The living room is arguably one of the most important places in a home. It is an integral location in family life and the setting for a variety of everyday activities and eventualities. What beats the feeling of kicking off your shoes and flopping back onto a settee after tough day? It is also the perfect site for a catch up with a cuppa or can double up as a makeshift hospital when a cold strikes. On other occasions, it is a private, pseudo- cinema where pyjamas are mandatory and where no one will judge you for inconsolable crying during the John Lewis advert…
However, our household’s sofa-filled sanctuary also hosts a confectionary refuge known as ‘Chocolate Corner’ amongst its chairs, lamps and cushions. Taking up a half a square foot, and appropriately located directly below our collection of cookbooks, ‘Chocolate corner’ is where all half-finished boxes of birthday chocolates, ‘gestures of good will’ or casually consumed Green and Blacks bars are laid to rest until they are given a new lease of life as a final, late night instalment of smooth sweetness to accompany a last cup of tea before bed.
Whilst Chocolate Corner is often perused and topped up in a continuous ‘eat and receive cycle’, the arrival of Easter unfortunately sends our Choco-eco system into disarray. Each family member inevitably becomes preoccupied with, and distracted by, their own specially selected egg as well as the miniature chocolate delights foraged during our annual Easter egg hunt and demonstration of my exemplary confectionary scavenging skills. By Easter Sunday, the usually humble Chocolate Corner will be host to a mountain of Cadbury’s Mini Eggs, Crème Eggs, Mini cream eggs as well as some other chocolate rabbit/duck/egg shaped confection. It’s just too much to cope!
At these times, having to deliberate about how much, which brand, what shape of chocolate to tuck into first can be exhausting. In times of hardship such as these we often end up eating the chocolate more as a means of tidying rather than out of a desire for something sweet; believe it or not, the novelty of the Lindor bunny does wear off after consuming half a warren’s worth.
“More?! Did you say more?” I hear you ask, in a voice that is reminiscent of that of Mr Bumble from ‘Oliver’. I know it must seem rather counter-intuitive that we chose to buy MORE chocolate to resolve our sweet surfeit. In our defence, this was no sugar-induced splurge of madness but an act of tactical culinary creation as recently, I had become acquainted with the concept of ‘chocolate bark: an artform which has taken Pinterest by storm and become a celebrity cook-book essential. Making chocolate bark essentially involves melting chocolate, and spreading it out to cool, (although not without sprinkling it with other pieces of deliciousness first) which can then snapped into satisfyingly thick shards once set.
Not only is it an excellent way of using up your sugary scraps but creating your own ‘bark’ can elevate even the most ordinary of chocolates from the mundane to the sublime. You feel as though you are eating a new, never before been sampled, reincarnated chocolate- that has risen, like a phoenix, from the ashes of forgotten Easter eggs or Christmas scraps.
Enter chocolate bark- AKA the perfect solution to our Chocolate inFEASTation.
Making your own bark and requires minimal effort and kitchen tinkering. There are no correct quantities for this recipe either- although 600g of melted chocolate will cover a baking sheet with a thick enough layer.
Chuck in any chocolate you chose, white, milk or dark; flavoured bars such as chocolate orange work wonderfully too! ‘Marbling’ two different chocolatey hues together is also rather pleasing to both the eyes and taste buds. Simply melt and then drizzle a lighter coloured chocolate over the melted dark, then dip in the end of a skewer and begin dragging and swirling the second chocolate into the first. Be careful not too overstir as you want to retain the delicate swirls! White chocolate swirled into milk looks particularly effective.
Then comes my favourite bit! Scatter your chosen toppings (aka. reject choccies, dried fruit, nuts, crumbled biscuits etc) over the marbled chocolate slab. The randomised scattering of topping means that no chocolate shard is ever the same. The altering ratio of smartie-mini egg-malteaser makes each mouthful a moorish investigation.
Fancy something with a bit of crunch and colour? Try adding some nuts and dried fruit. Any nuts or fruits will work a treat, either roughly chopped or scattered over whole. My personal faves are pistachios and dried cranberries, as they add a splash of colour and taste divine!
And voila! The conundrum of which chocolate to choose is pacified. Internal dilemmas about whether to mini egg or crème egg are resolved as satisfying fragments of both are nestled together on this chocolately slab.
This bark can also be a very handy, offering to bring along to last minute dinner gatherings, and makes an equally good ‘Of course I did not completely forget your birthday’ present! It is, essentially, a great way to palm off your unwanted chocolates to others disguised as as a gesture of good will. A bark doesn’t have to be Easter, Christmas or occasion related either, thus fixing the problem of what to do with the abandoned Toffee Fingers and Bountys at the bottom to the Quality Street or Celebrations box. The Choco-Eco system re-establishes equilibrium and you will be declared a fab friend – the most self-prosperous present ever!
There is a joy to making, eating and seeing others eat chocolate bark that is hard to beat. In that moment, your kitchen and living room are transformed. Your kitchen becomes an innovative factory, the start line of a creative tasting adventure, where never before seen chocolate collaborations are tried, tested and devoured. For the eaters of your chocolatey creation, its novelty, variety and uniqueness will bring a smile of childish delight to their faces. In that moment, you are Willy Wonka, they are Charlie Bucket.
And to think, all this can be achieved in a matter of minutes and enjoyed on the comfort of ones’ sofa. No frills, no fuss, nothing fancy- just chocolately domestic bliss. You are at home, after all!