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Chocolate bark makes an easy, beautiful holiday gift.

<b>EYE CANDY </b>Make two batches, one with dark chocolate and one with white, for mix-and-match elegance.
<b>EYE CANDY </b>Make two batches, one with dark chocolate and one with white, for mix-and-match elegance. Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty

Chocolate bark has a lot going for it – fast and simple to make, it can be endlessly varied with every type of dried fruit and nut imaginable . . . and it’s chocolate. Inspired by my friend Catrine (she is also the photo stylist for this column), who makes white chocolate peppermint bark candy for much-loved holiday gifts, I’ve developed a few of my own combinations for nibbling and gifting.

A couple of quick notes: First, when you melt the chocolate, take care that the water is barely simmering – you want to avoid overheating the chocolate. Second, once it has begun to melt, stir, stir, stir. Third, once the chocolate is smooth and glossy, work quickly to mix in the bark ingredients and then pour and spread the mixture.

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CHOCOLATE BARK WITH WALNUTS, FIGS, AND FENNEL SEEDS

Makes about 1¼ pounds

¾ cup walnuts, toasted lightly, cooled, and chopped

2/3 cup chopped dried Turkish Smyrna figs

12 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped

1½ tablespoons whole fennel seeds, lightly toasted and cooled

Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix walnuts and figs; reserve a generous ½ cup of the mixture in a separate bowl and set both bowls aside.

In a medium heatproof bowl set over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water over low heat (bottom of bowl should not touch the water), melt the chocolate, stirring frequently, until fluid, smooth, and glossy, about 3½ minutes. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and, working quickly, add the larger quantity of the walnut-fig mixture and the fennel seeds, and stir to mix well.

Scrape the mixture onto the prepared pan and spread it into a rectangle about 3/8 inch thick. Sprinkle the surface evenly with the remaining walnut-fig mixture and press gently so the nuts and fruit adhere. Place the pan in the freezer and leave until the chocolate is set hard but not frozen, about 25 minutes.

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Remove the pan from the freezer, pull the bark off the paper, cut or break it into pieces of desired size, and serve (or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks).

CHOCOLATE BARK WITH HAZELNUTS AND ORANGE

Follow the recipe for Chocolate Bark With Walnuts, Figs, and Fennel Seeds, making the following changes:

1) Substitute 1¼ cups hazelnuts, toasted lightly, cooled, peeled, and chopped, for the walnuts. Set aside ½ cup of the chopped nuts to spread on the surface of the bark.

2) Substitute ½ cup finely chopped candied orange peel for the figs; mix all of the peel into the bark mixture.

3) Omit the fennel seeds.

CHOCOLATE BARK WITH BRAZIL NUTS, BANANA CHIPS, AND COFFEE

Follow the recipe for Chocolate Bark With Walnuts, Figs, and Fennel Seeds, making the following changes:

1) Substitute 2/3 cup Brazil nuts, toasted lightly, cooled, and chopped, for the walnuts, and 2/3 cup chopped banana chips for the figs. Set aside ½ cup of this mixture to spread on the surface of the bark.

2) Stir 3 tablespoons chopped coffee beans into melted chocolate along with the larger amount of Brazil nuts and banana chips.

3) Omit the fennel seeds.

MEXICAN-SPICED CHOCOLATE BARK WITH PEPITAS (PUMPKIN SEEDS)

Follow the recipe for Chocolate Bark With Walnuts, Figs, and Fennel Seeds, making the following changes:

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1) Substitute 1 2/3 cups pepitas (about 7 ounces), toasted lightly and cooled, for the walnuts and figs. Set aside 1/3 cup pepitas to spread on the surface of the bark.

2) Substitute finely chopped semisweet chocolate for the chopped bittersweet chocolate.

3) Substitute a mixture of 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1½ teaspoons ground pure ancho chili powder, and ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper for the fennel seeds.

WHITE CHOCOLATE BARK WITH PISTACHIOS AND CRANBERRIES

Makes about 1¼ pounds

¾ cup pistachios, chopped

2/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped

12 ounces high-quality white chocolate, very finely chopped

Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix pistachios and cranberries; reserve a generous ½ cup mixture in a separate bowl and set both bowls aside.

In a medium heatproof bowl set over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water over low heat (bottom of bowl should not touch the water), melt the white chocolate, stirring frequently, until fluid, smooth, and glossy, about 3½ minutes. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and, working quickly, add the larger quantity of the pistachio-cranberry mixture and stir to mix well. Scrape the mixture onto the prepared pan and spread it into a rectangle about 3/8 inch thick. Sprinkle the surface evenly with the remaining pistachio-cranberry mixture and press gently so the nuts and fruit adhere. Place the pan in the freezer and leave until the chocolate is set hard but not frozen, about 25 minutes.

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Remove the pan from the freezer, pull the bark off the paper, cut or break it into pieces of desired size, and serve (or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks).

WHITE CHOCOLATE BARK WITH PECANS AND CACAO NIBS

Follow the recipe for White Chocolate Bark With Pistachios and Cranberries, making the following changes:

1) Substitute 1 cup pecans, toasted lightly, cooled, and chopped for the pistachios and ½ cup cacao nibs for the cranberries.

WHITE CHOCOLATE BARK WITH MACADAMIAS, MANGO, AND GINGER

Follow the recipe for White Chocolate Bark With Pistachios and Cranberries, making the following changes:

1) Substitute ½ cup chopped roasted macadamias for the pistachios and ½ cup chopped dried mango (or apricots) for the cranberries.

2) Stir ½ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger into melted white chocolate along with the larger amount of macadamias and mango.


Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at cooking@globe.com.