Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Chiara, Suzie and Sophia take a break
from their very busy day.

Mark and I are uncle and aunt to eight nieces and nephews, ranging in age from 10 years old to 4 weeks old.

Holy cannoli, that’s a lot of kids.

We love the children of our siblings so very much. They rock our world, quite honestly. We are so lucky to have them in our lives, and we really enjoy those moments when we get to hang with the youngins'.

This weekend was made of awesome, since we had a very special Chiara, Sophia, Aunt Suzie and Uncle Mark day.

On the agenda: Christmas tree decorating, Peppermint Bark creating, Bach piano playing, grilled cheese panini building, “real deal” hot chocolate drinking, chocolate chip cake eating and mucho chit chatting. Sophia, Chiara and Uncle Mark also partook in a heated game of Go Fish while Aunt Suzie tidied up the kitchen.

Chiara and Sophia are the two eldest of our nieces and nephews. They hang quite a bit with Aunt Suzie aka Me. Firstly, I’m their piano teacher so I see them weekly, and we make awesome music together. So much fun! Sophia’s Brahm’s “Lullaby” is fabulous. Her baby sisters, Mia and Lucia, love it! And, Chiara’s “Musette in D Major” by J.S. Bach rocks. She’s hoping to have that perfected in time for Concert Day at school.

The three of us have been known to have tons of fun together playing Beauty Salon or organizing an amazing Barbie Fashion Show complete with tunes, a runway and celebrity front row. We also play many a game – Monopoly, Sorry, Old Maid, Bananagrams (which is kind of like a tripped out version of Scrabble with no board and no rules. OK . You got me. There are rules, but they’re completely nonsensical.)

We also get all wild and crazy in the kitchen, natch. We’ve made delish homemade ice cream and homemade caramel sauce (yummy), amazing cookies and a fondue that is “the best dessert I’ve ever had in my whole, entire life,” according to Sophia, then at age 4.

Chiara and Sophia helped me with my latest culinary experiment, Peppermint Bark. I’m hoping to give this as a gift this Ho Ho Season.

Peppermint bark is layers of chocolate – sometimes dark, sometimes white, sometimes both - flavored with peppermint and topped with crushed candy canes. You can purchase it for a bazillion dollars at fine cooking stores such as Williams Sonoma or Crate and Barrel or Harry and David and be told in all-caps mean writing, that “this product may contain traces of nuts” or “this product was processed in a facility that processes nuts.”

Translation: I look really pretty and fabulous but eat at your own risk and don’t sue us if anything shady happens.

(Raises fist to God and leaves store empty-handed.)

So, homemade peppermint bark it is.

Since this was an experiment, I will let you know my observations. That’s always part of science lab, right?

For one thing, we decided to whack the bejesus out of two dozen candy canes. You put them in a zipperbag and have at it with a French rolling pin (no knobs) or a baseball bat. I went this route because it was suggested on the Internets, and I thought Chiara and Sophia would love to get out their aggression on candy canes. You know how angsty 10- and 7-year-olds get.

However, I’ve concluded that when I make the next batch, my Cuisinart food processor will be crushing my candy canes, thank you very much.

This is because it will be easier, less messy, easier and quicker and easier. Oh, and the candy canes will be crushed into tiny millions of evenly sized bits – essential for peppermint bark success. And the millions of candy cane bits will be in the bowl of the food processor and nowhere else such as shoes, countertops, floors, bathrooms, rugs, doorknobs, clothing, chairs, my dreams.

Have fun with your peppermint bark. And, I hope when you make it you have two amazing helpers, like I did!

Layered Peppermint Bark

20 ounces white chocolate, coursely chopped, divided
30 peppermint candies (I used 12 candy canes), crushed, divided
10 ounces dark chocolate (I used bittersweet), coarsely chopped
6 Tbsp. heavy cream
1 tsp. peppermint extract

In a food processor, crush your candy canes with a few pulses.

Line a 9x12 inch baking pan with aluminum, parchment or wax paper. (I used wax paper.)

Melt half the white chocolate in a double-boiler, or the microwave. (I used the microwave.) Spread the white chocolate in the prepared pan. Sprinkle peppermint pieces all over the chocolate. Chill in the refrigerator until firm. (I did so for about 20 minutes.)

In a double boiler, bring water to a simmer. Place a heat-resistant bowl over the double boiler. Gently melt the dark chocolate with the cream and peppermint extract in the bowl. Stir until smooth and shiny. Be sure the bottom of your bowl DOES NOT touch the simmering water.

Remove tray from refrigerator.

Once dark chocolate is melted, remove from heat. Quickly spread chocolate onto the prepared baking sheet.

Place in the refrigerator. Chill for 30 minutes.

Melt the remaining white chocolate in microwave or using a double boiler.

Remove tray from refrigerator.

Pour melted white chocolate over cooled dark chocolate. Spread with a spatula. Sprinkle with remaining peppermint pieces.

Place tray back in refrigerator for at least 20 more minutes. (I let it set for at least an hour)

Break into pieces and serve.


  1. This looks fairly simple. I've never made bark before but I know my kids would love it!

  2. Dear Susan,

    Please come to Okinawa with your fabilis cooking abilities in-tow.


  3. Pam, it was super easy. I put it out last night at a party I had and all my friends loved it.

    Marisa, I would love to visit Japan! One day.... I gotta get to Italy first. One of my best girlfriends bought your sequins J. Crew skirt. She's wearing it to our class reunion this weekend.

  4. Susan, Haven't tried the recipe yet, but am a witness to how good this recipe really is. Thankfully my children love to share with Mommy! Can't wait to try it myself!

  5. Thanks Stacy. Hope you all had a fab Christmas! I miss the girls!