We’ve been having fun with all of our treats this month! Cake, blondies, spiced milk, and quick bread all add up to warmth, comfort, and some wonderful homemade gift ideas. This week, we have more simple, fun, and delicious treats for you with a series of chocolate bark recipes, starting with a favorite candy-inspired recipe, Nutty Caramel Caramel Milk Chocolate Bark.
Barks are made with melted chocolate swirled with pretty much anything you can think of from nuts to candies. They are super fast and simple to make, look pretty, and taste amazing! Grab some chocolate and let’s get started!
Melt Your Chocolate
The chocolate you choose is the dominant flavor in any bark, so choose your favorite! If you’re feeling fancy, order some really nice chocolate like Callebaut or Valrhona. My go-to site for purchasing high-quality chocolate is World Wide Chocolate, which offers reasonable prices on these nicer brands.
This year, I’m using Choceur chocolate bars from Aldi, which are perfect in this Nutty Caramel Milk Chocolate Bark. They are inexpensive but have wonderful flavor. Not sure how they do it, but it’s my current favorite chocolate for barks, dipping candies, and ganache.
This Calls for a Taste Test!
A great way to find your own favorite is to buy a little bit from different brands and do a taste test for yourself. This is informative, but also so much fun. I did this one year with the kids and honestly, it was one of the most fun things I ever did with them. It doubled as education, but really we just had fun trying different types and brands, then wrote down what we thought in a fun chart. All of us got really into it and we each chose our favorite. Try it yourself to see which one you like best!
Now that you have your fav chocolate, let’s talk just a little about how to work with it. Honestly, though it can be temperamental, it’s really easy to work with if you follow good technique and pay attention. The first rule is to make sure your bowl, utensils, and hands are perfectly dry. Even the slightest bit of moisture will cause your chocolate to seize. If that happens, it will start to clump together in a big grainy mess and will not smooth out without the addition of even more moisture.
You can’t make Nutty Caramel Milk Chocolate Bark (or any other bark) out of seized chocolate because it will never set the way you need it to, but don’t throw it out! Simply whisk in some warm cream to make chocolate ganache. Add an amount equal in weight to the amount of chocolate for a rich and wonderful chocolate sauce. The less cream you add, the thicker your ganache will be. A chocolate to cream ratio (by weight) of 2:1 leaves you with a decadent mixture that can be used as icing or rolled into balls for truffles.
For bark, you want to melt the chocolate slowly, in increments, in the microwave until it is not quite all melted. Then we stir and let it cool just a bit. This is a super simple method of melting that allows the chocolate to remain stable and set well.
Heating it only 30 seconds at a time keeps the chocolate from overheating or burning, and stirring in the last bit of unmelted chocolate helps it stay “in temper,” which basically means the molecules are aligned in such a way so that the chocolate will set firmly and won’t become cloudy or too soft when it cools. (This is a super simplified way of stating the process of tempering chocolate. To learn more, Alton Brown has a great explanation on his website.)
The real fun of making a chocolate bark is choosing your favorite combination of mix-ins. Nutty Caramel Milk Chocolate Bark combines of nuts, peanut butter chips, and caramel, echoing the flavors of a candy bar. We can’t stop eating it!
While the chocolate is cooling slightly, chop up some peanuts and pecans. Measure out your peanut butter chips and caramel bits. Mix all these things together and stir all but a couple of tablespoons into the melted chocolate before spreading it in a thin layer onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the remaining mix-ins over the top while the chocolate is still wet. Once it is firmly set, cut or break the bark into pieces.
Nutty Caramel Milk Chocolate Bark Makes a Great Gift
Who wouldn’t like some Nutty Caramel Milk Chocolate Bark as a gift? Pack it up in a clear bag tied with a ribbon or in a festive tin lined with parchment and hand it out to everyone you know. They will love it and feel loved by your thoughtful generosity.
And they will admire the self-control it took not to eat it all yourself. Soak in all those pats on the back and get ready for requests to make more next year!
Another great way to gift this bark is to include it on a board or tray of cookies, such as our Soft Cinnamon Almond Cookies, our Soft Pumpkin Cookies, or our Dark Chocolate Pecan Cookies. They are all so, so good!
Stay tuned this week for more amazing chocolate bar recipes, the perfect last-minute holiday treats or gifts.
Nutty Caramel Milk Chocolate Bark
- 8 ounces milk chocolate
- 1/4 cup dry roasted salted peanuts chopped
- 3/4 cup pecans toasted and chopped
- 1/2 cup peanut butter chips
- 1/2 cup Kraft caramel bits
- Break the milk chocolate into pieces and place it in a glass bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, then stir and microwave for another 30 seconds. Repeat this, heating and stirring in 30 second increments until the chocolate is almost melted. Stir to melt the remaining pieces.
- Combine the peanuts, pecans, peanut butter chips, and caramel bits in a small bowl. Reserve 2-3 tablespoons and stir the rest into the melted chocolate.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, then spread the chocolate mixture onto it in a thin, even layer. Sprinkle the reserved portion of nuts, peanut butter chips, and caramel bits over the top and let it set until firm before carefully cutting it into even pieces. If you prefer, you can simply break the bark apart by hand for more uneven pieces.
- Store in a sealed container at cool room temperature for up to two weeks.