Assorted Candy Bark (including Mint-Chocolate and Caramel-Butterscotch)

Tonight, I actually finished my to-do list before midnight, and so I'm finally back to talk to you about some of the cool things I've been cooking up lately. With all of the holiday parties coming up, I figured it would be a good time to share with you a "recipe" for candy bark - which is really just code for assorted candies pressed into freshly melted chocolate and allowed to reharden. I brought it to an induction ceremony this past week, and it got rave reviews. Unfortunately, I can't actually eat the bark (though I did try it) because of the lovely hydrogenated oils in some of the ingredients (more on that in a bit). The beauty of this is that it's kind of the edible trash can of the recipe world - any desserty/snacky ingredient you have on hand works. Pretzels? M&Ms? Candy Canes? Anything! So this really isn't so much a recipe as it is a suggestion for letting your creative juices flow. The original poster used Christmas candy corn and things like that to make a fully Christmas themed bark, while I made 2 batches - 1 with mints pressed in for a mint-chocolate variety, and 1 with butterscotch chips and caramel-filled hershey kisses - so it can be as plain or themed/festive as you want.

Candy Bark, courtesy of Gingerbread Bagels
Yield: Maybe 15-20 pieces? I doubled it to do the 2 different versions, and I had a whole lot.
The Ingredients
8-12 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips
4-8 ounces milk chocolate, butterscotch, or peanut butter chips (this + the semi sweet should equal 16oz.)
10oz. of candy melts (both Gingerbread Bagels and I used green and red for Christmas)

The following are just suggestions - feel free to add in whatever you have handy/want:
1/2C oreos (optional - Christmas oreos, but I used plain), quartered
1/4C m&ms (any version you want)
1/4C candy corn or those cadbury Christmas chocolate balls
1/4C hershey kisses (candy cane, caramel filled, whatever!) or crushed mints

The Method
1. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave, being careful not to burn them. You could also do this in a double-boiler.
2. Spread the chocolate onto a piece of wax or parchment paper in the rough shape of a rectangle. It should be maybe 1/4" thick, but I really just went with whatever looked right.
3. Melt the candy melts (in separate bowls for each color) and drop spoonfuls sporadically on top of the chocolate rectangle.
4. Use a knife to swirl the candy melts into the chocolate.
5. Press the candy into the chocolate (really do this well - I just kind pressed it a little and a lot of the candy fell off when I broke the bark into pieces) and set aside for at least 3 hours to harden.
6. Break up the bark and enjoy!

I'd say something about how good this is, but first of all - how can it not be good? It's your choice of candy pressed into your choice of chocolate/misc. baking chips. Second of all, though, I didn't really eat much of it, especially once I found out the ingredients of some of my choices. I should have known better - of course candy melts and butterscotch chips have hydrogenated oils in them. How else would manufacturers get them to take that shape? I should have known, but for some reason I didn't think to read the ingredient lists until I stuck the butterscotch chips into the microwave along with the chocolate and, lo and behold, they didn't melt. I found that odd, and then I thought about it, and had an aha! moment. Yes, one of the first ingredients is "partially hydrogenated oil."

For those of you who don't know my bizarre eating quirks, I avoid any trans fats that I can - shortening, hydrogenated oils, etc. It isn't just because of the implications they have on heart health, though that is a huge deciding factor. It's also this very fact that the butterscotch chips don't melt (okay, as an example). There's just something so unnatural about items with hydrogenated oils and shortening. I mean, take crisco itself - that stuff can sit at room temperature for a century and not go bad. McDonald's has been known to sit at room temperature for a year and not grow mold. Things like this just aren't natural, and yet we consume these chemicals and additives all the time. I'm not trying to convert anyone, honestly. It's just something that I feel very passionately about. I eat a lot of butter and I eat a lot of dessert - I'm no junk food phobe. But I care a lot about the ingredients that go into those desserts and foods, because I firmly believe that we need to be eating food and not edible non-food items (or so Michael Pollan says in his book that I just started reading - how convenient - In Defense of Food). Eating healthily is about limiting fat and refined sugars and eating a plethora of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, you've heard that spiel. Yes. I'm not railing against my own future profession. But it's also about knowing your food - where it comes from, how it's made...heck, how to pronounce all of the ingredients. You can make great strides in maintaining a healthy diet if you just rule out the foods with stuff in it you can't pronounce. But that's just my opinion.

That's it, that's my soapbox for the day. Again, if you go and make this candy bark and share it with people and you enjoy it immensely - even if you make it and eat the whole batch by yourself - I won't think you're a sinner or you don't know how to eat well. My idiosyncratic eating habits are just that - little quirks that I've picked up. We all have them. But this right here, it's just a little food for thought. I will definitely make this bark again, but likely without the candy melts (maybe some dyed white chocolate instead?) and butterscotch chips. When you get right down to it, this recipe is a crowd pleaser - trans fats or not - and it's one of the easiest and most versatile desserts out there. And isn't that what really counts?

P.S. I apologize for not having a picture - I forgot to take one and am a little too comfy in my chair (it's been a long week) to get up and take one. I'll try to remember to take one tomorrow to post on here. But for now, you can head on over to Gingerbread Bagels to see the absolutely magnificent pictures she took. If those don't make you run into your kitchen and whip up a batch right this second...but I digress.

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