Thin shards of dark chocolate swirled with almond butter or white chocolate, with festive adornments of dried fruit and nuts. These delicious handmade treats are quick, easy and inexpensive, but really quite special. Ideal as a sweet morsel after an overly indulgent dinner, or a perfect Christmas gift – if they last long enough!
There are few things more wonderful than chocolate, and it would hardly feel like Christmas without vast amounts of it on offer. These little treats are an ideal way to add some festive flare to your chocolate consumption. Furthermore, they make an excellent gift – more personal and impressive compared with shop-bought chocolates, and with surprisingly little expense or additional effort (not that your loved ones need to know that).
The two versions I present below are really just suggestions – there are so many different toppings and flavour combinations that you could use. Here are a few ideas:
- Chopped nuts (e.g. pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, peanuts, macadamia nuts etc)
- Dried fruit (e.g. raisins, currants, cultanas, chopped dried apricot, mixed peel)
- Nut butter (e.g. peanut, cashew, hazelnut)
- Seeds (e.g. sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds)
- Orange zest
- Dried edible rose petals
- Peppermint essence
- Popping candy
Use what you have, experiment, and remember, it’s very important to sample them before you give them away. Just to ensure that the flavours work.
How to make chocolate bark
The process for chocolate bark couldn’t be easier. You’ll need some baking sheets, trays or flat- bottomed oven dishes, and some non-stick baking paper or silicone mats.
First melt your dark chocolate. You could use any sort that you like, but I prefer something around the 70% cocoa solids mark. Any higher and it might be a little bitter, too much lower and your bark might be overly sweet, especially if you are adding sweet toppings. Make a Bain Marie by placing a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, ensuring the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, and break up the chocolate into the bowl with a little coconut oil. You can leave this to melt while you prepare the toppings.
For the smoked and salted almond bark, measure a few tablespoons of almond butter into a microwavable bowl, with some coconut oil and a little maple syrup. Warm on a low heat in the microwave until the coconut oil has melted, then whisk until you have a smooth and pourable mixture. If it’s too stiff, add a little more melted coconut oil.
For the smokiness there are a few different options. I used both smoked salt and liquid smoke, but you could use one or the other. Stir into the almond butter and taste, adding a little more if you like. Remember that it will be swirled into chocolate so there’s no harm in ensuring that the smoky flavour is reasonably pronounced. Alternatively (or in addition) you could used smoked almonds instead of regular if you can find them. Keep the skins on and roughly chop them into slivers.
For the cranberry, walnut and white chocolate bark, all you need to do is break up the walnuts into small pieces, and melt the white chocolate. You can do this over another Bain Marie or in 10 second spurts in a microwave.
Once you’ve got all of your ingredients prepared and the dark chocolate is melted, pour the dark chocolate onto your lined baking sheet(s). Use a spatula to spread it into a thin, even layer. You don’t want it to be too thin otherwise the bark with be very flimsy and melt too quickly – 2mm thick is probably about right. Bang the baking tray on your work surface to even out the chocolate, then, using a teaspoon, drizzle over the almond butter mixture/melted white chocolate. For the almond butter, I took a skewer and swirled it into the chocolate to make pretty patterns, and for the white chocolate I left it drizzled, but tapped the tray on the work surface again to level it out.
Finally, scatter over the chopped nuts and cranberries. I finished the smoked almond bark with a final flourish of smoked salt sprinkled on top.
Then comes the really hard part. These need refrigerating for at least 4 hours before you can peel them away from their baking paper lining, and break them into shards, so you will have to be patient. Try to make sure they are as level as possible while they are setting.
After all that hard work, remove from the fridge and carefully peel away the baking paper or silicone mat. Though you needn’t be too careful as you’re going to break it into pieces anyway. If you don’t like the irregular effect, you can score the chocolate with a skewer or knife before it goes in the fridge so you can break it into even pieces, but I enjoy the more random aesthetic. These are best kept in the fridge in an airtight container (particularly any you make with nut butter or tahini as these will soften out of the fridge) and should be good for a couple of weeks, though I really wouldn’t expect them to last that long.
Please let me know if you give these a try! I’d love to see any imaginative flavour combinations you can come up with. You can comment below or tag me on Instagram or Twitter @greedybearbakes.
Vegan Chocolate Bark
Thin shards of dark chocolate swirled with almond butter or white chocolate, with festive adornments of dried fruit and nuts
Vegan, Gluten-free, Grain-free
For the chocolate bark (double if making both flavours):
- 100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
- 2 tsp coconut oil (I use an odorless one)
For smoked and salted almond flavour:
- 4 tbsp almond butter (try to find one that’s 100% almonds)
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 tsp maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
- ½–1 tsp smoked salt or flaky sea salt
- ¼ tsp liquid smoke (optional)
- 50g raw almonds (or smoked almonds)
For cranberry, walnut and white chocolate flavour:
- 75g vegan white chocolate (I use Sainsbury’s Free From)
- 40g dried cranberries
- 30g raw walnuts
- Prepare a baking sheet, tray or large oven dish by lining it with baking paper or a silicone mat. Your tray should be in excess of 20x30cm for 1 batch, so if you’re making both flavours, or don’t have anything that big, use two or three.
- Place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, ensuring the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Add 100g (or 200g if making both flavours) dark chocolate and 2 tsp (4 tsp) coconut oil and leave to melt while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- For the smoked almond flavour, measure out 4 tbsp almond butter, 2 tbsp coconut oil and 2 tsp maple syrup in a small microwavable bowl. Heat in the microwave on a low heat until the coconut oil has melted (you can also do this in a saucepan), then whisk until smooth and pourable. If the mixture is too stiff, add a little more melted coconut oil until it slackens. Add ½ tsp coarse smoked salt or flaky sea salt, and ¼ tsp liquid smoke if using. Taste and add a little more salt or liquid smoke if you like – you want the smoky flavour to be quite pronounced to avoid it being drowned by the chocolate. Measure out 50g almonds and chop them into rough slivers.
- For the cranberry, walnut and white chocolate flavour, melt 75g white chocolate in 10 second blasts in the microwave, or over another saucepan. Roughly chop 30g walnuts and measure out 40g cranberries.
- Once the dark chocolate has melted, pour onto your prepared tray and spread with the spatula so you have a thin and even layer, measuring roughly 20x30cm. Bang the tray on your work surface to even it out. With a teaspoon, drizzle over the almond butter mixture or white chocolate. You can use a skewer or cocktail stick to swirl the almond butter or white chocolate into the dark chocolate, or leave it as is, banging the tray once more to level everything out. Scatter over the almonds (with any remaining salt if you didn’t use the full tsp) and/or cranberries and walnuts. If you want even pieces, score the chocolate with a skewer or cocktail stick.
- Refrigerate for 4 hours before breaking into shards (or nice even squares if you scored it). Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for a couple of weeks.