A recipe is only a guideline. I know that can be hard to remember. But you don’t have to follow a recipe to the exact letter, if you don’t want to.
How often do you need to hear that? If the answer is often, then find a recipe and get started. give yourself permission to make it over in your image and to your tastes.
I did that recently with this White Chocolate Bark recipe from Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That?” (Clarkson Potter, $35), which a friend gave me last Christmas. I’ve been playing around with a few recipes from the book over the past year, substituting an ingredient here and taking up a kernel of an idea there that takes the recipe in a whole new direction.
The results have always been good, which is what keeps me coming back to the book whenever I need an easy idea.
For the following recipe, I was looking for something easy and sweet to take to friends who had invited me over for lunch. I loved the white chocolate idea and the pistachios, which is half of recipe, but I stopped there. Instead of dried cranberries and apricots, I used toasted coconut, which I knew both friends enjoyed, and dried cherries and blueberries, which were what I had on hand. Besides, the sounds of coconut, cherries and nuts just sounded great.
The end result? An easy winner. I have modified the original recipe, though, in a few ways. I reduced the cooking time on roasting the pistachios. I had mine in for 8 minutes and they burned beyond use. Plus, I melted my white chocolate in a double boiler since I don’t have a microwave.
What would you do to make this recipe your own? Toasted almond slivers? Golden raisins? Crushed candy canes? Not all together, maybe. But fel free to experiment. Any good recipe will give you the base to spring from, and it doesn’t have to be difficult.
Here’s what the Barefoot Contessa has to say about this recipe: “Good vanilla is my favorite flavoring, which is why I love white chocolate. It’s also a great base here for salty pistachios, tart cranberries and sweet dried apricots. After dinner when we move to the living room, I like to serve a little brandy, some white chocolate bark and a bowl of clementines to continue the party.”
White Chocolate Bark
1/2 cup whole shelled salted pistachios
16 ounces good white chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried medium-diced dried apricots
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a pencil, draw an 8-by-10-inch rectangle on a piece of parchment paper. Turn the parchment paper over so the pencil mark doesn’t get onto the chocolate and place it on a sheet pan.
Place the pistachios in one layer on another sheet pan and bake for 6 minutes or until aromatic and toasted. Set to cool.
Place three quarters of the white chocolate in a heat-proof glass bowl and put it in the microwave on high for 30 seconds. (Time it with your watch for accuracy.) Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula, return it to the microwave for another 30 seconds, then stir again. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second intervals until the chocolate is just melted. Immediately stir in the remaining chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it’s completely smooth. (If you need to heat it a little more, place it in the microwave for another 15 seconds.)
Or, set up a pan with about 1 inch of water in the bottom. Heat until water is about 150 degrees. Set up a double boiler by placing a second pan over the top of the bottom pan. Pour the white chocolate into the top pan. Start stirring immediately and don’t stop until all of the chocolate is melted. White chocolate has a low melting point and can scorch easily, so don’t let the water underneath get too hot. You can remove the top pan with one hand stir with the other, if you think it is getting too hot.
Pour the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper and spread it lightly to fill the drawn rectangle. Sprinkle the top evenly with the cooled pistachios, the cranberries and apricots. Press the nuts and fruit lightly so they will set in the chocolate. Set aside for at least 2 hours until firm or refrigerate for 20 minutes. Cut or break the bark in 16 pieces and serve at room temperature.
Makes 16 pieces.
Adapted from “Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That?” by Ina Garten