Dig in or run away? It's the classic holiday diet dilemma.
This year, I’ve made more holiday goodies than ever. Maybe it’s because I’m filled with holiday cheer, or maybe it’s because I’ve fallen in love with barks. I mean, take just about anything you like and smother it in chocolate. How awesome is that? Easy + quick + chocolate = PERFECT in my book. But it’s not ALL about barks. I also made sausage balls, orange slice cookies (see the recipe in a previous post), toffee, jam thumbprint cookies & snickerdoodle bars this week, but mostly it’s been about the chocolate. First up, white chocolate gingersnap truffles that I whipped up based on a recipe for Oreo truffles.
Gingersnap Truffles - Oh, baby...these are fabulous!
In a food processor, I ground up a one-pound bag of gingersnaps with one cup of toasted pecans. I ground them into dust, or actually the texture of sand. Then I dumped in a large tub of store-bought cream cheese frosting and stirred until it was all perfectly combined. Using my cookie scoop, I scooped the gingersnap mixture onto a wax paper-lined cookie sheet, which I promptly put in the freezer for 20 minutes. While the gingersnap balls were freezing (okay, stop giggling), I melted a pound of white chocolate over a double-boiler. Using a skewer, I stabbed each one and drowned it in the melted chocolate, making sure to coat it heavily. It helps to spin it around a little so the excess can drip off. Then I placed each truffle back onto the waxed paper, making sure to fill the skewer hole with a little more chocolate. Once they were all dipped, I went back and sprinkled a little gingersnap dust on the top. Then they all went back into the freezer for another 20 minutes to set before they went into an air-tight container. These turned out great. They have so much flavor, and the subtle spice of the gingersnaps is a perfect complement to the creamy sweetness of the white chocolate. HELPFUL TIP – use a good quality gingersnap for the best flavor.
Next, I made two white chocolate barks. The first was planned. It’s the pistachio and dried cranberry bark from The Brown Eyed Baker. When I saw her photo, I knew I had to make it. When I thought about tart dried cranberries combined with white chocolate, I knew I had to make it. When I saw that it only had 3 ingredients, I knew I had to make it. It couldn’t have been easier. You melt a pound of white chocolate, stir in a cup of shelled pistachios and a cup of dried cranberries (I love Ocean Spray’s Craisin brand) and pour it into a foil-lined pan.
White Chocolate Pistachio Cranberry Bark
Pop it in the fridge for half an hour to set up, then cut it into squares and store it in an air-tight container. Done! Of course, Michelle used a 1/2 cup of pistachios and a 1/2 cup of dried cranberries, but I’m all about excess at the holidays. So sue me. The second bark was accidental, but awesome. I had leftover white chocolate from my first bark and the gingersnap truffles, so I dumped 2 cups of trail mix that had mixed nuts, raisins and M&M candies into a bowl with some leftover roasted cashews I found in my pantry and poured the extra white chocolate over the top. Once it was mixed well, I poured it into a 9″ x 9″ baking pan lined with foil, and pressed some dark chocolate M&M’s onto the top. Again, you just pop it into the fridge to set up, then cut it into squares and store it in an air-tight container. I like this one for several reasons – the raisins make it a little chewy, the nuts make it a little salty, and the dark chocolate M&M’s add a nice contrast to the sweetness of the white chocolate. Both barks were easy to make.
Trail Mix Bark - chewy, salty, nutty & crunchy
The last bark I made was a fabulous contradiction. For taste, it was a solid 10+ but for appearance, it’s a pathetic 2 at best. It’s my version of dark chocolate peppermint bark. I used two different bags of my favorite chocolate chips – Guittard. The first bag was my beloved Extra Dark Chocolate (so good I eat them straight out of the bag) and the second was a new one I hadn’t tried yet – Akoma Extra Semi-Sweet baking chips. I’m telling you, there is something magical about Guittard chocolate chips. They are just on a different level than other brands. I think they’re made by angels or something. But back to the peppermint bark. I melted these two bags of chocolate together over a double boiler, then spread the melted chocolate onto a wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Then I opened a bag of Andes red & white Peppermint Crunch baking chips and sprinkled them all over the top. My thought process was this – I don’t like hard peppermint candy bits getting stuck in my teeth, so why not use the softer Andes baking chips with the texture of a chocolate chip? I mean, it should be smooth, pepperminty and wonderful, right? Truth is, it WAS smooth, pepperminty and wonderful. The combination of the powerful dark chocolate with the super minty Andes chips is spot on. World class. Life changing. The problem? It’s just not pretty. In fact, it’s so ugly, I call it Bacon Bark. Ugh! See for yourself:
Bacon Bark - Okay, it's not bacon, but it sure looks like it!
I swear it looks like someone put raw bacon on top of melted chocolate. This is definitely one of those times when you have to suck it up or just close your eyes so you can enjoy it, because honestly it tastes amazing. It’s my new favorite chocolate candy concoction. If these make it to December 25th, it will be a Christmas miracle. It’s that good, and that addictive. Pray for me, please. Pray that I don’t kill The Complete Package for eating it all before I get a chance.
Last up was the Rolo Pretzel Bites from the Glorious Treats blog. This was another one that spoke to me when I saw it. Actually, I thought my son-in-law Bama Boy would love these. He’s a fan of turtles and toffee, so these should be right up his alley. They’re also easy to make, and only have 3 ingredients. It’s turning out to be my holiday theme – quick & easy with only 3 ingredients. I can’t thank my fellow bloggers enough for sharing their favorites. I’m really enjoying the fact that someone else is doing all the thinking for me. Thanks!
The 3 stages of Rolo Pretzel Bites construction
For this one, you’ll need a bag of the square-shaped pretzels, two bags of Rolo caramel-filled chocolate candies, and toasted pecan halves. What!?!…again with the 3 ingredients! I know, it’s awesome! First, pre-heat your oven to 250F. Then line a baking sheet with waxed paper. This is important…if you don’t use the waxed paper or foil, these will stick to the pan. Next, spread out the pretzel squares, then spend 30 minutes unwrapping the individually wrapped Rolos (it would help if you had little munchkins in your house to help with this step). Place a Rolo candy on top of each pretzel and top with a pecan half. Carefully slide the baking sheet into the oven, turn off the heat, and let them sit in there for about 4-5 minutes. The Rolos should soften, but not melt. To test one, press on the pecan half. If you’re able to press it down into the candy, they’re ready. Remove the pan from the oven, and working quickly, press each pecan half down into the candy, which will in turn press the candy down into the pretzel. (For a peek at the finished product, click on the link to the Glorious Treats website at the top of the paragraph.) Once they’re all pressed into place, slide the baking sheet into the freezer for 20 minutes to allow them to set up. Once firm, remove from the freezer and store in an air-tight container. If you love salty pretzels, milk chocolate, caramel and pecans, you’re going to love these. Think turtle candies with a pretzel base. Thank you, Glory @ Glorious Treats.
Okay, I’m done for now. My teeth are starting to hurt just talking about all this candy. Did I tell you my dentist bought a yacht for Christmas? Just kidding. Although, if I eat all of this I could probably make it happen. I’m sure he’d appreciate it. Forget it, Burt. I’m generous, but not that generous. Happy holidays everyone, and happy baking/making/sharing. I’m off to make a salad.