Spicy Chocolate Bark

Flip through any speciality food store catalog or scroll through its Web site, and you're sure to come across chocolate bark - and how crazy expensive it is. Delete it from your online cart because it's ridiculously easy to make your own.

This recipe is adapted from my favorite cookbook, Moosewood Restaurant's "Cooking for Health," and can be easily adjusted to the recipient's likes and tastes. This is how I made it:

Spicy Chocolate Bark (yields about 16 pieces)
Ingredients (fair trade and organic):
- 12 oz. of dark, semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate (chocolate chips work great)
- 1 cup/handful of pecans, toasted and chopped (walnuts, almonds or pistachios can be substituted)
- 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries (or candied ginger, orange rind [chopped] or lemon zest)
- 1/8 tsp./pinch of coarse sea salt
- pinch of cayenne pepper

Recent batch of my Spicy Chocolate Bark
1. Line a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with a piece of parchment paper.
2. Heat the chocolate in a double boiler, OR microwave for three minutes until the chocolate melts and is smooth. Don't add liquid - the chocolate won't set properly. 
3. Mix half of the pecans, cranberries and the pinch of cayenne into the chocolate. Once well combined, pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Add the rest of the ingredients, pressing them into the chocolate to stick, and sprinkle the sea salt.
4. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or in a cool room until the chocolate is firm. Once set, cut into pieces. (If you're giving this as a gift, place the bark in a tin or small bag. This is your chance to get crafty!)

As you can see, you can add almost any flavor combinations you want. Other reasons to like this recipe: It's gluten-free; vegan (unless you add other non-vegan ingredients); and it stores really well.

Happy holidays!