I don’t make candy. I just can’t handle it. It’s intimidating. You need thermometers and huge oven mitts and to know terms like, “soft ball stage.” And then, to top things off, the candy needs to look pretty at the end. Inviting, even. Talk about pressure. It’s really not for me.
Do I even need to say it? Of course I tried to make candy! With the holidays just around the corner, I just figured that some homemade chocolates around the house would be nice to share. So I picked the most no-brainer recipe I could think of: chocolate bark. This isn’t really supposed to be that hard. Mix melted chocolates with nuts or crushed mints or dried fruit, and ta da! You have homemade chocolate bark!
I prepared myself for what I thought would be an easy candy making experience: I chopped the nuts, prepared my chocolate for the melting process, and lined my pan with foil. Then. I finally read the recipe. This wasn’t a normal bark recipe. It was a bark with homemade almond brittle! As in…homemade candy. What. Was this really necessary?!
Of course it was necessary! Who wouldn’t want a smooth chocolate with a crunchy, salty almond brittle to break it up. What a tasty little (impressive) treat that would be! The lucky part for me (and for all of you homebakers-that-do-not-make-any-kind-of-candy-at-all), this recipe did not have temperatures to follow, or “stages” to watch out for. The only instruction was to cook the sugar and water until it reached a shade of “dark amber”. Colors! Awesome – totally doable. So I followed the color directions and suddenly had almond brittle! And then I mixed it with the melted chocolate (what I was set out to do in the first place!), and I had the best tasting chocolate bark…ever. It was like two candies in one! Double the success!
A few words that are not intended to scare you off from making this: You don’t have a lot of time! You might think you do, but, really, you don’t. Don’t step away when making the caramel for the brittle. It looks all pale and sad for the longest time, and then bam! It’s dark amber in no time. It will fool you. And then, the trickiest part of all: the spreading of the brittle in order for it to cool. Really, to be honest, the brittle does not at all need to be spread to be brittle-like. It crystallizes instantly. And then it will become impossible to spread. Be as speedy as possible and try to get the brittle as thin as you can, which, as it turns out, will make the chopping of the brittle a lot easier…which will make the the mixing with the melted chocolate a smoother process. It all comes full circle at the end. Which is when you get to enjoy delicious homemade candy!
Chocolate Bark with Almond Brittle (from Fine Cooking magazine)
The recipe says that after breaking the brittle to eventually put in the chocolate, you should filter out the smaller pieces and the “dust” that falls from cutting the brittle, because it will make the bark too sweet overall. Although I thought that this was an unnecessary step, I did follow it, and was glad that I did. First of all, the bark was just the right amount of sweet at the end. And second of all, more importantly, the ensuing leftover “dust” would be an incredibly delightful and welcome addition to any ice cream or yogurt, I would imagine.
1 cup + 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
9 oz. Marcona almonds, coarsely chopped
1 lb. bittersweet chocolate
1. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the sugar and water in a 2 quart heavy saucepan. Swirl (do not stir!) to moisten the sugar. Heat on high until the mixture starts boiling, stirring occasionally. Keep boiling until the mixture turns a dark amber color. Turn off the heat and mix in half of the almonds. Quickly spread the mixture on to the baking sheet to 1/8 inch thickness. Cool completely, to room temperature. This mixture will be quite hot for some time. Break or chop into bite size pieces, saving only the pieces, and filtering out the sugar dust. Put aside.
2. Heat about 2 inches of water in a saucepan. Chop chocolate and place in a glass bowl that is bigger than the saucepan, in order to create a double boiler. As the water simmers, place the bowl on top of the saucepan, stirring occasionally until the chocolate is melted. Be sure that none of the water gets into the bowl with the chocolate.
3. Turn off heat and mix in reserved almonds and almond brittle.
4. Line a 9×13 pan with foil. Pour chocolate mixture into prepared pan, making sure that the chocolate covers all the almond pieces. Shake the pan to level the chocolate and place the refrigerator. Cool for 45-60 minutes. Take out to break into pieces, and then place back into refrigerator until ready to serve.