“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” – Charles M. Schulz
You might expect the creator of Charlie Brown and the lovestruck Lucy to say something so sensible: enjoy the love, but don’t forget the chocolate. Here’s a recipe that satisfies both needs, and it’s about as easy as any candy you can make: bark is just a layering of delicious ingredients in a sheet pan, which needs a little time to cool before being broken up into random pieces of instant joy. This would make a delightful Valentine’s Day gift, an anytime hostess gift, a family dessert surprise – or it might make you the most popular person in your office if you bring a batch to work. With these basic ingredients – chocolate, sugar, and pecans – how can you go wrong?
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated “Best All-time Chocolate Recipes”
Serves: Makes 1 ½ pounds
Prep time: 90 minutes
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups pecans, toasted and chopped
- 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
- Line a baking sheet (including sides) with foil, using one piece of foil to run the length of the sheet (allowing for several inches of foil to overlap on each side) and another piece to run the opposite way on the sheet.
- Make sure foil is pushed into the corners of the pan and up the sides of it, and spray with vegetable spray.
- Heat water and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted.
- Add sugar and salt into the middle of the pan, being careful not to let the sugar touch the sides of the pan.
- Bring to a boil, but do not stir.
- Cook about 10 minutes until sugar has completely dissolved – this should happen at about 300 degrees on a candy thermometer.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook while gently swirling the pan, until the toffee is a deeper golden brown and thermometer registers 325 degrees – another couple of minutes. Remove from heat, stir in 1/2 cup of chopped pecans.
- Pour toffee into foil-lined baking sheet and smooth evenly with a spatula.
- Refrigerate without covering for 15 minutes, or until toffee has hardened.
- There are two methods to melt the chocolate: Microwave half of the chocolate at 50 percent power for two minutes, which should be enough time for it to melt. OR, using a double boiler with water in the bottom pan, melt the 7/8 of the chocolate at medium low heat, without stirring. When chocolate is melted, add remaining chocolate and allow it to melt. Pour chocolate over hardened toffee, smoothing the chocolate evenly over the entire pan of toffee.
- Sprinkle chocolate with another ½ cup of pecans, pressing down gently to be sure they stick into the chocolate.
- Allow chocolate to harden in refrigerator for fifteen minutes.
- Line another baking sheet with sides with parchment paper.
- Gently lift hardened chocolate and toffee out of foil-lined baking sheet, using the sides of the foil to pull it out of the pan.
- Turn bark into the parchment-lined pan (chocolate on the bottom, facing the parchment), and remove the foil.
- Microwave the rest of the chocolate for another couple of minutes at 50% power, until melted and pour chocolate on top of toffee.
- Smooth chocolate evenly over toffee and sprinkle with remaining pecan pieces.
- Allow to harden without refrigerating, so that chocolate keeps its nice shiny texture. Break bark into rough pieces and serve. (Keeps about 2 weeks at room temperature.)
To make the toffee: