December 2, 2010

Sweet Surprises!

The Maine House is focusing on our sweet treats this week. Estelle's has always searched for good, quality holiday recipes that can be great for gift giving, but also for  delicious and attractive ways to  present to family on our holiday table.These three recipes are the best chocolate and dried fruit recipes we have been making for the past five years. We place them carefully in colorful paper boxes layered with holiday tissue paper and tie the little boxes with a bounty of ribbons! This makes a wonderful presentation for neighbors. For our own holiday table, we layer the different flavors in Miss Helen's crystal stemmed goblets, silver urns and antique holiday plates. You will find something for every chocolate lover in one of these goodies! 

 Estelle's Fruit and Cashew Chocolate Bark
8 ounces  semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces  bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup whole roasted, salted cashews
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Melt the 2 chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
Meanwhile, line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Using a ruler and a pencil, draw a 9 by 10-inch rectangle on the paper. Turn the paper facedown on the baking sheet.
Pour the melted chocolate over the paper and spread to form a rectangle, using the outline. Sprinkle the cashews, apricots and cranberries over the chocolate. Set aside for 2 hours until firm. Cut the bark in 1 by 3-inch pieces and serve at room temperature

Estelle's Three -Chocolate Cherry Pecan Bark
7 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups pecan pieces
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cinnamon
1 pound semisweet chocolate, cut into pieces
1 pound milk chocolate, cut into pieces
1 pound white chocolate, cut into pieces
2 cups dried cherries, rehydrated and chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large saute pan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter.
Add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves and is bubbly. Add the pecans.
Season the pecans with salt, cayenne, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar starts to caramelize and coat the pecans evenly. Cook for about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and spread the pecans over a parchment lined baking sheet. Place the pan in the oven and roast the pecans for about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and cool completely. Break the pecans into small pieces. Fill three small saucepans half way up the pan with water. Place the pans over medium heat and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. In three separate mixing bowls, add each type of chips into the individual bowls. Place the bowls over the saucepans. After about 2 minutes over the heat the chocolate will start to melt. Stir each chocolate until totally melted. Remove the chocolate from heat and stir 1 tablespoon of butter into each bowl of chocolate. Pour each type of chocolate over the marble or a large parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the pecans and cherries over the chocolates. Using a metal spatula, spread the mixture out evenly back and forth to about 1/4-inch thick. Either place the marble in the refrigerator or allow to sit out until set, about a couple of hours. Break the bark into medium pieces and serve.

Estelle's White Chocolate Bark
1/2 cup walnuts , chopped into small bits
16 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup medium-diced apricots

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using a pencil, draw an 8 by 10-inch rectangle on a piece of parchment paper placed on a sheet pan. Turn the parchment paper over so the pencil mark doesn't get into the chocolate.
Place the walnuts in 1 layer on another sheet pan and bake for 8 minutes. Set aside to cool and then chop roughly into large pieces.
Place 3/4 of the chocolate in a glass bowl and place it in the microwave on high power for 30 seconds. Stir with a rubber spatula. Put it back in the microwave for another 30 seconds and stir again. Continue to heat and stir every 30 seconds until the chocolate is just melted. Immediately, add the remaining chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it's completely smooth.
Pour the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper and spread it lightly into the drawn rectangle. Sprinkle the top evenly with the cooled walnuts, the cranberries and apricots. Set aside for at least 2 hours until firm, or refrigerate for 20 minutes. Cut the bark in 16 pieces and serve at room temperature.

"Have yourself a merry little Christmas, make the Yuletide gay!"

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