chocolate coins from Bulk Barn)
100 grams white chocolate
Crushed candy cane

Instructions:

  1. Put 60% of your milk chocolate in a microwave proof bowl. Microwave at 50% power in 30 second bursts and stir between rounds. Once chocolate starts to melt, shorten to 20 second bursts, still stirring between rounds. Add remaining solid chocolate to the bowl of  melted chocolate, stirring to help it melt. If needed, put back in microwave for 15 second bursts until completely melted.
  2. Line sheet pan with parchment paper. Pour melted chocolate onto pan, and spread the chocolate evenly across the pan.
  3. Repeat the chocolate melting technique for the white chocolate, but start with 15 second bursts as there is less volume.
  4. Once melted, pour white chocolate on top of milk chocolate, and use a chopstick or toothpick to swirl and create a marbled pattern.
  5. Sprinkle over the crushed candy canes, and leave in fridge to set overnight.
  6. Break into shards and package (or eat!). Want to see how I decided to break up my chocolate?

giphy (2)

What do you enjoy baking /sharing during the holiday season? Do you also use random non-kitchen tools in your kitchen? Hit up the comments with your favorite Christmas related food memories.

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