As Jay and I count down the days and prepare for the arrival of Baby Solomon, I’ve been ferociously knocking baby- related things off my to-do list: paint baby’s room (check), order crib (check), buy carseat (check), pack hospital bag (we’re halfway there) etc. A while back, a colleague of Jay’s made a very wise suggestion: prepare yourself to bribe the nurses and doctors with sweets in the hopes of getting their attention (and thus, the good drugs) quicker. I learned a while back that food at a nurses station does go a long way (during a family member’s extended hospital stay I brought fresh timbits every morning!), but hadn’t even considered it in relation to a delivery.
When I told Jay what I had planned, he protested, as he usually does when it comes to me baking (is it that he really doesn’t want me to work too hard, or that he can’t stand the disaster zone that our kitchen becomes?!), so I agreed to go with a simpler, no bake option that I hoped he’d agree to. Enter delicious chocolate bark! The nice thing about chocolate bark is that it can be made in as many varieties as there are people to bribe it with – there is no right or wrong way to make chocolate bark. There’s also no exact recipe, which makes it great for those who have trouble seeing a recipe through or who like to be creative (or both!).
In this recipe, I opted for a pretzel caramel base, and I topped it with pastel coloured M&Ms (gender neutral baby theme!). I had actually been looking for mini M&Ms, which I would recommend, but after visits to two stores, I gave up and went with the regular size, which I crushed slightly in order to make the bark easier to cut once it set. The only caveat to this recipe is that you have to have the patience to unwrap tons of little caramels, unless you can find ones that aren’t individually wrapped. DO NOT try to take the easy way out and use caramel sauce, because it is not meant to harden and thus will stay sticky and your bark won’t set.
In melting both the caramels and the chocolate, I decided to use the microwave, but if you have a double boiler, I would recommend that instead. The difficulty with melting ingredients in the microwave is you have to do it in small increments of time and you run the risk of overcooking the chocolate, which becomes a total mess (trust me, I wasted an entire bag of chocolate chips because it was in for 15 seconds too long and it seized). If you don’t have a double boiler then just be sure to take the time to melt the ingredients in 15 or 30 second increments, stirring and checking in between each one.
The other good thing about this recipe is that it makes a ton of bark and keeps well in the freezer, so you can make a batch and whip out a few pieces each time you need a favour from someone. Have your own chocolate bark recipe? Feel free to share your variation in the comments section below!
Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Bark
Makes about 6lbs of bark
1 – 2 bags of salted pretzel sticks (about 600g)
3 bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tbsp table cream
2½ cups M&Ms (mini ones recommended)
- Generously spray two cookie sheets (roughly 9 x 13) with cooking spray (I recommend using disposable tinfoil trays for an easier cleanup, since the bark can be sticky). Line each tray with pretzel sticks (about ¾ of a bag or 300g) and set aside.
- Unwrap 40 caramels and place into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, remove from oven and stir. Repeat in 15 to 30 second increments until caramels just start to combine, and then add 1½ tbsp table cream and stir. Return to microwave and continue melting in short increments until cream and caramel are fully combined and caramel is runny.
- Using a silicon spatula, spoon caramel on top of the first tray of pretzels, being sure to cover as much surface area as possible. Set aside.
- While first tray is setting, repeat step two with the remaining caramels and cream, and coat the pretzels on the second tray. This will allow time for the caramel on the first tray to begin hardening before you spread the chocolate.
- Once both trays are coated in caramel, place 1½ bags of chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, remove and stir to combine. repeat until nearly all the chips are melted. Stir to melt the rest, and then using the spatula, spread the chocolate evenly over the caramel and pretzels of one tray, being sure to coat entirely.
- Cover as much or as little of the chocolate as you want with M&Ms. I used about 1¼ cups of M&Ms, and crushed them slightly using a mallet so that they wouldn’t pop off the chocolate once the bark was cut. Press M&Ms into the chocolate and place in fridge.
- Repeat steps 5 & 6 for the second tray.
- Leave trays in the fridge for about 2 hours to chill, then remove and cut bark using a large serrated knife. Bark should be hard but still malleable. One bark is cut, place in an airtight bag or container and return to the fridge or freezer overnight. Serve (or bribe) and enjoy as needed!