Peppermint Bark: A Holiday Treat with Bite.

bark 3

I love peppermint bark.

I look forward to eating it every Christmas. I am not sure why I haven’t ever tried making it myself before now, especially knowing just how much I love it. Maybe I thought it wouldn’t hold up against all the other barks I’ve eaten over the years, and my baking ego would henceforth be crushed. Whatever the reason, I decided it was a dumb one, and I went ahead and made it this year.

A whole pan of peppermint.

A whole pan of peppermint.

I greased an 8×8 pan, and then covered it with wax paper. I melted up some semi-sweet milk chocolate, crushed a bunch of candy canes, and then topped it with melted white chocolate (and more crushed candy canes). Then I let it refrigerate until it set. Next, I broke it up into random-sized pieces, and served.

bark with bite.

bark with bite.

It was as delicious as any bark I’ve had before it. The problem now is that I have so much of it. Resistance is futile.

The Great White Chocolate Debate.

white chocolate

Over the weekend, I took part in WHYY’s 5th Annual Chocolate Tasting. I love WHYY, and have since I was a wee lass, so I’m happy to do anything that promotes them and helps raise money to keep them doing what they’re doing. It’s good stuff, and good people. 

Anyway, this year, I made over 400 Oreo and cream cheese truffles to support the event. I use the term “I made” loosely, as my boyfriend stayed up until almost 1 AM on Valentine’s Day to help me get them all dipped in chocolate and ready to go. He’s a very dedicated and hard-working assistant, not to mention a fast learner. So yeah, I had help.

There were to be two varieties: plain Oreo with milk chocolate coating, and mint Oreo with white chocolate coating. They looked like so:

a team effort.

a team effort.


So needless to say, before we let them leave the house, we had to taste them. Being a white-chocolate lover since I received my very first Easter basket, I went for the white, whereas my BF went straight for the milk chocolate, claiming he’s not a fan of white chocolate. That got me thinking – white chocolate really is not for everyone. You never hear someone say “Yeah, white chocolate is just ok.” It’s either “Mmmm!! I LOVE white chocolate!” or “Eww! I HATE white chocolate!” usually accompanied by “It’s not even REAL Chocolate!” Yes, that’s true – white chocolate is basically chocolate with the chocolate removed, which therefore logically speaking would make it not chocolate.

white not-chocolates?

white not-chocolates?

I have a theory though. If we were to globally wage a campaign to change the name of white chocolate to something else – removing the “chocolate” from the name in the same fashion it’s been removed from the confection itself – i think more people would accept it and enjoy it. No, it does not taste like chocolate – and by giving it a name that would lead folks to believe it does can be deceiving, and frankly, turn people off before they even give it a real chance. I think a new name would solve this problem, and give white chocolate the love it rightfully deserves. Of course, I have no idea what that name should be…White Not-chocolate? But that still has “chocolate” in the name itself and also just sounds too negative. White Candy? That’s a little generic and no one will have a clue as to what they’re about to eat. White Cocoa Butter? That’s a little better…but the “cocoa” could still cause confusion. White Sugar Butter? That actually sounds kinda gross. I don’t know….any suggestions? 

The Brussels Chocolate Shop Tour, Stop #6: Passion Chocolat.


Practically dancing as I left Stop #5: Pierre Marcolini, thanks to the disco ball and the “wink,” I twisted and twirled my way right across the street and into the Grand Sablon.  It was beautiful – from the statuary, to the perfectly coiffed gardens, to the enormous old church – the Église Notre Dame du Sablon.

come on in.

come on in.

I decided to take a short break from the tour, and explore the grounds. The light dusting of snow really made it all the more magical.

stone cold and lovely.

stone cold and lovely.

It didn’t hurt that I appeared to be the only person walking the grounds. I guess I get up earlier than most tourists.  I crossed over to take a few shots of the front of the church, and while doing so, I was stopped by a woman and asked for directions – in French. I guess I didn’t look like a tourist after all. 🙂

Eglise Notre Dame du Sablon.

