A few weeks ago, I purchased a bag of BarkTHINS™ Snacking Chocolate, a delicious sweet and salty dark chocolate bark with crunchy pumpkin seeds. I really enjoyed this snack and sadly, I ran out earlier this week. Since it takes 2.5 hours to drive to the nearest Costco from my town on Manitoulin Island, there really was no chance of buying more any time soon. So yesterday, when I found that I had some leftover tempered dark chocolate on hand, I decided to make my own version.
Instead of pumpkin seeds, my version included what I had on hand, which was some freshly roasted pecans and Canadian sea salt by Vancouver Island Salt Co. And do you know what? I enjoy these as much as the original! The hint of sea salt really brings out the flavours of the chocolate and the nuts, and it somehow makes the 71% dark chocolate seem sweeter. The fun is in the crunch and the unconventional shapes (solid chocolate bars and their rectangular-shaped pieces seem so boring to me now), so every piece is a surprise. Try it! You may never eat a 'normal' chocolate bar again.
And now for this super simple recipe...
Recipe for Dark Chocolate Bark with Pecans and Sea Salt
- 12 ounces of dark chocolate (you can use 50% to 75% dark chocolate, I used CacaoBarry's 71% Organic dark chocolate, which was a perfect match with sea salt. See below for my tips on where to buy chocolate)
- 1 cup of raw whole pecans
- pinch of sea salt
- 2 tbsp. olive (or other) oil
- 1/4 tsp sea salt, plus a pinch for the pecans
- waxed paper
To roast and prepare the pecans:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Place the pecans single layer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Pour on about 2 tbsp. of olive oil (or other oil of your choice) and stir with a spoon or your hands to coat the pecans in oil. Lightly sprinkle on sea salt.
3. Bake in the centre of the oven for 10 minutes. Remove pan and stir the pecans to turn them over. Then spread them back out (single-layer) and put back in the oven. Bake for five more minutes and check to be sure nothing is burning. Add another five minutes as necessary, constantly checking the pecans. The overall cooking time is about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven.
4. Take out and let cool.
5. Finely chop, crush or grind half of the pecans (1/2 cup). I used my single-serving cup on the Ninja blender for a few seconds, but I also could have used the Cuisinart handheld immersion blender with the chopping device attached. If you do not have a chopper or grinder, simply place half the pecans in a Ziplock bag and roll a rolling pin over the bag on the counter or on a chopping board until you have crushed them to a fine consistency. Set aside with the other half cup of whole pecans until you are ready to use them.
To make the chocolate bark:
1. Lay out a long piece of waxed paper on the counter on a large cookie sheet.
2. Melt and temper the chocolate. For tempering instructions, see here.
3. When the chocolate is in temper (i.e. sitting at about 88 degrees F), toss in the crushed and whole pecans, as well as the 1/4 tsp sea salt and briefly stir until well mixed.
4. Immediately pour the chocolate mixture onto the waxed paper in a long strip and quickly spread around with a spatula to a thin consistency (see picture to the right).
5. Let set slightly (until the chocolate is still soft, not hard, but no longer 'wet'), this should only take a few minutes so watch your Chocolate Bark carefully. Then take a large sharp knife and cut rectangular and triangular pieces. DO NOT attempt to remove or lift the pieces. Let the chocolate set until it is completely hard and begins to lift on its own from the waxed paper. That way you will have a shiny bottom side to your bark. If your room is warm, you can carefully place it in the fridge to set it for up to one hour.
6. Once set, remove each piece from the waxed paper and place them in an airtight container to store. If you had put it in the fridge, let your bark come back to room temperature before sealing in a container. These should keep for months at room temperature, like any chocolate bar.
Serves 1 person daily for 12 days or serves 12 people for one day - your choice!
I spread my chocolate bark onto 'impression mats'', which gave the back side a textured look. You can buy impression sheets online on Golda's Kitchen website at: http://www.goldaskitchen.com/merchant.ihtml?pid=11618&step=4.
Where to buy your chocolate:
Organic & Fair Trade
Although CacaoBarry's chocolate is designed for professional chocolatiers, pastry chefs and bakers, you can get your hands on a bag of their organic 71% dark chocolate at a variety of wholesalers, including Vanilla Food Company (click here).
The Camino brand, by La Siembra cooperative makes chocolate for professionals, so if you have a business, I recommend that you check them out. Their semi-sweet couverture pairs well with sea salt.
www.lasiembra.com/camino/. Also, for the home baker, their 100 gram (3.5 oz) 55% dark chocolate bars (or chocolate chips) are now available at many grocery stores and health food stores in Canada, or can be purchased online. In the U.S., you can find Camino 55% and 71% chocolate chips here. You will need at least four (4) 100 gram chocolate bars (or two bags of chips) to make the recipe above.
Non-Organic Chocolate (with NO artificial flavours) at a Great Price:
A non-organic 1 kg box of Callebaut Semi-Sweet Chocolate Couverture is available on Golda's Kitchen website for $17.25, which would make nearly 3 batches of chocolate bark.
President's Choice Extra Dark 72% Chocolate is great for home-made chocolate treats. Each bar has 300 grams (about 10.5oz), so be sure to buy two and watch for regular sales at your local supermarket! If you do not live near a store that carries President's Choice, Lindt makes a dark, semi-sweet chocolate bar in about the same size.
For beginners, the Lindt brand is a great go-to chocolate for practising your skills as a wanna-be chocolatier. Buy several of their 100 gram dark chocolate bars when they are on sale and test out the recipe above - you won't be disappointed!