For Chocolate Lovers

Six easy-to-make treats that will make any Valentine's Day celebration sweeter
Our love affair with chocolate traces back to the Aztecs and Mayans, who believed cacao beans had aphrodisiac qualities. Chocolate can sound cliché on Valentine’s Day, but science may explain why this rich, creamy treat is such a popular gift. Studies have shown that eating dark chocolate releases feel-good brain chemicals, such as serotonin and endorphins. So tempt your sweetheart with positive vibes this February 14 by whipping up this easy-to-make chocolate bark at home. The following recipe will yield delectable rewards in no time at all.

1 Good-For-You Chocolate Bark

Makes About 1 1/2 Pounds

 

Photo by Eric Van Eyke

Good for You Chocolate Bark

Ingredients

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (such as Trader Joe’s pound-size bars), cut into 1-inch pieces

1¼ cups high-quality granola clusters (such as Back to Nature Maple Pecan)

3/4 cup toasted pecans, almonds, or walnuts

2/3 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup (scant) thinly sliced crystallized ginger (optional)

2 pinches fleur de sel (French sea salt; optional)

How to make it: Line baking sheet with foil. Stir chocolate constantly in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until melted and warm (not hot) to touch. Pour chocolate onto foil; spread with back of spoon into 9- to 10-inch square. Sprinkle granola, nuts, and cranberries over chocolate. Sprinkle with ginger and fleur de sel, if desired. Refrigerate until chocolate is firm, about 45 minutes. Peel foil off chocolate. Cut chocolate into irregular pieces. Store refrigerated up to 2 weeks.

2 Spicy Mayan Chocolate Bark

Makes About 1 Pound

 

Photo by Eric Van Eyke

Spicy Mayan Chocolate Bark

Ingredients

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (such as Trader Joe’s pound-size bars), cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon ground coffee

1 cup toasted coconut chips

1 tablespoon cacao nibs (optional)

How to make it: Line baking sheet with foil. Stir chocolate constantly in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until melted and warm (not hot) to touch; mix in shredded coconut. Pour chocolate onto foil; spread with back of spoon into 9- to 10-inch square. Mix spices and coffee in small bowl; use fingertips to sprinkle mixture evenly over chocolate. Sprinkle with coconut chips and, if desired, cocoa nibs. Refrigerate until chocolate is firm, about 45 minutes. Peel foil off chocolate. Cut chocolate into irregular pieces. Store refrigerated up to 2 weeks.

3 Peanut Butter Lover's Bark

Makes About 1 1/2 Pounds

 

Photo by Eric Van Eyke

Peanut Butter Lover's Bark

Ingredients

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1-inch pieces (such as Trader Joe’s pound-size bars)

4 Reese’s peanut butter cups (2.8 ounces total), each cut into 6 wedges

2 1.9-ounce Butterfinger candy bars, cut into irregular 1-inch pieces

2 1.86-ounce Snickers bars, cut crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices

½ cup peanut M&M’s (preferably Valentine’s red, white and pink M&M’s)

How to make it: Line baking sheet with foil. Stir chocolate constantly in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until melted and warm (not hot) to touch. Remove pan from heat. Pour all but 1 tablespoon melted chocolate onto foil. Using back of spoon, spread chocolate into 9- to 10-inch square; sprinkle with candy, making sure pieces touch melted chocolate to adhere. Dip spoon into reserved chocolate in saucepan; wave quickly from side to side over bark, creating zigzag lines, then repeat. Refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes. Peel foil off bark. Cut bark into irregular pieces. Store refrigerated up to 2 weeks.

4 Valentine's White Chocolate Pretzels

Makes 12

 

Photo by Eric Van Eyke

Valentine's White Chocolate Pretzels

Ingredients

6 ounces white chocolate (such as Trader Joe’s pound-size bars), chopped; or white melting wafers

12 large traditionally shaped pretzels

Red, white, and pink jimmies

Red, white, and pink edible confetti hearts

How to make it: Line baking sheet with foil. Stir chocolate constantly in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until melted and warm (not hot) to touch. Remove pan from heat. Hold pretzel over melted chocolate and spoon chocolate over pretzel, coating all sides except section being held; shake excess chocolate back into saucepan. Place on foillined sheet. Repeat with remaining pretzels. Sprinkle with jimmies and confetti. Refrigerate until chocolate is firm, about 45 minutes. Remove pretzels from foil. Store refrigerated up to 1 week.

5 Toffee-Almond Crunch Pretzels

Makes 20

 

Photo by Eric Van Eyke

Toffee-Almond Crunch Pretzels

Ingredients

½ cup chopped toasted almonds

½ cup Heath Bits ‘O Brickle Toffee Bits

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (such as Trader Joe’s pound-size bars), cut into 1-inch pieces

20 pretzel rods

How to make it: Line baking sheet with foil. Mix almonds and toffee. Stir chocolate constantly in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until melted and warm to touch. Remove pan from heat. Holding 1 pretzel over saucepan, use spatula to spread chocolate to cover ¾ of rod; shake excess chocolate back into saucepan. Hold pretzel over toffee mixture. Sprinkle toffee mixture from plate over chocolate-dipped portion; place pretzel on foil-lined sheet. Refrigerate until chocolate is firm, about 45 minutes. Remove pretzels from foil. Store refrigerated up to 2 weeks.

6 Salted Caramel Pretzels

Makes 6

 

Photo by Eric Van Eyke

Salted Caramel Pretzels

Ingredients

1 5-ounce package Werther’s Original Chewy Caramels (not hard candies)

2 tablespoons (scant) heavy whipping cream

6 large pretzel rods

6 ounces milk chocolate (such as Trader Joe’s pound-size bars), cut into 1-inch pieces

1 tablespoon cacao nibs, chocolate jimmies, or miniature chocolate chips

How to make it: Line baking sheet with foil; butter foil. Melt caramels and cream in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with heatproof rubber spatula until melted and bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes. Let stand just until caramel cools and thickens, about 25 minutes. Working with 1 pretzel at a time, hold pretzel over caramel. Using spatula, spread caramel over ¾ of pretzel (mixture will be sticky); return any dripping caramel to saucepan. Place pretzel on buttered foil (caramel will soften and slide slightly off, but don’t worry). Refrigerate 1 hour. Working with 1 pretzel at a time, gently lift pretzel off foil. Using fingertips, press softened caramel back over pretzel and place on buttered foil. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Stir chocolate constantly in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until melted and warm (not hot) to touch. Remove pan from heat. Working with 1 pretzel at a time, hold pretzel over pan and use rubber spatula to quickly spread chocolate over caramel, covering completely; scrape excess chocolate back into saucepan. Place on foillined sheet. Sprinkle with cacao nibs. Refrigerate 2 hours. Remove pretzels from foil. Store refrigerated in airtight container up to 2 weeks.