Eglise Notre Dame du Sablon.

At this point, I realized I had no idea where I was going myself, so I broke out the map and tried to find my next destination:

Stop #6: Passion Chocolat.


I totally could not find this place. I thought at first I must have passed it and didn’t realize, so I back tracked down the road I had just come from. Nothing. I started wondering if in fact it was located on the other side of the Sablon, so I walked around the church, and headed back down the other side, but not before capturing my favorite picture from the entire trip – the picture I felt captured the classy and whimsical vibe of the city of Brussels  – a red plastic tree “growing” in the small side yard of the old the Église.

i could live here.

i could live here.

The universe must have meant for me to see that image, because immediately after I snapped the photo, I turned around and  there was Passion Chocolat, right behind me. I swear it wasn’t there before. How could I have missed it, with its giant red and gold pyramid at the entrance!

magic pyramid?

magic pyramid?

I walked in, and it was small. And bright. But warm. I liked it. The woman behind the counter was unpacking boxes (I think I may have been the first customer – I swear it was not THAT early).  She stood up and came over when I walked in and said “Bonjour” and asked if I she could help me (in French). I said “Bonjour” back, trying to be polite, and she then launched into something fast and French that I couldn’t understand. I then said, “Je ne parle pas francais,” to which she replied, in English, “you should have said that up front! How was I to know you did not speak French!” She wasn’t necessarily angry or rude, but she did seem to be in a bit of huff, as if this happens often. It took everything in my power not to giggle. I decided to focus intently on the task at hand, which was to select some chocolates for my taste-testing journey.

little shop of chocolate.

little shop of chocolate.

The very first chocolate that caught my eye was a white chocolate pyramid – a small, edible version of the one outside the entrance.  I definitely had to get that. I came to find out later there was a hazelnut ganache on the inside. Mmm hmmm. I selected a few others – one that looked like a chocolate covered orange slice, one dark chocolate with small coconut flakes on top, and a couple more that appealed to me. She packed them in a dainty little bag (similar to the ones I saw in some of the shops the day before – these must be the prime packaging for chocolates in Brussels), and I grabbed a business card, paid and was on my way. I have to say, their logo was definitely my favorite – it fit the name perfectly.

it's all about branding.

it’s all about branding.

I ate the pyramid first, and it was perfect. As a lover of white chocolate, it actually wound up being my singular favorite piece on the tour. The others were delicious too, but the pyramid really made the grade. If I were to create my perfect piece of chocolate, that pyramid would be it.

a wonder of the chocolate world.

a wonder of the chocolate world.

Hang in there and keep on keepin’ on to the next stop on the tour, which, was literally a hop skip and a jump away – Stop #7, Wittamer: where chocolate fantasies come true…

Recipe Monday Night: White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes.

I was thinking yesterday that I really wanted to bake something with peanut butter in it, but I really wanted it to be something a little different from the norm. Don’t get me wrong – I love the norm, and by norm I’m talking about peanut butter and chocolate. That really is my all time favorite combination. But I got to thinking….what about peanut butter and vanilla? Yeah! I’ll craft a peanut butter and vanilla cupcake!! But that didn’t sound quite as appetizing as a peanut butter and chocolate cupcake. So I found the perfect compromise: peanut butter and white chocolate cupcakes.

co-ed naked cupcakes.

They’re light, they’re fluffy, they’re peanut butter-y delicious. A perfect addition to any springtime soiree. Top them with some Peanut Butter Buttercream – and you’ll be winning friends and influencing people like nobody’s business.

peanut butter bliss.

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes.

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

3 tsp oil

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

3 tsp baking powder

1 cup AP flour

1/2 cup milk

1 cup white chocolate chips

What you’ll do:

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Mix sugar, egg, oil and peanut butter. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add to egg mixture alternately with milk. Fold in the white chocolate chips. Line a muffin tin with paper liners, and fill each about 1/2 way. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Makes about a dozen cupcakes.

