Enter food52.com, my new favorite blog, which lists this recipe for Ancho Chili-Cinnamon Bark as the grand prize winner in their "Favorite Food Gift" contest. I had never made chocolate bark before, but it appeared relatively simple and most importantly, was categorized under the "make-ahead" label. The ingredients were a bit expensive, but absolutely worth it. My friends and family raved and raved, prompting me to make several more batches of bark (for a cookie exchange, for office christmas presents, for fun) before the season was over.
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2/3 cups pistachio
2/3 cups cashews, very lightly crushed
1/2 cup dried cherries
To make the spice mix, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place first 5 ingredients on a baking sheet and place in oven. Toast until fragrant or about 10 min.
Remove steams and majority of seeds from the anchos. Place all spices in a spice grinder or coffee grinder and pulverize. You may need to grind spices in batches.
Toast the nuts by placing them on the baking sheet and put in the oven. Check after 10 minutes. When done, remove from oven and let cool.
Place ¾ of the chocolate in a bowl and slowly melt the chocolate, either in the microwave checking and stirring it every 25 seconds or over a double broiler on the stovetop.
When all of the chocolate is melted, take it off of the heat and add in the remaining chocolate, stir until it is completely melted.
Add one to two teaspoons of the spice mix. Add one at a time and taste; add more if you want it to be spicier. I like a subtle spice flavor, it keeps those eating it wondering what the secret spice could be.
Line the baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Spread out the nuts and cherries, reserving a few of the nuts to decorate the top.
Sprinkle salt over the nuts and cherries.
Pour the chocolate onto the pan, covering the nuts and cherries in an even layer. Add remaining nuts to the top of chocolate and press them into the chocolate.
Put in fridge and allow to cool for 45 min. Break into pieces and keep in a sealed container in the fridge