My first experience biting into something that contained dried fruit and nuts enveloped in chocolate was life-changing. I remember it clearly -- it was a Chunky bar, and while I was not a lover of nuts or raisins covered in chocolate, all it took was one bite and I was forever changed. I was somewhere in my Tweens. Years later, while at boarding school in England, I would discover Cadbury's Fruit and Nut bars - another Trifecta of flavors exploding in my mouth. I really have no idea why I found this so wondrous. It must have had something to do with the layers of flavors and varying textures. Many years after that, grown with young children of my own, making "bark" - all varieties - would be all the rage and I am sure that was in part due to a fledgeling website called Pinterest. Way back when one needed an invitation to join and it would soon take the internet and the creative world by storm.
Making bark with children is a great project as it's relative easy and fast. As no baking is required, once the chocolate is melted kids can blend in all the goodies themselves. What fun it is to watch it harden, crack into pieces and eat. We've made all sorts of varieties over the years but my favorite combination remains cranberry, pistachio and semi-sweet or dark chocolate.
Last weekend I had a hankering for something sweet and salty and decided to make some bark and add a touch of sea salt. It was really an experiment of sorts, but the addition of the salt brought it to another level completely and I think the recipe has been perfected.
You'll see many prettier versions of this out there with the assorted fruit and nuts scattered all over the top, but I prefer mine mixed in. It must have something to do with that original Chunky bar.
2 bags of semi-sweet (or dark, or semi-sweet/dark combined) chocolate morsels
1 (heaping) cup of shelled, unsalted pistachios
1 (heaping) cup of dried cranberries
Freshly ground sea salt (to taste)
Melt chocolate over a double boiler OR pour chocolate chips into a brownie pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Place into a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and with a wooden spoon or spatula spread melted chocolate evenly over the bottom of the lined pan. Add your ingredients and mix well so that every piece is well covered and chocolate and nuts are evenly distributed. Add freshly ground sea salt to the top of the chocolate mixture. Place refrigerator for about an hour or into the freezer for 15-20 minutes. When solid bread into pieces of assorted sizes.
These are wonderful additions to any cookie exchange, make great hostess and teacher gifts and look elegant in glass jars or cellophane bags tied up with festive ribbon. Be sure to save some for Santa!
You might notice that the chocolate has a slightly white hue to it which is in part due to the sea salt and in part due to the fact that I had it stored in the fridge because I have no self control.