Dark Chocolate Bark: Two Ways

On a dreary, autumn-esque summer day, what's one to do besides listen to calm music and sprinkle things on melted chocolate?

Drip-drop-drip...chop chop chop....

To me, nothing is quite so meditative as cooking when it rains. The gentle sounds of the rain intermingle with little kitchen sounds: knives tapping cutting boards, the bump of cabinets closing, toasted nuts crackling as they fill the kitchen with their toasty aroma. Opening the oven to rotate pans makes the room cozy with puffs of deliciously aromatic and warm air while the brisk breeze coming through the window screen brings the scent of nature. 

Times like these remind me to stop, breathe, and take notice.

In the theme of slowing down and paying attention, I added some unusual flavors to my chocolate today, in hopes that

a. I won't accidentally eat the entire recipe at once

b. that every time I eat a piece, I will really taste it, every bold flavor, nuance, and varied texture. Isn't that what food is all about anyway?

Chocolate bark is one of my favorite things for many reasons. First, it's chocolate. Duh. Second, it's something that I can really play with. I love to rummage through the cabinet, combining whatever nuts and spices look fun and seeing what comes out of it.

A few years ago, my mom and I stopped at a little cafe on the side of the highway for an espresso. While we were waiting for our drinks, we browsed the artisan chocolate bars, looking at all of the exotic flavors like earl grey tea, raspberry chipotle, and coconut curry. I've had the curry one in the back of my mind since then, and guess what cute little tin was front and center in the spice rack today? 

I made two different flavors: coconut-cashew-curry, and quinoa-trail mix. ("trail mix" because I'm too lazy to type out everything I discovered in the cabinets and threw on top.) I first saw the quinoa idea over on Lemons and Basil, but I also recently bought an Alter Eco bar that was toasted quinoa-almond. The quinoa is first rinsed to remove the bitter saponin, then tossed in a dry skillet until it's nutty and golden brown. When mixed with the chocolate, it lends a nice crunch and interesting mouth feel. 

In other news, I found the first little cucumber growing today... and my radishes are getting big! They grow up so fast...

LOOK HOW CUTE AWWWW

LOOK HOW CUTE AWWWW

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I picked some today, but I'm not a huge fan of plain old radishes, so I decided to pickle 'em, recipe here. I accidentally made too much pickling liquid for the amount of radishes I had, but that problem was quickly solved by putting together two more pickle jars: red onion and basil-ginger-carrot. Yipee! I threw some radishes in my lunch salad and they were so good. spicy-sweet and super crunchy. They nailed all of the right pickle adjectives. What?

Now! Back to what's really important. Chocolate...and this blanket that just came out of the dryer. Ahhh. 

P.S. My mother is off traveling the world at the moment...and I totally miss her a lot. I also miss her very high quality camera, which I always steal for food photos. So apologize, but this recipe couldn't wait...I hope you've enjoyed my iphone photos. I DID WHAT I HAD TO.

For the coconut-cashew-curry bark:

  • 1/2 bar high quality dark chocolate: chopped.( I used Ghirardelli 70%)
  • 1/2-2 teaspoons curry, depending on how strong you want the flavor
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • unsweetened coconut flakes
  • raw unsalted cashews

Start by preheating the oven to 400° and toasting the cashews and coconut until golden. Keep a close eye on them, they always burn on me. (I did the coconut and cashews separately because the coconut cooks a little faster)

While the toppings are toasting, microwave the chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring every 30 seconds or so. Be sure not to burn it, nothing is worse than seized chocolate. 

When the chocolate is melted and smooth, stir in the curry powder and cinnamon. Spread the chocolate into a square-ish shape on a pan lined with wax paper. Sprinkle the coconut and cashews and gently press to make sure the toppings stay in place. 

Refrigerate until set, then break or slice into pieces. 

For the quinoa-trail mix bark:

  • 1/2 bar high quality dark chocolate: chopped
  • scant 1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • toppings: pull out whatever sounds good, just stay away from anything liquidy or acidic. Basically, pretend you're making trail mix, then just put it on top of chocolate. I used sesame seeds, toasted almonds, dried cranberries, pepitas, cashews, gogi berries, and sea salt.

Set a pan over medium-low heat and toast the quinoa, stirring frequently, until it's golden and smells toasty. 

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring every 30 seconds or so. 

Pour the toasted quinoa into the melted chocolate, then spread the mixture on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with toppings of your choice and finish with a dusting of coarse sea salt flakes. 

Refrigerate until set, then slice or break into pieces. 

Both barks should be kept in an airtight container in the fridge. Allow them to sit at room temperature for a few minutes before eating.

For tips on tasting the chocolate, check out this article

Enjoy the rain, because you can't do anything about it. Cuddle up with as many blankets as you want, sip a mug of tea, and nibble on some chocolate bark. Life is good, right?