Last Saturday we went to Brent's holiday work party. The theme was Mad Men (yay!!!), which is perfect because I always wanted to attend a Mad Men themed party, and although I have very little desire to have lived during the 60's, I was very very excited to dress the part for a night. After searching many dayss for a period-themed dress, I found this $450 dress for $60 at the Goodwill down the street. I found a few additional pieces - some chunky pearls, a gold purse, styled my hair in a big up-do, and finished off the look with some red lipstick. I tried as hard as possible to be in full character, obvs. leading to me drinking way too much champagne. When the party was over, despite my state, I did manage to leave with coat and purse in tow, which in my opinion, the biggest success of the evening.
Throughout the night, 1960's-inspired food and snacks (meat sandwiches, pickled vegetables and oysters) were served, and besides the chocolate covered strawberries and personal snack size servings of Ruffles chips with sour cream and onion dip, the rest of the food should have been left back in the 60's. What they really should have done was recreated that avocado, salsa, and sour cream omelet, potatoes, toast, grapefruit juice brunch I ate the next morning
The next day was a total write-off. I managed to walk the short 3 block radius from my house, out for brunch, back to my house, and to the couch, where I spent the rest of the day watching Emily make these pretty red, green, and white tricolor Italian rainbow cookies. I was really impressed with her commitment and dedication to the art of Christmas baking. It got me thinking about this Christmas, and what sort of treats I want to make this year. Last year I made my first attempt at boozy fruit cake and candied orange sugar cookies. I wrapped up the leftover candied orange peel in cellophane wrap and handed them to family as gifts. It was such a success I wanted to do something similar this year.
I decided on making homemade fruit and nut chocolate bars, and some homemade Skor bars, and am going to try to not eat them all by the holidays, especially the Skor bars which are out-of-this-world. I went to the store and picked up some 45% milk chocolate, because lets be real, ima milk chocolate girl, but you could always use dark or white chocolate if you prefer. I have seen some people swirl the white chocolate into the dark and it looks really fancy. Something to impress your friends. I also picked up a selection of nuts and dried fruit from bulk bins, and a tub of fresh ground almond butter for later. I came up with a few combinations for chocolate bars that I wanted to try: raisin + almond, mango + macadamia + coconut, cranberry + pumpkin seed, and let me tell you, the raisin and almond did not disappoint. The hard part, now I have to decide who to give them to. I do know however that the Skor bars are mostly for Brent. And me. Mostly me, who am i kidding.
FRUIT AND NUT CHOCOLATE BARS
makes 6 bars
3 - 4 cups (24 oz) chocolate (milk or dark)
dried fruit (mango, cranberries, raisins)
nuts (macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds)
dried coconut flakes
To make a rectangular chocolate bar, you will need to use a small rectangular loaf pan as your mold, preferably 6 x 3 inches, or something similar in size - roughly the size of a large chocolate bar. Alternatively, you could use a large rectangular baking dish, and then cut into individual bars once the chocolate has hardened. The easiest method - pour the melted chocolate + nuts/fruit onto a large piece of parchment paper, and then break into pieces once hardened.
For the purpose of this recipe, I will assume you are using a small loaf pan, and are making individual bars.
Before you begin melting the chocolate, decide on some different nut and fruit combinations for your bars. I chose 1) raisins + almonds 2) mango + macadamia nuts + coconut 3) cranberries + pumpkin seeds + hazelnuts 4) hazelnuts. Chop the nuts and fruit, and set aside.
Line the bottom of the loaf pan with parchment paper. If the parchment paper isn't sticking to the pan, place two small dabs of chocolate underneath to act as a glue.
Fill a small saucepan with 1 inch of water. Heat on low. Place a bowl on top of the saucepan, making sure that it does not touch the water. Place a heaping 1/2 cup of chocolate into the bowl and stir until melted. Add half of the nuts/fruit you want to use for this bar, and stir. Pour the chocolate into the loaf pan, smooth out with a spoon, and then tap the pan on the counter a few times. Arrange the rest of the fruit/nuts on top of the bar.
Place the pan into the freezer to chill the chocolate for 5 minutes. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to loosen the bar, or run a knife around the edges. Let the bars sit on the counter overnight. Wrap with cellophane wrap. Decorate with string, and place a label on top describing the ingredients.
HOMEMADE SKOR BARS
makes 1 - 9 x 9 inch pan
makes 1 - 9 x 9 inch pan
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp water
2 cups chocolate
Place the butter, sugar, salt, and water into a medium saucepan. On medium heat, bring to a boil. Continue to cook until the sugar has reached 300ºF, stirring constantly.
Pour the toffee into a square baking dish, and quickly tip from side to side spreading the toffee around. It will begin to harden immediately, so it is important to move fast. Place the pan in the freezer to continue hardening.
Fill a small saucepan with 1 inch of water. Heat on low. Place a bowl on top of the saucepan, making sure that it does not touch the water. Place the chocolate into the bowl and stir until melted. Pour the chocolate into the pan, on top of the toffee. Tip the pan back and forth to help evenly distribute the chocolate. Let harden in the freezer, or on the counter.
Once hardened, break into small pieces. Place into tiny cellophane bags, ties with string, and label.