barking up the right tree
Posted by culinaryneophyte on December 20, 2010
The time I spend trolling the Internet for “food porn” is tantamount to that which a 20-year-old frat guy spends looking at, well, different types of images, but ever since a devastating virus took over my computer last week, everyone’s been accusing me of having an addiction to some not-so-G-rated things. Regardless, somewhere in my innocent Internet surfing, I infected my laptop and had to pay the Best Buy Geek Squad $200+ to get the “this virus will break your life” message off my desktop. (Not a joke.)
Until I was computer-less for four straight days, I didn’t realize just how incapable I am of functioning without one. It’s quite sad, really. Fortunately, I was hosting (and catering) my friends’ annual Thieving Elves party this past weekend, and no computer was necessary for my eight straight hours in the kitchen.
I’m going to try to get up as many recipes as possible over the next few days so you can impress your friends and spread simple holiday cheer this weekend. And if I get up no recipe other than this peppermint popcorn bark, you’ll still be a hit at your parties; it’s easy to make, great for groups and super tasty. Just make sure you “warn” people what’s in the bowl; I had an unsuspecting taster get a minty — but not unwelcome — surprise when he picked up what he thought was a rice krispie treat.
A few notes: Unwrapping the candy canes is frustrating. The stupid cellophane wrappers latched onto my hands, and after some violent shaking, they flew onto the wall above my trash can… and there they stayed. Beating the bejeezus out of the candy canes is the best part of this process. I had a good time taking a rolling pin and letting my assorted frustrations loose on the little suckers. They got their revenge, though; the mint vapors the beating released burned my nostrils and a small shard shot into my eye. Yup. Candy cane in the eye.
♦Two bags of cooked microwave popcorn (butter, or non-)
♦1 lb. almond bark
♦1 6-oz. box of candy canes, crushed
♦2 tsp. peppermint extract
♦3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
Place popped popcorn in giant bowl. Unwrap candy canes, place in a plastic bag and beat with a rolling pin. Dump in popcorn. Melt almond bark according to instructions on package. When melted, add peppermint extract; the mixture will seize (and make a crackling noise), but don’t panic. Pour over popcorn/candy mixture, and stir well. Pour mixture onto waxed paper, spread out evenly and leave it be. Melt chocolate chips in microwave, and drizzle on cooling bark with a fork. When completely cooled, break into chunks.
Total time? 25 minutes, plus cooling time.
Cost? $2.57 for pound of almond bark, 89¢ box of candy canes, $1 microwavable popcorn, $3 mint extract, $1.69 chocolate chips.
Overall success relative to expectations? 10 out of 10. Of all the things I made for my Christmas party, I did not expect this to be one of my favorites, but the end result blew me away. The peppermint was crisp, the bark was sweet — but not overly so — and it made my house smell amazing. The picture doesn’t do it justice, but trust me — it’s a must-make.