Barks and Brittles Baby!

If your family thinks you’re a hippie you probably received a lot of trail mix and dried fruits for the holidays. Here is an impressive-party-platter solution to an over-abundance of hiking snacks.

What you’ll need:
1 Cup dried fruit or nuts or both
1½ Cups chocolate (dark is preferable)
Pinch of sea salt (optional)
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Step one:
Gather your ingredients, and lay out a sheet of wax paper on a small baking sheet.

Step two:
In a double boiler or in a small pot resting in a larger pot of boiling water, melt 1¼ Cups of chocolate, stirring consistently. When the chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat and add the remaining chocolate along with a pinch of cayenne ( I do this because I find it brings out the cocoa flavor).

Step three:
Pour the chocolate onto the wax paper. Use the back of a spoon or spatula to smooth the chocolate into a 9 x11 sheet (about the size of a sheet of printing paper). Spread thinner or thicker depending on how you like your bark. Then, quickly sprinkle your trial mix, nuts, and/or dried fruit on top. Lastly add just sprinkle on a pinch of sea salt.

Step four:
Let the bark dry until it firms up (about 1 hr). You can also put it in the freezer to lessen the wait, but remember that frozen dried fruit can be hard as a rock (and folks trying this treat straight from the freezer will mostly likely need some kind of dental work).

It’s an easy to make, impressive to eat treat!

This bonus recipe comes to us from my mother. It is perhaps the only time I ever use my microwave. For those that are justly fearful of the radioactive cook-box, there are plenty of good stove top brittle recipes on the web. For those willing to toss the dice though, this is perhaps the fastest and easiest brittle in town.

What you’ll need:
1 Cup white sugar
½ Cup light corn syrup
1 Cup salted nuts (peanuts, mix nuts, trail mix nuts, any ol’ nuts)
1 tsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda

Step one:
If they are not already, dry roast the nuts to bring out the flavors. I usually just cook them on medium heat in a skillet for about 3 minutes – just until they’re golden and not burnt. Set aside.

Step two:
In a 1½ quart casserole dish, stir together sugar and syrup. Microwave on high for 4 mins.

Step three:
Stir nuts into the casserole dish, and microwave again for 3 to 5 mins, or until nuts begin to turn golden.

Step four:
Add butter and vanilla extract to the hot syrup, blending well. Microwave on high for 1 ½ more mins…nuts will be brown and syrup will be very hot. BE CAREFUL.

Step five:
Stir in baking soda until mixture is light and bubbly. Than spread it out onto a lightly greased cookie sheet , or unbuttered non-stick coated baking sheet. Let cool completely (about 1 to 2 hrs) before breaking into pieces.

Enjoy…but don’t send me your dental bills.

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