All Bark and No Bite

Thing number one: my computer’s back! Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers. They worked, and everything is more or less in working order after several hours worth of file transfers, two trips to the Apple store and a whole bunch of inconvenience. I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is I don’t know how I even survived. But I did, so I’m back and so are the posts, like this one, which starts…. now.

I have this thing at home where I only compliment the things I make. Think, “the milk was so perfectly stirred into this soup,” and “this Thanksgiving dinner would be absolutely nothing without the cucumbers in this salad.” Petty? For sure. Ask anyone, I’m extremely egocentric. So you can only imagine how good these chocolate bark recipes must be for me to compliment them, even though mom undeniably came up with these recipes (although I did make the three you see below, and you have to admit, they’re freaking gorgeous).

 

 

When we started planning our table for Taste of the Nation 2012, and decided to do our school theme, Chocolate Bark representing EnviSci was the absolute first thing we thought of, and the flavor combinations just kept rolling off our tongues. We eventually settled on making our Christmas Bark, with Cranberries, Candied Ginger and Pistachios, a French-Flavored Bark, with Lavender, Almonds, Dried Apricots and Sea Salt (my favorite), and finally, the ultimate snack food indulgence, featuring Potato Chips, Pretzels and Dulce de Leche. This is too easy to make, so I’m not going to even dignify it by putting it in recipe form. So if anybody is skimming this post looking for the recipe, this is the recipe. All you have to do is melt chocolate gently in a non-stick skillet or double boiler, and spread it over a sheet pan covered with wax paper or parchment paper.  Then you put stuff on it (first chunky, then drizzles) and then put it in the fridge until it hardens, about an hour. Then you break it up, and you eat it. And that’s literally it.

 

 

We used 56% dark chocolate for all of ours, but you can go darker or lighter based on what you like (though white chocolate does not count, because I don’t like it). You’ll want it to be pretty thin, so we recommend about a pound of chocolate for a full pan, or 8 oz. to a half pan, if you don’t want to make chocolate bark for the whole world. Then see below for our topping recommendations. All chunky toppings should be 4-5 tablespoons for a half pan or 9-10 for a full pan, unless otherwise noted. The real reason I didn’t put this in recipe form is that that would imply that there are rules to this. There aren’t. Have lots and lots of fun with this. Try our combos (see above), or come up with your own. I promise they’ll be good… even if I didn’t make them.

Chunky Toppings

Dried Fruit (raisins, craisins, apricots, peaches, mango, cherries, pineapple etc.)
Toasted, chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, pistachios, almonds, peanuts, cashews, macademia nuts, etc.)
Chopped up Candy (Reese’s Cups, M&Ms, Candy Canes, Kit Kats, Peppermint Patties, etc.)
Cookie Crumbles (shortbread, chocolate chip, Oreo, Girl Scout, etc.)
Chocolate Chips (or peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, etc.)
Snack food (potato chips, pretzels, etc.)
Coconut Shavings
Crystalized Ginger
Sea salt (sparing: 1/2 tsp half, 1 full, or to taste)
Lavender (1.5 tsp half, 3 full)

Drizzles

More chocolate (Not the same kind you used before. Note that white chocolate is permissible in this context).
Caramel/Dulce de Leche

{I gave in. You can see the official recipes written up here on Food52.}

School Days

I know it’s been almost a week since Taste of the Nation, but I had to wait until now to post so I could calm down and organize my thoughts just a tad. And yes, it really did take that long. For such a small city, New Haven has a scarily good food scene – in my thoroughly unbiased opinion, it’s way better per capita than New York’s. So a night of running wildly between tables and tables of the city’s best food? You can’t even begin to comprehend what that kind of thing does to my mind.

 

Our table in setup mode. When we had such noble intentions of keeping things organized ;)

 

It’s a little sick, I know, but we started planning this year’s table at Taste of the Nation 2011. We decided to play up the fact that we’re a school, so we divided the table up into three sections: Chemistry, complete with beakers, dry ice, and Turkish Mint Lemonade…

 

I tried to capture a full rack but we just couldn't keep it on the shelves. Though a scary number of people refused it because it wasn't alcoholic. Oy vey.

 

European History, featuring the many cookbooks of Europe and Penne with Saffron Cream, Peas and Pancetta…

 

Pasta teaches you about Europe, no question about it

 

And Environmental Science, for which we made three kinds of Chocolate Bark – Zingiber Cranbaca (Cranberries, Pistachios and Crystalized Ginger), Lavandula Salis (Lavender, Almond, Apricot and Sea Salt) and Potatochipus Dulcis (Potato Chip, Pretzel and Dulce de Leche).

