Homemade candy. Does that sound like an oxymoron?

I mean, you probably wouldn't attempt to make a Milky Way or M&Ms at home. Or Gummi Worms, or Starbursts, or even a simple Charleston Chew. But chocolate bark? It doesn't get any easier.

Melt chocolate. Spread flat. Cool, and break into pieces. That's it.

Of course, plain chocolate bark isn't terrifically exciting. It's what you put on (or in, or atop) it that creates the WOW factor. And luckily, the add-ons are completely up to your personal taste, and your imagination.

Bacon bark, anyone? Hmmm... with white chocolate as the base, maybe.

Anyway, if you're looking for a homemade Christmas gift that's fast, easy, and "one size fits all," look no further–

Peppermint Crunch Bark (or fill in your own topping) is your answer.

First, the chocolate. We're using Merckens chocolate in this recipe: bittersweet, and white. It melts nicely, and has rich, true flavor. But definitely choose your own favorite chocolate, if you prefer.

One caveat: when chocolate chips melt, they're thicker, less pourable, and generally harder to handle than melted bars or chunks of chocolate. That's why we recommend bar chocolate, rather than chocolate chips, for this recipe.

Gently melt 2 2/3 cups (16 ounces) dark chocolate, heating it on very low heat or over hot water until it barely melts. Stir to melt it completely. If you're making peppermint bark, add 3 to 5 drops peppermint oil, if desired.

Spread the chocolate into an 8" x 12" oval on parchment paper or foil. Hint: If you're using half-sheet parchment as I'm doing here, one sheet cut in half is about 9" x 12" - that makes it easy to spread the chocolate to the right thinness.

Allow the chocolate to set, but not harden completely. I found about 15 minutes in the fridge gave the shiny, just-melted chocolate a more opaque, starting to set look.

Next, melt 2 cups (12 ounces) white chocolate the same way.

Be VERY careful; white chocolate melts more quickly, and also burns more quickly. If you're doing this in the microwave, do it in short, 30-second bursts, stirring between each.

If you're making peppermint crunch, stir a couple of tablespoons of crushed peppermint candy into the white chocolate.

Or not. I prefer "add-ons" to "add-ins."

Pour and spread the white chocolate over the dark chocolate.

Sprinkle more peppermint crunch on top, pressing it in gently.

Or sprinkle with the toppings of your choice.

Once the chocolate is completely set, break it into pieces, and divide among pretty gift bags.

Now, how about other toppings?

The aforementioned peppermint crunch is delicious for mint chocolate lovers; and chips are perfect for those who like their chocolate unadulterated by "foreign substances."

You might also try toasted nuts, dried fruit, crushed pretzels, crystallized ginger bits, and other candies – now here's where those Peanut M&Ms are REALLY good.

Love cranberries? Our Cranberry Nut Chocolate Bark is a delicious riff on this concept.

And if you can get your hands on any mini peanut butter cups – go for it!

Read, make, and review (please) our recipe for Peppermint Crunch Bark.

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About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was an award-winning Maine journalist (favorite topics: sports and food) before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. Hired to write the newly launched Baker’s Catalogue, PJ became the small but growing company’s sixth employee.PJ wa...
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