Chocolate Bark. All it is is melted chocolate + toppings.. and it's amazing. Even better, it is good for you.. if you use the right ingredients.
Seriously! High-quality dark chocolate is a superfood, packed with antioxidants, soluble fiber, flavanols (plant-based nutrients), and minerals. Consumed in moderation, dark chocolate is a great addition to a balanced diet because it is naturally lower in sugar than it's more processed counterparts (milk chocolate and all of those colorfully-wrapped bars at the convenience store) and allows us to satisfy our chocolate cravings in a positive way. Dark chocolate is naturally rich in flavor: the higher the percentage of cocoa (the better the chocolate), the richer the taste. As a result, only one or two pieces (not the entire lot) will satisfy your chocolate craving.
When buying dark chocolate, look for chocolate that has a short ingredient list with no added sugar or preservatives, is 70-99% cocoa, made from cocoa butter (not palm oil), and is not processed with alkali (or "dutched"). Opt for brands that are fair-trade and organic when possible (this is usually advertised right on the bar). I find all of my dark chocolate at Whole Foods and Mom's Organic Markets. They both have a wide variety to choose from. Some, like Endangered Species Chocolate, even donate to charity with your purchase (and have cute animals on the wrappers).
For this post, I decided to make two barks: (1) a dark chocolate classic bark with whatever toppings my boyfriend wanted, and (2) a more "fancy" white chocolate-style bark with a swirl of bright pink chocolate, dried strawberries, goji berries, adaptogens, and edible flowers. First up, a bark for my Valentine, Mark:
Mark and I are both full-time fitness instructors in Philadelphia. We live with our rescue pup, Harriet, in Center City, and spend most of our time together dancing around and laughing. When I asked him to pick the toppings for his bar, he decided that he wanted..
Crystalized Ginger & Pistachio Dark Chocolate Bark
Vegan, Gluten-Free // Makes the amount shown in the first photo (chocolate serving sizes?!)
- 1 10-14oz Bag or 3 Bars of High-Quality Dark Chocolate
- 2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil (optional, but wonderful)
- Toppings! Choose literally anything that you love. For this bark, I used Crystalized Ginger and Pistachios as per Mark's request, a small handful of each.
1. Warm a saucepan over low heat while you line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Chop up your toppings!
2. Add chocolate and coconut oil (if desired) to saucepan and stir constantly, slowly melting. You want to be careful not to burn the chocolate, so keep the heat low and stir! Melt until almost smooth and remove from heat.
3. Pour the melted chocolate onto parchment paper and spread evenly with a spatula. Make it as thin or as thick as you want.
4. Toss on your toppings and place in freezer to set,
5. Remove from freezer, lift chocolate block out of pan with the parchment paper, and snap apart! That's it!
Onto my failed attempt at "fancy" Valentine's Day bark..
One of my favorite things about Mom's Organic Market is that they always carry new and really fun vegan items. The last time I shopped, I came across vegan white chocolate (!) bars. I bought three, even though they were $7/each (I know..), and loaded up my basket with beetroot powder (natural food coloring!), red superfoods, and edible flowers. I couldn't wait to create.
My original idea was to do the same recipe as above, but to have two batches of melted white chocolate: one that I kept white, and one that I colored to a pink or red color with the beetroot powder (I actually hate the taste of beets, so this is a fantastic way to get the benefits and beautiful color). From there, I planned to swirl the two colors together to make a super-Valentine's-Day-style marbled bark.
Quick nutrition lesson: white chocolate is not healthy (I'm sorry). It's not even chocolate, really, because it doesn't contain any cocoa solids (which is what makes dark chocolate is good for you!). White chocolate is simply cocoa butter, sugar, milk or cream, and flavoring. Even this fancy vegan white chocolate that I found, for $7/pop, was "cocoa butter, cane sugar, coconut, tapioca syrup, sea salt, sunflower lecithin, and vanilla bean." Sure, it was organic, but this bar has no nutritional content on the labels. I was so distracted by vegan white chocolate that I didn't even notice. Remember to read your labels, and if there is no label.. stay away.
After coming to terms with the fact that I was now creating something super sugary for a wellness blog, things just continued to crumble, because this chocolate did not melt. It curdled up into a little ball of sadness, and all I could see were dollar signs floating away. To salvage, I made it into a beetroot caramel by whisking it up with a ton (like, more than a full cup) of vegan cream, beetroot powder, and some coconut oil. I was able to create something.. but it's definitely not bark (it's more like a white chocolate taffy):
While it was delicious (I'm not going to lie), here's what I would like to share:
1. KEEP IT SIMPLE. The dark chocolate bark is incredibly easy to make, is nutritionally beneficial (granted, I did add crystalized ginger), is affordable, and is easy to find in most stores.
2. JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING IS "VEGAN" OR "ORGANIC" DOESN'T NECESSARILY MAKE IT HEALTHY. Read. Your. Labels.
3. IT HAPPENS TO ALL OF US. I am a health coach and I have been vegan since I was 11.. and I still get duped!
If you'd like to make a "fancy" bark for your Valentine, my suggestion would be to either make a dark chocolate bark with his/her (or your!) favorite toppings (Mark loved his bark!), or to use the toppings from my failed bark (strawberries, goji berries, edible flowers, and beetroot powder). Adaptogens mix amazingly well into melted chocolate, so feel free to mix in your favorite superfood powders as well.
Happy Valentine's Day!
If you're in the Philadelphia area, don't forget about my HEARTBEETS DJ RIDE at Flywheel Sports Bryn Mawr on Valentine's Day at 5:45pm with DJ.ADAM.LINK! Schedule here!
Almost forgot about my strawberry model...