Lindt Pistachio And Cranberry Bark

Something red and green and very simple... just for Christmas...

All you do to make this gorgeous, tasty bark is unwrap four Lindt white chocolate bars. Break them up in a microwave-safe dish, and microwave the chocolate in 15-second increments, stirring between each, until melted and smooth. Stir in a half cup each of pistachios and dried cranberries. Pour the whole thing onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Spread it out the best you can, and pop it in the fridge to harden. Once it has hardened, break it up into pieces, and voila, you have made bark.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Hope Santa was good to you!


Chocolate Fluted Kiss Cups

We used to make peanut butter balls every year. And every year as the nicely rolled peanut butter balls would crumble into the chocolate dip, we would scream and yell at each other about how we were never making them again. But everyone loves chocolate and peanut butter, so we didn't think we could get away with just taking them off the list without replacing them with something equally tasty.

So a few years ago, I found this Hershey's recipe for chocolate fluted kiss cups. Hershey's to the rescue! When all is said and done, these aren't much easier than peanut butter balls, but they are a lot less frustrating, and maybe a little less time-consuming.

Chocolate Fluted Kiss Cups (Hershey's Kitchens)

1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
Peanut butter filling (recipe follows)
24 Hershey’s Kisses

Peanut butter filling
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon butter or margarine, softened

Line small muffin cups with small paper baking cups.

Place chocolate chips in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at high 1 minute; stir. If necessary, microwave at high an additional 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, just until chips are melted when stirred. With small brush, coat inside of paper cups with melted chocolate.

Refrigerate 20 minutes; coat any thin spots. Refrigerate until firm, preferably overnight. Gently peel paper from chocolate cups.

Prepare peanut butter filling; spoon into chocolate cups. Cover; refrigerate before serving. Remove wrappers from chocolate pieces. Before serving, top each cup with chocolate piece.

Peanut butter filling
Beat peanut butter, powdered sugar, and butter in small bowl until smooth.

Notes: I find that using the back of a small spoon to coat the paper cups works much better than a brush. I also try to find festive mini cupcake wrappers so I can just leave the wrappers on, rather than risk breaking all of the candies by unwrapping.

I don't see any need for refrigerating the cups after putting the filling in and then putting the kisses on. Fill, adorn with kisses, then refrigerate. Then if they're going on cookie platters to be eaten later, it doesn't matter how cold they are. If you plan on serving them, take them out of the fridge for a little while before so they can soften a bit.

Lastly, don't be afraid to coat thickly with the chocolate.

Swirled Bark

This is perhaps the simplest bark to make. It's almost as easy as picking up a package of bark at the store, but why not make it yourself if you can? It's white chocolate, semisweet chocolate, and some shortening, all melted and swirled together. You really can't go wrong.

Swirled Bark (from Nestlé, 1991)

One 8-oz. pkg. (4 foil-wrapped bars)
Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate baking bars
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, divided
One 6-oz. pkg. (3 foil-wrapped bars) Nestlé Premier White baking bars

Melt semi-sweet chocolate baking bars and 1 tablespoon shortening, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat; set aside. Melt over hot (not boiling) water, Premier White baking bars and remaining 2 tablespoons shortening, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat.

Drop spoonfuls of melted semi-sweet baking bars and melted Premier White baking bars alternately into 13x9-inch pan. Swirl mixtures with tip of knife to marbleize. Refrigerate until firm, about 1½ hours. Break into pieces to serve. Store in refrigerator.

Note: I've used Ghirardelli white chocolate chips instead of Nestlé and chocolate chips instead of baking bars. All work well.


Almond Brickle

This brickle is another crowd favorite. I usually make two batches of it separately. This year I doubled the recipe and made both at the same time.

The recipe comes from one of those minimags you find at the grocery store checkout, touting delicious baked goods and holiday recipes. The only change is that I've always used semisweet chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate chips.

Almond Brickle (Nestlé, 1991)

1¼ cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1½ cups firmly packed brown sugar
One 11½-oz. pkg. (2 cups) Nestlé Toll House milk chocolate morsels

Sprinkle almonds over bottom of well-greased 13x9-inch baking pan; set aside. In large heavy-gauge saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar until dissolved. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil 7 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour over almonds. Cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle milk chocolate morsels on top. Let stand 5 minutes or until morsels become shiny and soft; spread evenly over top. When cool, refrigerate 20 minutes to set chocolate. Break into 1½-inch pieces.

Hazelnut Butter Balls

I started making these for the first time last year when I saw a picture of them in one of Better Homes and Gardens' special issues.

I love Nutella, almost as much as I love peanut butter, so these truffles are really a big hit with me, and I found that everyone we gave them away to really loved them as well. I would never have thought to put crushed graham crackers in a truffle filling, but it works. The only thing is the filling can be a bit crumbly. I added extra whipping cream as necessary to make the filling stick together. I also just microwaved the chocolate and shortening instead of dirtying a pan. It works just fine.

Hazelnut Butter Balls (Better Homes and Gardens, Christmas 2007)

1½ cups chocolate-hazelnut spread
24 cinnamon graham cracker squares, crushed
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon whipping cream
12 ounces semisweet baking chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons shortening
2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted hazelnuts (optional)

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper; set aside. Beat chocolate-hazelnut spread and crushed graham crackers in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Gradually stir in powdered sugar. Stir in whipping cream to make a stuff mixture. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls; place balls on prepared baking sheet. Chill for 1 hour.

Cook and stir chocolate and shortening in a medium saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Quickly dip balls, one at a time, into melted chocolate using a fork. Draw the fork across the rim of the saucepan to remove excess chocolate. Place candy on the baking sheet lined with waxed paper. If desired, sprinkle with hazelnuts. Chill for about 1 hour or until set. Makes 54.

To Store
Place candy in a single layer in an airtight container; cover. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Tiger Butter

swirled peanut butter white chocolate with milk chocolate
I'm not even sure where this recipe came from. It's one of those hand-written ones on a now faded and food-covered torn sheet of paper. It's very simple to make and looks gorgeous when it's done, and if you love peanut butter and chocolate (like I do), you'll really enjoy it.

Tiger Butter
1 pound white chocolate
½ cup chunky peanut butter
6 ounces (1 cup) semisweet chocolate morsels

Line a 15½- by 10½-inch jelly roll pan with wax paper. Break white chocolate into 1-inch pieces in a 1½-quart bowl. Microwave on high (100 percent power) 1 to 2 minutes or until melted. (White chocolate chips will require less time to melt.) Stir until smooth. Add peanut butter and microwave on high for 2 minutes, or until melted; stir until smooth. (Microwave an additional 30 seconds if needed.) Spread mixture into prepared pan.

layer of chunky peanut butter mixed with melted white chocolate
In a 2-cup microwave-safe measuring cup, melt chocolate morsels on high for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Pour melted chocolate over peanut butter mixture; swirl through with a knife. Refrigerate. When firm, cut or break into pieces.

peanut butter white chocolate layer covered with gobs of milk chocolate