Simple Beautiful Bark

barkIna Garten, The Barefoot Contessa herself, taught me the difference between bark made with Saltine crackers and the pretty French version. As tasty as the Saltine bark is (and it is quite tasty), it’s not gluten free, which means it’s out for me. And truth be told, it isn’t nearly as beautiful to look at which means it can’t double as a hostess gift like this effortlessly fancy variety.


And easy!! My version is as simple as melting chocolate chips in the microwave and cutting up some dried fruit and nuts. Totally doable, right?! And now you have something beautiful with which to gift your wonderful friends and the virtual strangers your husband knows through work that you may or may not be forced to have dinner with… lucky you!
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (I use Guittard chocolate chips because they are very smooth and taste the best)
⅓ cup unsweetened, dried cherries, cut into quarters
⅓ cup golden raisins
⅓ cup salted cashews (whole or chopped, your choice)
Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Use a pencil to lightly trace a (roughly) 7 x 10 inch rectangle onto the parchment. This will be your guide when spreading out the chocolate. It you make it a little bigger or smaller, it’s no big deal.
Put the chocolate into a microwave safe bowl and melt on high. Melt the chocolate in 30-second increments, stirring after each 30 seconds. When the chocolate is melty, stir vigorously until completely smooth.
Using an offset spatula, or a rubber spatula if you don’t have on offset one, smooth the melted chocolate onto the rectangle you drew on the parchment. It should be about ¼ inch thick. If it seems too thick, make your rectangle a little bigger. Sprinkle your chopped fruit and nuts over the chocolate and gently tap on them to make sure they are set into the chocolate. Set aside and let cool. Once cooled, cut or break into pieces and serve at room temperature.
Notes: The best part about this recipe is how malleable it is. Don’t like dried cherries? Use apricots! Don’t like dried fruit at all? Use marshmallows or chunks of fresh coconut or dried coconut or pecans or crumbled up cookies! A little salty and a little sweet is good rule to follow, but if you’re making it, you get to make the rules.
Adapted from Ina Garten’s French Chocolate Bark

Chocolate Milk Cake

star.wars.cakeWe’ve been having movie nights with our neighbors. It started with a Star Wars marathon. For six Fridays in a row we crammed 20 people into our family rooms to watch (in chronological order thank you very much because that’s the proper way to ramp-up the excitement and get the full impact of the story, yes it is, don’t argue) Luke Skywalker follow in his father’s dark footsteps. Maybe. Or not. I don’t know, we haven’t seen it yet. I’m too excited! Anyway, one thing became abundantly clear during these viewings.
You cannot watch movies as a group without snacks.
Some in our group advocate for popcorn, but I can’t eat the stuff so I go with chocolate. Preferably, this beyond simple cake. It comes together in a double boiler and bakes for like 20 minutes. I got fancy for our Star Wars parties and used cookie cutters to cut out pieces of cake that looked like TIE Fighters and the Millennium Falcon, but that’s just me. You could also cut it into cute, snacky little squares or stack the squares on top of one another and have sweet little layer cakes or use non-Star Wars cookies cutters to make tender little cake shapes to eat with your fingers. Whatever makes you happy. And it’s gluten-free though by the taste of it, you’d never know. Promise.
Chocolate Milk Cake (Gluten Free)
Use a double boiler or 3-quart saucepan to bring the following to a light boil:
1 cube butter
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 cup water
Remove pan from heat and add the following to the pot: choc.milk.cake
2 cups sugar
1 cup white rice flour
¾ cup almond flour
¼ cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
½ cup milk
3 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Whisk to combine. Now – here’s the important part – let the batter sit for 30 minutes before you bake it. Don’t skip this step or your cake won’t turn out as nicely as you want it to. The batter needs this time to step back from the edge of grainy-ness that plagues most gluten free baked goods.
After you’ve let the batter sit, pour into an 18 x 12” jelly roll pan and bake 18-20 minutes in a 375 degree oven.
Make the frosting in the same pan you mixed up the cake. Heat the following:
1 cube butter
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup milk
1 pound powdered sugar
dash vanilla
Stir to combine and remove from heat. Pour the frosting over the warm cake and spread evenly. Cool. Cut as desired and serve.
Note: If you want the gluten back just replace the rice, almond, and tapioca flours with 2 cups regular flour, cut out the baking powder (but keep the baking soda), cut the xanthan gum, and reduce the eggs to 2. Now you’ve got your gluten back.