Someone recently asked me what inspires me to cook. I suppose for anyone who feels most at home in the kitchen, it’s a combination of things: the desire to recreate familiar flavors; a need to use ingredients up; and a wish to make something seen, whether it’s at a restaurant, in a cookbook, or a friend’s recent culinary project. I was invited to a holiday party Sunday and as soon as I saw these beautiful cookies (from one of my favorite San Francisco bakeries, Craftsman and Wolves), I knew I wanted to recreate them. I planned on making them with orange zest and using candied rosemary instead of edible flowers, to give them a sort-of realistic wreath look. I was so excited, but as I planned to prepare them, I realized a fatal flaw in my idea. I don’t have a mixer! Just one of the downsides of moving across the globe without all your belongings! And while there are plenty of things you can make and bake without a mixer, cookie dough is not one. (You need the butter and sugar to cream properly for the ideal texture.)
And so it was back to square one of inspiration. Luckily for me, I have tons of recipes on my to-do list, and this easy chocolate bark my friend Kimberly shared last week came to the rescue. As for the flavor additions: I had some coconut to use up, wanted to keep the orange zest I originally wanted for the cookies, and love the crunch of almonds with dark chocolate. The espresso powder is thrown in for good measure, adding a nice earthy bite. Of course this recipe can really be used with anything; other favorite flavor combinations include pistachio, cherry, and white chocolate and cinnamon, milk chocolate, hazelnuts. If you’re still looking for a treat to add to the holiday cookie plate, it’s an easy way to use up what’s in your cupboard. Hope you enjoy and happy holidays!
Almond-Coconut-Coffee Chocolate Bark, adapted from The Year in Food
Yield: about 10 servings
½ cup almonds, chopped
½ cup shredded raw coconut, chopped
300 grams high quality dark chocolate
1 orange, zested
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon large flake salt
Heat a large skillet over low heat and add the almonds. Toast, turning occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the nuts are browned and fragrant. Remove almonds from the pan and add in the coconut. Toast for 3 minutes or so, moving the coconut around with a spatula to avoid burning.
Fill a sauce pot with water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Put the chocolate in a metal bowl and place over the pot. Add the espresso powder and half the orange zest and stir occasionally until the chocolate is completely melted through. In the meantime, line a sheet tray with parchment paper. Scatter half the almonds and coconut on the tray, covering the space evenly. When the chocolate is completely melted, carefully pour the chocolate onto the toppings, using a spatula if needed to help spread it to your desired thickness. (The chocolate doesn’t have to reach the edge of the tray, you can make it as thin or thick as you’d like.) Evenly top the chocolate with the remaining coconut and almonds and sprinkle with the orange zest and salt. Place tray in the refrigerator for around 2 hours, until the chocolate is completely set. Break chocolate into pieces and store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to one week.