December is no ordinary month. For many of us it’s a series of weekends spent baking, nights spent celebrating and houses filled with family and friends. An abundance of special occasions fill the calendar during this time.
And while the frantic pace can be unrelenting, holiday brunches are the one exception that seem to ignore the clock and invite us to recharge and savor a long, lazy meal in good company.
Brunch is a sane way to celebrate the season; not as frantic as or as potentially fraught with familial tensions as parties and dinners.
There are none of the worries of seating arrangements, fancy table linens, or elaborate meal preparation. Beyond breakfast and lunch, it escapes precise description and can be savory, sweet, light and hearty all at once.
Cherished memories are made in the kitchen. Everyone remembers parties spent lazily sipping coffee or cocktails and catching up with one another while stirring, nibbling and cooking up a feast. We’ve waited all year for these precious moments; to have the time to talk and enjoy the season.
Because brunch is served early in the day and sleep is precious during the holiday season, prep time is the key to a stress-free brunch. One choice is to make some food ahead of time, keep the menu simple, and cook a few of the dishes while your guests are there.
This year some friends and I are throwing a virtual bunch. Since we can’t all be together in the kitchen cooking we are doing the next best thing and sharing our menu for a memorable holiday brunch with you, and I’m bringing the chocolate!
Chocolate bark makes an elegant hostess gift or party favor for any holiday get-together. It’s simple to prepare and is a wonderful healthy indulgence.
Shards of decadent dark chocolate are topped with crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds, shimmering bits of crystallized ginger, along with sweet, but tart dried apricots and finished with a sprinkle of sea salt.
The salty, sweet combination is thoroughly addicting and the little zip from the ginger gives this bark just the right amount of heat.
Filled with antioxidants, heart healthy fats and immune boosting properties, this deliciously rich treat is sure to be gratefully devoured by its recipients.
I was thrilled to contribute this recipe to the Holiday 2011 issue of Simply the Sweet Life Magazine (pg.56-57). It’s a wonderful publication filled with great ideas for the holiday season, I hope you check it out.
RECIPE: Dark Chocolate Bark with Ginger, Pumpkin Seeds and Apricots
- 1/2 cup/ 2oz toasted pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup/ 1 oz dried apricots, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup/ 1 oz crystallized or candied ginger, thinly sliced
- 1 pound / 16 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- A few pinches of fleur de sel
- Line an 11″ x 17″ baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Combine the pumpkin seeds, apricots, and ginger in a bowl.
- To temper chocolate: Using a microwave, place 3/4 of chocolate in a microwave- bowl (set aside remaining chocolate). With bowl uncovered, heat chocolate for 30 seconds at 50 percent power and then stir with a rubber spatula. Repeat, heating for 30 seconds and stirring, until almost all the chocolate in the bowl is melted, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Using an instant-read thermometer, check temperature of chocolate. It should be no more than 118°. If it hasn’t reached desired temperature, continue to heat (in 10-second increments). Then add reserved chocolate and stir constantly until completely melted and smooth and thermometer reads 88° to 90°. Chocolate is now tempered.
- To make bark: Using an offset spatula, spread chocolate in an even layer, about 1/4 inch thick, on the parchment paper. Sprinkle with the nut and fruit mixture and a pinch of fleur de sel. Tap the pan to settle the toppings into the chocolate.
- Allow bark to cool until hard and use a sharp knife to cut into pieces.
- Wrap in gift boxes lined with decorative paper, or place in cellophane bags and tie with ribbon.
Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Diet tags: Gluten free
Number of servings (yield): makes 1 lb of bark
Copyright © 2010-2011 gourmande in the kitchen.
Be sure to check out the complete Virtual Holiday Brunch Menu below:
Gingerbread Pumpkin Trifle with Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce – Sommer from A Spicy Perspective
Almond Brickle Coffee Cake – Kathy from Cooking On the Side
Gingerbread Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Buttercream – Cheryl from TidyMom
What are your favorite brunch dishes?