Hello! How are you all? Hanging in there? It's still complete madness here, but we're smiling. Every day seems to bring some kind of school event, party or nativity. Angus needed three different fancy dress costumes this week. Yes, three. The children swing between moods that are happy, excited, tearful and downright unreasonable. They - we - are very tired and are all looking forward to Friday. But I have to say that Christmas in a primary school is a pretty delightful thing. It's hard to feel too bad about the stresses of the season when there is so much unbridled joy and innocent anticipation coming from all those small people (who I have grown rather fond of). Thank you also for your lovely comments on my last post. I wondered whether I'd overshared, but sometimes you need to be honest. I choose to share and celebrate the things in life that make me happy on this blog, but sometimes there are all kinds of other things going on at the same time.
Anyway, here is a fabulous idea I saw recently for a last minute gift, for teachers or anyone else. Not everyone, I've found, likes jam or chutney. We get through at least a jar of jam a week in this house, and an awful lot of chutney too, but not everyone is the same. Quite a lot of time and effort goes into making preserved gifts and sometimes you need something from the kitchen which is a little quicker and easier.
Peppermint bark is essentially chocolate, any kind, melted and combined with crushed pieces of candy cane, then broken up into shards when it's set. You could do anything with this basis for an idea though; add dried fruits, nuts, broken biscuits, honeycomb. You could layer one type of chocolate upon another or swirl them together to create a marbled effect. It's a very child friendly gift to make and, a bonus for me, it doesn't matter how neat it is. In fact, it's supposed to look a bit messy I think.
To make a batch I used 400 grams of chocolate with 12 candy canes (they came in a small box of 12 from Sainsburys for £1) and a little peppermint essence. You don't have to use this but I wanted my bark to taste quite minty. I made two batches, one with white and one with dark chocolate. I put a teaspoon of peppermint essence in the 400 grams of dark chocolate for a stronger flavour, and only half a teaspoon in the white chocolate batch for a milder, creamier sweetness.
Melt the chocolate, either over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave. Blitz most of the candy canes in the food processor so that you have a mixture of crumbs and small chunks. Stir this into the melted chocolate and pour it onto a baking tray lined with a greaseproof paper. With a sharp heavy knife, break the remaining candy canes into larger chunks and sprinke over the top. Leave to set in a cool place, but not the fridge. I covered my trays with clingfilm and put them in the garage.
When they're set remove them from the tin and break up randomly into smallish chunks.
This bit is fun. The chocolate more bends than snaps but it's easy to get similar sized chunks. I layered one piece of white with one of dark chocolate in little cellophane gift bags. Add a ribbon and a spare candy cane if you have one and hey presto, a lovely homemade present.
One batch, with 400 grams of chocolate, will give you three generous bags of chocolate bark. I reckon it cost about £3.50 to make, so that's just over £1 a bag (not including things like ribbons and whatnot) which is pretty good value.