 

Clockwise from Left: little wooden cones for our bark samples; envi sci bird with eggs made out of gum (yes, since you asked, somebody did ask if they could eat one eat one), and a sampling of chocolate barks

 

I know, right? We’re just too clever for our own good. Anyway, last year, we were a bit disorganized and unwittingly overambitious and we got to Woolsey Hall, where the event is held, about a minute before it started. This year we were determined not to let that happen again. So instead we were the first people there! As mom went to get the food and Isabella, I set up our table and spied on everyone else setting up theirs. And I got to make friends with all the other chefs. Everyone had way too much fun.

 

Volunteers putting bags together for us fancy shmancy chefs. Free extra large t-shirt :D You know you're jealous.

 

From Plan B Burger Bar. Can you even believe how beautiful? Fun fact – Plan B was going to throw all this away, but we saved it and gave it to one of the volunteers who took it to feed her goat ;)

 

I love love LOVE the guys of Box 63 :D

 

Flowers from Thali & Oaxaca (by which I mean flowers and a watermelon, but really what's the dif?)

 

Then everybody arrived, and the highlight of my year began. Duff went on stage to greet everyone (yes sir, that’s a name drop) and told everyone to donate money and also “get wasted” (classy). And then we set about giving out food, as dad brought us a steady supply of the best of the room (before things quieted down and we got to go exploring later). Highlights included Foie Gras with Milk-Honey Cream and Cranberries, and also an incredible Duck Pastrami Ruben from Bella Bella Gourmet, Biscotti from Sono Baking Company, Donuts with Chocolate-Bacon Glaze from Box 63 and Bailey Hazen Blue Cheese with Dried Figs from Caseus. Oh and this Butterscotch Pudding with Dulce de Leche, Homemade Marshmallows and Sea Salt from Heirloom. I don’t even like Butterscotch and this was amazing.

 

You don't even understand how much I don't like butterscotch. But seriously, so amazing.

 

Sadly all good things must come to an end. Nine o’clock came and it was time to pack up. Though naturally, Isabella and I pounced on Duff (I did it again!) at the last minute to make sure he tried our test tube lemonade, which said was “really, really good.” Which is not quite up to last year’s “Damn…” but it was the end of the night, so it’ll do 😉 We’re still devouring the leftovers, and while we’d love to share them with you in person, we can’t because you’re not here. So instead we’re going to spend the next week showering you with recipes, starting now with the Mint Lemonade. Also please read below to learn more about Share our Strength, and make a donation if you can!

 

 

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Share our Strength, an amazing organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America. Through programs like Cooking Matters, the Great American Bake Sale and, of course, Taste of the Nation, Share our Strength raises awareness (and, more importantly, money) to feed children in local communities. We’re lucky enough to cook at High School in the Community, a school in one of New Haven’s more impoverished areas, where Chef Cheryl Barbara told us that many of her kids only eat the lunch they get at school, because there’s not enough food for them at home for breakfast or dinner. (Cheryl herself makes sure the kids get balanced, nutritious meals at school, sends kids home with non-perishables if she knows they don’t have enough to eat at school, and sets up a food distribution center from her van to make sure her kids get enough to eat during the summer. Isn’t that so cool? Don’t you wish you were more like her?)

Anyway, Taste of the Nation events are held all over the country, and feature the best chefs and mixologists of the area. 100% of money raised from ticket sales and donations stays right in the area it’s raised, so local chefs are helping local kids. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if there’s an event in your area, go to it. And click on the picture below to make a donation!

 

Click to go to the donation page!

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Click for Printable Version!

 

The Ace of Cakes Likes our Lemonade

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A HUGE thank you to everyone who came out to Taste of the Nation, New Haven tonight! We can’t wait to share our recipes with you, along with pictures of the fabulous displays from all of the best area restaurants. If you’re not from the New Haven area, find out if there’s a Taste of the Nation event coming up near you. And if not, please consider donating time or money to Share our Strength, a national organization committed to ending childhood hunger by 2015. It’s probably our favorite charity, and supports such an important cause that’s so easy to forget.

 

Seriously, donate. Do it. This organization is the best.

 

But if you can go to an event, do. You won’t regret it. Your waistline will, but you won’t. We had so much fun tonight with our friends from the farmers market and (way) beyond: John from SoNo Baking Company, Jason from Caseus, Stephen Fries from the New Haven Register, Cheryl from High School in the Community (Chopped winner/high school chef/worlds most amazing person), and so many others. And yes, Duff (the Ace of Cakes), who loved our Turkish Mint Lemonade. Which is kind of a big deal.

Stay tuned for so much more!