Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays: Homemade gifts part I

I still very much love Christmas. I love everything about it - getting together with family, warm hearty meals, gift wrapping, gift giving, and definitely gift getting. There is no better feeling than finding the perfect gift for someone special. I struggle every year waiting till Christmas day to give away my gifts. I start shopping early; I am sometimes complete done by Thanksgiving, so being patient all through the month of December before I can give away all of my present is quite the trying time. Anyway, along with all of the store bought presents I always like to put together some homemade yummies each year.

A favorite Christmas treat for my family is Christmas bark, or peppermint bark. This used to be sold at only gourmet food shops a few years ago. It has since gained popularity and can be found in most grocery stores this time of year. Ghiradelli even makes a special holiday chocolate bar that is similar. However, these store bough versions can be quite price for a small amount of chocolate and the look is just too generic for me. The following recipe is super simple. The result is a festive treat perfect for an added extra in any one's Christmas present.

Christmas bark

1 12 ox bag white chocolate chips ( the better the white chocolate the easier it is to work with)
1 tbsp peppermint extract
1 box candy canes or peppermint candy (red and white is the most festive)
1 cookie sheet

1. Unwrap all of the candy canes or peppermint candies. Put into a durable baggie, Ziploc Freezer bags work fine. Use a meat tenderizer or roller pin to break up all of the candy into small pieces.

2. Melt the white chocolate either by putting it in a double boiler and stirring constantly or my preferred method is simply dumping the bag in a microwave safe bowl. Heat for 30 second intervals stirring after each time. This method will take about 2 minutes of heating. You can stop heating when there are still a few lumps of solid chocolate left. Keep stirring and the heat will continue to be dispersed and melt the remaining chocolate. This will you will not over heat and burn the chocolate. Once you over heat white chocolate there is no saving it.

3. Stir in the peppermint extract and candy cane pieces. Spread on a clean cookie sheet and even out the thickness across the pan. Don't worry if it does not reach all of the sides. Cool until harden in the refrigerator.

4. Once hard gently twist the cookie sheet so it is not flat bottomed, this should produce cracks through the harden bark. Then use your hand to break up into desired sized pieces.

You can wrap it up nicely and it makes the perfect homemade treat!

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