Friday, December 02, 2016

Homemade for the Holidays: Part 1—Pistachio Bark

Pistachio Bark—Easy Homemade Gift
Remember when we were little and many families used to make homemade Christmas and holiday gifts to exchange? Rum cake, the dreaded fruit cake, truffles, fudge, homemade jellies, potpourri? Ever want to thumb your nose at big box stores and, well, go all-old school on 'em and make your own holiday gifts? Well, you can. And some of the make-your-own holiday dessert gifts I'll be telling you about are so simple, any kid with a bit of supervision can make (others will take a few more steps and be trickier). I'll be featuring homemade gifts over the next few weeks—ones that have worked for us in the past.

First, I'll start with the easiest, tastiest, most-satisfying gift that anyone can make. I guarantee this gift will be well-received. Even if you don't prefer sweets, this gift is gorgeous and it's a sure-thing for bringing to the office and sharing or for hostess gifts for those numerous holiday parties that spring up. Looks like you spent a fortune or a long time crafting. Shhh. Your secret is safe with us.

Super-easy Pistachio Bark
  • 1/2 pound artisinal dark chocolate (Trader Joe's and Fresh & Easy both sell wonderful bulk Belgian chocolate bars for about $4 a pound)
  • 1/2 pound artisinal milk chocolate
  • 1 12-ounce bag white chocolate chips (if you can find artisinal white chocolate, get that instead--I have a hard time finding good bulk white chocolate)
  • 1 1/2 cups shelled salted roasted pistachio nuts (again, Trader Joe's and Fresh & Easy have great ready-to-eat pistachios)

  1. Melt the dark and milk chocolate together on the top of a double-boiler. If you don't have one, fake it with a stainless steel or other heat-proof bowl atop a pot of boiling water (the bowl must be larger than the pot rim in order to work--you don't want a wobbly bowl).
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Do not use wax paper as the wax will melt and you'll be eating it. Get parchment paper in the baking section of any supermarket.
  3. Add 3/4 cup (half) of the pistachios to the melted chocolate and stir them in lightly.
  4. Pour the chocolate-nut mixture on the parchment paper, spreading it out until it's no more than 1/4" thick (it will be irregularly shaped—no worries).
  5. Put in the freezer or the refrigerator to firm slightly.
  6. Melt the white chocolate on the top of the double-boiler or using the pot of boiling water and bowl trick, noted above.
  7. Remove the baking sheet and drizzle the white chocolate lightly across the surface of the dark chocolate. Do not mix it in.
  8. Here is another trick: to make the white layer look beautiful, get a chopstick and lightly slide it across and back and forth over the surface of the white chocolate to make delicate swirl patterns. Try to cover as much of the dark chocolate to the edge as possible--but DO NOT work the white chocolate in. Use a light touch.
  9. Sprinkle on the last 3/4 cup (the remainder) of the pistachios and refrigerate or freeze until firm. 
  10. Break the pistachio bark into irregular pieces. Wrap in cellophane food gift bags and package decoratively, as preferred.

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Homemade for the Holidays Series

Part 1: Pistachio Bark

Part 2: Curry Powder (Garam Masala)

Part 3: Chocolate Truffles 

Part 4: Peppermint Bark