Peanut Butter Buttercream:

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup cream peanut butter

1 tsp vanilla

2 – 3 cups confectioner’s sugar

2-3 tbsp milk

What you’ll do:

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add the vanilla. Add two cups of confectioner’s sugar, and 1 tbsp of milk. Mix well. Add the second tbsp of milk, mix. At this point, alternate adding sugar and milk, until the desired consistency is reached, but do not add any more than 3 cups of sugar, or the icing will be too sweet.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas (mini) cupcakes.

Over the weekend, I participated in two Holiday craft fairs. The first one was the Traveling Wares which is a very cool series of “traveling” craft shows with a handful of very talented and artistic vendors, held at bars around Philadelphia, and of which I’ve been participating for probably about 8 years now. The second was the Punk Rock Flea Market, which is also very cool in a more “giant warehouse full of punks and funky junk” kinda way. Although both shows were very different, one thing remains the same: everyone loves cupcakes.  And apparently, everyone loves mini cupcakes even more.


minis all boxed up and ready to be devoured.


At show number one, someone saw me with the unopened box, and asked to buy the whole thing. At show number 2, I couldn’t even finish setting up my table before people were asking how much for the mini cupcakes. Now, I don’t know if it was the size, or the flavor (they were white chocolate mint), but something about these miniature cups of cake really caught everyone’s attention, whether they were a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, 
a poet, a pawn or a


i'm dreaming of a white chocolate christmas...

This was the fastest I’ve ever sold out of baked goods, and probably the most I’ve sold at one of these fairs. Had I known they’d be in such demand, I would have made more. But we learn from experience, and from this particular experience I’ve learned that mini cupcakes sell like hotcakes, and get more “look how cute!” reactions then a puppy. Ok, maybe about the same as a puppy. But you can’t eat a puppy.   

How bazaar.

When I was in grade school, every year around this time our school held it’s annual “Christmas Bazaar” in the gym. It was a bunch of vendors, selling handmade items and crafts, and a giant table loaded with donated baked goods in the hall. There was also a giant tree in the center of the lobby, and even a classroom where Santa was hanging out. I pretty much did all my Christmas shopping there as a kid. My mom would help me write my list, and then send me off to shop for everyone in one place. It’s a lovely memory and one I hold dear to my heart and look back on with a touch of melancholic nostalgia (as if there is any other kind).

But being a crafty lass even in those days, just shopping at the Bazaar wasn’t enough. So, I asked my mom if I could sell things that I made there, specifically those pot holders you weave on that plastic loom, as I was making them non-stop and thought instead of giving them away, I could sell them for money. I was 6 at the time. 

my first business enterprise.

 So I was not allowed to be a vendor at the Bazaar…but I was allowed to sell my pot holders at someone else’s table (I don’t know who – my mom took care of it – probably a random friend of hers). As I walked through the gym that year, purchasing my gifts, I saw my very own pot holders out for sale, and I was elated. And I even sold some! (well, I assume I did – it could have been an elaborate adult cover-up). But either way, this was my first taste of selling hand-made goods, and I was hooked.

Fast forward to today. I was an actual vendor at a Holiday Bazaar – not my old school, but it was exactly the same set up – baked goods in the hall, vendors in the gym. I was selling my book, but I had donated baked goods to the event in the form of:

Gingerbread mini cupcakes with pear buttercream…

nice molasses.

 white chocolate wreath cookies….

deck the halls, then eat them.

 and finally, the surprise hit of the fair, mini marzipan mice.

a mouse you'd want in the house.

 It was a lot of fun. I sold a few books, but besides that, I got a ton of positive feedback on the selection of “Small Indulgences” I baked and donated. It was like 1982, all over again. It’s funny how so many things change over time as we age…yet a wonderful feeling is a wonderful feeling, whether you’re 6 or 35. Knowing that others are enjoying things I made with my own hands, my own heart and my own soul – pot holders or marzipan mice – well there’s really nothing better. So encourage your kids to do what they love – they’ll be better people for it, and one day, they’ll thank you.

Thanks, Mom. 🙂