Every year I do a big baking day for sharing with teachers and friends. It's an all day affair. Multiple treats. Fun... but my, does it wipe me out. My sister in-law inspired me to switch it up this year and try a simplified version. Of course, my ears perked up to "SIMPLE". Her advice: one sophisticated and memorable confection. Just one. Sounded good to me. Sometimes you need the objectivity of someone you trust to pull you out of a rut. She recommended her rich and spicy bittersweet bark. I modified it a bit, but it's incredible and far too addicting, nonetheless. The sweet, tart cranberries offset the fire from the chili and salt on the pepitas, but there remains a complex heat after each bite... leaving you wanting more. Oh mercy, it's so good! The original recipe calls for roasting raw pepitas(pumpkin seeds) with salt and cayenne and using dried cherries. I made it even simpler by purchasing pepitas already spiced in the bulk section of our co-op. These Spicy Pepitas are available on line and just happen to be a part of my cousin's nut and dried fruit business: Tierra Farm. It's a fantastic company with wonderful practices/products, and I'd give them a shout out even if I hadn't known the owner my whole life!
So do you want to make the easiest and most unforgettable treat ever?
Spicy Chocolate Bark~Melt two bags of bittersweet chocolate chips (Ghiradelli) on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Slide it into a warm oven until it looks like this:
~Spread with a spatula until smooth and even.
~Sprinkle with spicy pepitas and dried cranberries or chopped dried cherries. I dusted a corner with cinnamon to experiment with a full Mexican flavor. Delicious!
~Chill for two hours in the fridge and then break into bite sized pieces.
Wash hands well so that there isn't any remaining cayenne or chili left.
If you want to roast your own pepitas, make sure that they are raw. Toss a handful into a heavy skillet with a little olive oil. Watch carefully to ensure that they don't burn. (3-4 minutes). Turn of heat and sprinkle with salt and cayenne to taste.
Note: much to the disappointment of my daughter this is too spicy for her, and she wants you to know that this is not really a little kid treat. As I said... "sophisticated". I give you my word that she is not being deprived of holiday sweets, but she's definitely missing our usual peppermint bark (we always make Martha's recipe, but this triple layer via Amanda looks pretty darn good), so maybe a small batch of some other kind of bark will happen next week. In the meantime, these are being packaged up with some other goodies for the wonderful grown-ups in our life!