Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chocolate Almond Bark with Sea Salt

I'm not sure if people outside of NYC are familiar with Jacques Torres, but they have this amanzing hot chocolate there that they call Wicked Hot Chocolate.  It is very rich and deeply chocolately, but it has this really nice spice to it.  I personally happen to think that dark chocolate works wonderfully with spice (and salt, but that's another story altogether).  A few months ago I stopped at Jacques Torres with a friend to grab some hot chocolate and my friend told me I had to try this pumpkin seed bark/brittle that they only make around the holidays.  It was amazing - just as good as the hot chocolate!  They paired pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds), with some dried cranberries, chocolate, caramel...  It was so good.  And I wanted to make it at home.  But when it came down to it, Alex wasn't a huge fan of the idea of dried cranberries and I was too lazy to try to recreate the recipe from a memory that was several months old.  So I decided to make this Chocolate Almond Bark with Sea Salt instead.  Things in the Boyne appartment often end up a little loosey-goosey like that.  I had this really nice brick (it literally looked like a gold brick) of dark chocolate from L.A. Burdick that I had been saving for future baking experiments and we always have sea salt in the apartment.  The only thing we needed was Marcona almonds (although I'm sure you could substitute hazelnuts and this recipe would still be delicious).  So I swung by Zabars on my way home and we were in business.

Although there were several steps involved, this bark was really easy to make.  You have to really enjoy the combination of dark chocolate and sea salt to like this bark (which I do so I really enjoyed it).  There isn't a lot of sweetness to the chocolate itself and the caramel only provides so much sweetness, so if you are into sweet chocolate barks you will need to combine semisweet and dark chocolate.  I really like the bittersweet taste of dark chocolate so I wouldn't use semisweet, but that's just me.  Make sure to use good-quality dark chocolate.  The recipe calls for it but there are plenty of times when I'm not sure that you could taste the difference.  Since this recipe is so simple and relies so heavily on the flavor of the chocolate itself, you really need to make the effort to track down some high-quality chocolate.  Trust me when I say that it will make all the difference in the world if you do.

Recipe after the jump!

Chocolate Almond Bark with Sea Salt
Bon Appetit
December 2011

1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups roasted Marcona almonds (not in oil)
1 pound good-quality dark chocolate (62%–70% cacao), finely chopped
Coarse sea salt (for sprinkling)Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or foil.

Combine sugar with 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and cook, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until caramel is dark amber, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Immediately add butter; whisk until melted. Add almonds; stir until well coated. Transfer to baking sheet, spreading out to separate nuts. Let cool. Break up any large clumps of nuts. Set aside 1/4 of nuts.

Stir chocolate in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted. Remove from heat, add nuts from baking sheet, and stir quickly to combine. Spread chocolate-nut mixture on same baking sheet, keeping nuts in a single layer. Top with the reserved nuts; sprinkle with salt. Chill until chocolate is set, about 3 hours.

Break bark into pieces and store between layers of parchment or waxed paper.

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