Pretty, indulgent, relatively healthy, and easy to craft, I made a tin full of these gluten-free confections for us to enjoy during valentines’ week. But, we realized our stash was dwindling yesterday, so we rushed to take the photo here before they were all gobbled up.
I subscribe to the recent wisdom that dark chocolate is beneficial to health, and never miss my 1-ounce daily dose. To transform the routine prescription into something distinctive for Valentines Day, I added nuts, dried fruit, and crystallized ginger to a base of intense, full-bodied bittersweet chocolate. Large walnuts halves, deep red dried tart cherries, and the sugar on the ginger make these delicacies festive and glittery. For a little more polish, I sometimes drizzle melted white chocolate over the top.
The procedure is very simple, but because chocolate can be tricky to work with, here are a few hints: Excessive heat will burn chocolate, so chop it into small pieces first to help it melt quickly (or even easier, use chocolate chips). Melt over barely simmering water; either in the top of a double boiler or in a metal bowl that will fit snugly over the edge of a saucepan, to make certain no steam escapes and touches the liquefying chocolate. Any water or steam intermingling with the chocolate will cause it to turn into a grainy, dull paste (called seizing). And, be certain to stir frequently. Once it is melted, dry the bottom of the double boiler top or metal bowl and then pour the velvety emulsion out on a baking sheet covered with foil.
That’s it for the tips. Now top the chocolate with the embellishments and chill briefly to firm it up, before cutting into irregular shapes. The candies will keep in a covered container for several weeks in the refrigerator.
If you are gluten intolerant, you can indulge in these fancies without worry, because of course you will be fastidious to use gluten-free ingredients. The only ingredient that really needs to be checked is the chocolate. Remember, the more delicious the chocolate you start with the tastier the results. I like Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Organic Dark Chocolate, or for a splurge, Theo Rich Dark Chocolate. I have also had luck with TJ’s semisweet chocolate chips and white baking chips.
I’m off now to make another batch, because our tin is empty and Valentines Day isn’t here yet.
Chocolate Bark with Walnuts, Ginger, and Cherries
- 12-14 oz dark, bittersweet, or semisweet chocolate, chopped, or chocolate chips
- 1 cup walnut halves
- ¾ cup dried tart cherries
- 10 quarter-size rounds crystallized ginger, thinly sliced
- ⅛ teaspoon fleur de sel or coarse kosher salt
- 2 oz white chocolate, optional
- Line a small, rimless baking sheet with foil. Place the dark chocolate in the top of a double boiler set over barely simmering water. (If you don’t have a double boiler, place the chocolate in a metal bowl that fits snuggly over a saucepan of barely simmering water, being certain no steam can escape.) Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Immediately dry the bottom of the double boiler top or bowl, pour the chocolate onto the foil, and spread out a scant ¼-inch thick.
- Scatter the walnuts, cherries, and ginger over the chocolate. Sprinkle with the salt.
- If desired, melt the white chocolate in the top of a double boiler set over barely simmering water. (If you don’t have a double boiler, place the white chocolate in a metal bowl that fits snuggly over a saucepan of barely simmering water, being certain no steam can escape.) Stir until the white chocolate melts. Using a fork, drizzle the white chocolate over the candy.