My Dear Readers, I would love to send you each a Christmas gift if I could, for kindly sharing this space with me for so long. Instead, I will have to be content with giving you a French recipe, perfect for Christmas as it takes 5 minutes to make. I don’t know about you, but I appreciate anything special that I can whip up in a French minute, this time of year.
I know that chocolate bark is not exclusive to France, but it certainly is very prevalent here. Any good chocolatier worth his sea salt will have a beautiful display of chocolate bark, and this is in a country where even the tiniest town has at least one fabulous chocolatier. Photo: In the window of a choclaterie, chocolate bark spun into the form of un arbre de Noel.
In France they like to stuff their chocolate bark with lots of good things: you often see it with pistachios, almonds, cashews, golden raisins, dried cranberries, candied orange peel, and so on. It is made with dark, white, or milk chocolate.
I’ve made mine with dark chocolate and toasted pecans, for a southern twist, but you can add whatever fruit and nuts you fancy. A hint of coffee is my secret for bringing out the deep chocolate flavor, and I’ve topped it off with a sprinkle of sea salt.
Side note: Of all places, the very best chocolate bark in the world comes from Clayton Georgia, where it is made by my brother-in-law David. It is almost paper thin, delicious and unique. But he won’t share his recipe (though Lord knows I’ve tried to beat it out of him), I think because he hopes to make his fortune from it someday. And well he should!
Joyeux Noel and Bonne Année to all!
RECIPE: Southern Fried French Dark Chocolate Bark with Pecans
- 1 pound (500 grams) good quality dark chocolate (I like Hershey’s Dark)
- 1 ½ cups lightly toasted pecans (or any combo of nuts/dried fruit)
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- sea salt
Melt the chocolate with expresso powder over a bain marie or double boiler, on very low heat (do not boil water) until completely melted.
Set aside ¼ cup of the nuts. Mix remaining nuts into the chocolate, stirring well.
Spread the chocolate on a Silpat or on parchment paper, on a baking sheet. Spread it out evenly, it should be roughly 10” square. Sprinkle with remaining nuts, pressing them lightly into chocolate. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt if desired.
Let the chocolate cool a couple of hours, until firm. Break it into pieces. Devour, and share if you can. Congratulate yourself on some healthy eating---chocolate is good for you, nuts too!
In the COMMENTS: On blasons, lots of good comments: Vagabonde collects them, Pat is painting one, and Vicky has a French one. Love it that Rachel is designing one that involves chocolate!
I learn a lot from readers, and this week that was especially true. I now have a story to go with that double-headed eagle blason that hangs on my wall. Thank you to the readers who sent information. The best answer came from an exhaustive study of the topic researched and written by a priest, and was sent by Gerard, a Dutchman living in France. Turns out this symbol has a long and colorful history, and has been used by different cultures and countries to mean different things. You can read the article here.
Favorite MOVIES: It’s the time of year when movies that the whole family can enjoy are in order. If you’re looking for a DVD to watch with all the relatives, try the poignant and funny film, The Way , starring Martin Sheen. There’s some nice European scenery, too. Even Ron, who is normally a car-chase, shoot-em-up kinda guy, really liked it.
Christmas Books: Books make super gifts, and of course I hope you'll remember to pick up my own book, How to Learn a New Language with a Used Brain for your language loving friends, French or otherwise. And if you're still working on your gift list, why not gift books by some of our loyal readers: Blossoming in Provence, the latest from Kristin Espinasse; a new one by Leslie Budewitz called Books, Crooks and Counselors, a primer for mystery writers; Karen chase's Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log (40 years. 40 days. 40 seconds.); from Debbie Ambrous, A French Opportunity; Josh Chalmer's children's book, Change the World Before Bedtime, for the grandkids; Kim Defforge's latest, Sun, Sea & Savoir-Faire: Travel Focus on the French Riviera; Jo Anne Marquardt's Falling in Love with France; Olivier Magny's Into Wine: An Invitation to Pleasure (his ebook is on special: free until Saturday!); Christine Webb-Curtis' lastest mystery,Rehearsals for Retribution. (If I've left anyone out, please email me and I'll include you next time).
Photo above: In France, everything has a history and tradition. Mendiants are chocolate bark in round form, and the colors of the fruit and nuts symbolize the colors of the four monastic orders.