Chocolate barks are one of my favorite Christmas treats to make and give. Impressive, but really simple to make.
Chocolate-Almond Bark with Sea Salt is uber-sophisticated and uber-delicious. This recipe from the December issue of Bon Appetit mixes marcona almonds that have been coated in caramel into dark chocolate and finished with coarse sea salt.
Marcona almonds originated in Spain and are shorted, rounder and slightly sweeter than the almonds you may be used to. They are generally coated in oil and are perfect on a cheese platter. I love marcona almonds, but they are very expensive and I don't think I have ever seen any without oil in these parts. So I went with their less exotic North American cousin.
The almonds are lovingly tossed in a thick, sticky caramel. The amber caramel coats each almond in a crisp shell of caramel that creates a snack worthy of eating as is. But this is just the beginning of this bark. The almonds are then mixed in melted chocolate and then spread out into a chunky slab of chocolate.
While I like dark chocolate, I'm very particular about what flavor pairings I like it with. Coconut, yes. Raspberry, absolutely. Almonds, not so much. I prefer milk chocolate and almonds together so I cheaped out and used milk chocolate here. Perfection. Like a Hershey's with Almonds on steroids.
Finished with a dusting of coarse sea salt, the bark is left to cool before being snapped into shards. Between the sweet, smoothness of the chocolate, the crunch of the almonds and caramel, and the salty tang, this candy bar is perfect to tuck into the stocking of anyone that has been very, very, very good this year.
Cooks Notes: I used whole roasted almonds and milk chocolate. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I would have preferred fewer almonds, or maybe giving them a rough chop. By rough chop, I mean just once with the knife so you are still left with satisfying chunks of almonds to bite into, but a bark that is a tad bit thinner.
Chocolate-Almond Bark with Sea Salt
Bon Appetit, December 2011
Makes about 1 3/4 pounds of candy
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups roasted Marcona almonds (not in oil) or plain roasted almonds
1 pound good-quality dark chocolate (62% - 70% cacao), finely chopped
Coarse sea salt (for sprinkling)
Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or foil.
Combine sugar with 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and cook, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until caramel is dark amber, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Immediately add butter, whisk until melted. Add almonds; stir until well coated. Transfer to baking sheet, spreading out to separate nuts. Let cool. Break up any large clumps of nuts. Set aside 1/4 of nuts.
Stir chocolate in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted. Remove from heat, add nuts from baking sheet and stir quickly to combine. Spread chocolate-nut mixture on same baking sheet, keeping nuts in a single layer. Top with the reserved nuts; sprinkle with salt. Chill until chocolate is set, about 3 hours.
Break bark into pieces and store between layers of parchment or waxed paper.