May 8, 2016
Here's an elegant end to a company meal, and you can do it in fifteen minutes, start to finish (okay, add half an hour for it to chill, but you can be busy with other things while that happens).
Essentially, chocolate bark is simply melted chocolate bars that you decorate with add-ons of your choice. For the batch pictured, I used chopped almonds, dried (unsweetened) cranberries, popped millet, and popped quinoa. I used two 100-gram bars of 90% chocolate, but anything from 70% up will be fine. Those two bars, melted and spread thin, made a 14 x 10-inch sheet, which I broke into pieces when it was cold.
It is important to have your toppings ready before melting the chocolate. Therefore, the first step is to pop your grains. Heat a dry (no oil) skillet over medium-high. When it is hot, add enough quinoa or millet or teff or amaranth to cover the bottom in a single layer. Give the pan a shake every ten or fifteen seconds. You will be able to hear and see the minute poppings; the millet and the quinoa also change colour as they toast and pop. Remove from the heat after a minute or a minute and a half. I popped the two grains separately, since the quinoa pops a little more quickly than the millet. Put the popped grains in a small bowl (I put both in the same bowl).
Now put an inch of water in the bottom of a double boiler* and set it over high heat. Put your broken chocolate bar(s) into the top of the double boiler. When the water in the bottom part boils, reduce the heat to a simmer and set the top half in place, being sure that it sits well above the water level. Let the chocolate melt while you chop the almonds (my choice; use whatever nuts you want) and the dried cranberries**.
Cover a baking sheet or large cutting board with parchment paper. Now place the bowl of popped grain and the other toppings*** close to the baking sheet. When all the chocolate has melted (stir gently to be sure), pour it onto the parchment paper, scraping out every last smidge with a rubber (silicon) spatula. Pick up the baking sheet, holding the parchment paper in place with your thumbs, and gently tilt the pan in all directions allowing the chocolate to flow into a thin, even layer. Sprinkle the toppings on as evenly as you can, being sure that the edges get their share of goodies.
And there you are. Start to finish, fifteen minutes. To speed firming up, set the cookie sheet in the refrigerator or the freezer for thirty minutes or to. Break it into serving-sized pieces and store, covered, in the refrigerator until needed. This is a perfect light dessert for a dinner party--and you can just bring out a platter of chocolate bark at the end of the cheese course (if you have one) and pass it around--no separate plates needed.
*For a makeshift double boiler, use a heat-proof bowl nestled into a saucepan. There should be a tight seal at the top of the pan, and you need to be sure that the bottom of the bowl is several inches from the water level in the saucepan.
**If you can find them, use unsweetened cranberries, which taste more like cranberries and add a very pleasant tartness to the bark. Obviously you can also use raisins, dried cherries, or any other dried fruit that pleases you. Chop it into smaller pieces, for more even distribution (I didn't, and you can see clumps of cranberries in the picture).
***A sprinkle of coarse sea salt is very trendy these days. Not to mention delicious.