Chocolate Bark or Mendiants – Take Your Pick

Take chocolate bark to new gourmet heights by adding a wide array of tempting toppings, from fun and spunky, to healthy hippy, to irresistibly exotic.

a cascade of chocolate bark

What is it about chocolate that makes it such a universally beloved food? No matter if you’re stressed, tired, or sad, or chilling-out, happy, or celebrating – chocolate is the answer. One mouthful of that addictively sweet (or sublimely bitter) confection can make everything right with the world – or at least a whole lot better!

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
― Charles M. Schulz

six variations of chocolate bark

If you want an easy, no-cook treat for summer entertaining, look no further than chocolate. Show up at any party or barbecue with a tray of fun chocolate bark chunks and you’ll be everyone’s instant friend. You can personalize the toppings to your taste (or just use up what’s in your cupboard). What could be easier than melting a handful of good quality chocolate, spreading it out, and sprinkling it with crispy, crunchy, nutty bits and pieces? Let it set for a bit, and break into nibble-sized bites. Even kids are happy to help.

Pour milk chocolate for chocolate bark swirling all kinds of chocolate for chocolate bark

Meredith helped make a couple batches. Just for fun, we swirled the different kinds of chocolate together. She loved making a fully loaded version of milk chocolate bark (below, left) with homemade sprinkles, pretzel bits, sunflower seeds, crunchy toffee bits, and mini m&m candies.

trio of chocolate barks - fully loaded, cranberry almond, and healthy hit

left – fully loaded, center – cranberry, almond, orange peel, cacao nibs, right – pumpkin seed, goji berry, bee pollen

We couldn’t decide which flavour combination was our favourite – everyone had a different one. (The dark chocolate with bacon, pecans, toffee bits, and coffee beans got quite a few votes, though, because it was so interesting.)

white and dark chocolate bark

If you want to be even more elegant, make your chocolate bark into individual rounds. Stud them with dried fruits and nuts – a variation on the traditional French mendiants served at Christmas, but really just as wonderful any time of year. Simple and classic is always in season. Mendiants are an easy make-ahead and just the right touch if you’d like to serve a little something sweet, but not too heavy, after a special dinner.

Or even after a casual barbecue.

dark chocolate mendiants with dried fruits and nuts

dark chocolate mendiants are an elegant little nibble to finish any meal

 

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: Start out with the best quality chocolate you can get, whether it’s milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate. (The bulk food section at our local supermarket and our bulk food store both sell wonderful Belgian chocolate.)

To make either the chocolate bark or mendiants dairy free, be sure to use a good quality dairy-free dark chocolate.

Make sure to toast your nuts first, to ensure maximum nutty flavour, or buy roasted, salted nuts. The salty hit of nuts, pretzels, or salted popcorn is a winner with chocolate.

If you’re taking a container of these chocolate bark pieces to a picnic or barbecue, stash a frozen ice-pack on top of the sealed container or keep it in a cooler to prevent the chocolate from melting in the sun.

The white ‘bloom’ that sometimes shows on the chocolate after storing for a while is just cocoa butter that has come to the surface if the chocolate hasn’t been tempered properly. It may not look pretty, but it is harmless and the chocolate is still perfectly delicious to eat.

eight varieties of chocolate bark

Chocolate Bark

  • 250 gms/9oz  of good quality milk, dark, or white chocolate (about 1 and 1/3 cup chocolate chips)
  • assorted whole nuts or seeds
  • assorted dried fruits (raisins, apricots, candied ginger, cranberries)
  • extra bits – pretzels, popcorn, candies, etc.

Toast any nuts you plan to use in a 350° oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden and fragrant (or buy them already roasted and salted.) Allow to cool.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over simmering water, or in a microwave-safe glass container. If using the bowl over water, stir often until the chocolate is just melted. Lift the bowl from the simmering water and wipe the bottom with a towel so no water droplets get into the chocolate. If using the microwave, heat the chocolate in 30-second increments, stirring in between, until it is just melted.

Pour the chocolate onto a flat surface lined with parchment paper and spread out into an 8 or nine inch (20-23cm) circle, or two smaller circles.

Sprinkle with ingredients from one of the combinations below, or make up your own variation. Allow to harden at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Lift the disk carefully from the parchment paper, and break gently into pieces. If the chocolate was refrigerated to harden it, return it to room temperature before breaking in pieces. If the chocolate is too cold when you break it, topping pieces can fall off too easily. If it is at room temperature, the chocolate is a bit pliable and you have more control over how you break the pieces.

Makes one 8-9 inch disk of chocolate bark.

Just Some Combinations:

  • broken banana chips, salted peanuts, mini Reese’s Pieces candies
  • salted, roasted pumpkin seeds, goji berries, bee pollen
  • toasted sliced almonds, chopped candied ginger, cacao nibs
  • crumbled crisp-cooked bacon, chopped toasted pecans, butter toffee bits, coffee beans or cacao nibs
  • toasted coconut, snipped dried pineapple, snipped dried mango
  • toasted macadamia nuts, snipped dried mango, broken banana chips
  • toasted walnuts, candied orange peel bits, cacao nibs
  • mini M&M candy-coated chocolates, popcorn, salted peanuts
  • freeze dried strawberries, slivered almonds, poppy seeds
  • dried cranberries, dried blueberries, flaked toasted almonds
  • pistachios, crushed dried rose petals, golden raisins, chopped dried figs
  • chopped nuts, sprinkles, broken pretzels, m&m’s
  • crumbled gingersnap cookies, toasted walnuts or hazelnuts, chopped dried figs
  • toasted salted sunflower seeds, chopped dried apricots, chia seeds
  • pretzel pieces, salted whole almonds, raisins
  • pecans, popcorn, cacao nibs

Have fun with this!

 

chocolate mendiants - fill 'em with whatever fruits & nuts you like

Mendiants

  • 250 gms/9oz  of good quality dark chocolate (about 1 and 1/3 cup chocolate chips) makes 16 mendiants
  • assorted whole nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, cashews, or macadamia halves)
  • assorted dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, apricots, figs, pineapple, candied ginger, etc)

Toast the nuts in a 350° oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Allow to cool.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over simmering water, or in a microwave-safe glass container. If using the bowl over water, stir often until the chocolate is just melted. Lift the bowl from the simmering water and wipe the bottom with a towel so no water droplets get into the chocolate. If using the microwave, heat the chocolate in 30-second increments, stirring in between, until it is just melted.

Drop heaping teaspoons of the melted chocolate onto a piece of parchment paper. Use the back of the teaspoon to spread the chocolate into a 2-inch (5cm) round. Make 8 rounds at a time so they don’t set before you are finished.

Top the chocolate rounds with several whole nuts and pieces of dried fruit.

Allow to set.

Store in an airtight container with wax paper separating the layers, in a cool place for several weeks.

Makes 16 mendiants.

Guten Appetit!

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milk chocolate bark with popcorn and pistachios

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