When I began cooking for myself in high school, my goal was to create uncomplicated homemade food inspired by my favorite restaurant dishes. I was shocked to discover that almost everything, including store-bought staples such as cereal and bread, was more healthy and flavorful when made from scratch. Candy was one of a handful of items, though, I never fussed with that. I expected it to be time-consuming, tedious and just as indulgent as the individually wrapped alternative. These recipes for homemade chocolate bark and peanut butter cups showed me how wrong I was.
Both items are incredibly easy and fun to make, exceeding their processed counterparts in both taste and texture. The best part is that you can control exactly what goes into them, eliminating the long, indecipherable lists of ingredients that accompany most candy bars.
The chocolate bark is dangerously addictive and comes together in just three steps. Simply melt the chocolate, spread it out on foil and sprinkle it with whatever you have on hand. Tangy dried apricots and cherries and roasted almonds make for a festive Halloween treat, but chocolate pairs well with just about any topping.
My miniature peanut butter cups will convert even the most loyal Reese’s fans. The peanut butter center is tender and silky smooth, enrobed in real dark chocolate and crowned with flaky sea salt. Even though the addition of salt may sound strange, do not skip this step; a tiny sprinkle really accentuates the chocolate’s flavor. Though it was Halloween that encouraged me to make these confections for the first time, they’re sure to become part of my regular rotation.
Chocolate Bark with Almonds, Dried Apricots and Cherries
• 8 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
• ¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt
• ¼ cup roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
• ¼ cup dried apricots and cherries, finely chopped
Total: 20 min, plus 1½ hours to chill. Makes about 2 cups.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread almonds on a baking sheet and roast until dark brown and fragrant, about 5-to-7 minutes. Allow the almonds to cool before chopping them.
2. Place a piece of foil over a baking sheet or another flat surface. Fill a medium pot a quarter full with water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl over the boiling water and stir continuously until melted. Alternatively, melt chocolate in microwave in 10-second intervals, stirring after each interval until smooth.
3. Spread the chocolate into an even 10-by-8 inch rectangle on the foil. Sprinkle with sea salt, almonds and dried apricots and cherries. Place the bark in the refrigerator until set, about 1½ hours. Break up the bark and store it in an airtight container in a cool place or in the refrigerator.
Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
For optimum flavor, it is important to use high-quality chocolate and peanut butter. Trader Joe’s offers excellent options at affordable prices. The amount of powdered sugar you will need for the peanut butter mixture varies based on the natural oiliness of the peanut butter. The mixture should be firm enough to roll into a ball without sticking to your hands.
• 7 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (about 1¾ cups)
• ¾ cup creamy salted peanut butter
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
• Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
Total: 45 min, plus 30 min chilling. Makes about 18 mini cups.
1. Place paper or foil liners in mini muffin tins. The tins help the cups hold their shape, but if you do not have a muffin pan, arrange the cups on a baking sheet.
2. Fill a medium pot a quarter full with water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl over boiling water and stir continuously until melted. Alternatively, melt chocolate in microwave in 10-second interval, stirring after each interval until smooth.
3. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of chocolate in each muffin liner and tilt the liner so the chocolate coats the bottom and sides. Repeat with remaining papers.
4. Mix peanut butter, honey, powdered sugar and vanilla extract together in a small bowl. The mixture should be stiff enough for you to handle without it sticking to your fingers. Scoop out a teaspoon of filling and roll it into a ball. Place a ball in the center of each liner. Cover the peanut butter balls with another teaspoonful of melted chocolate. Sprinkle the cups with a pinch of flaky sea salt.
5. Place the peanut butter cups in the refrigerator until set, about 30 minutes. Store the cups in an airtight container in a cool place or in the refrigerator.
Maral Tavitian is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column, “The Epicurean Dorm,” runs Tuesdays.