Cookies ‘N Cream Bark Recipe

When the holidays swing around, I love to gift homemade things, but sometimes…not everyone wants that knit scarf you spent hours making. I’m not saying you shouldn’t make your beloved craft gifts, I’m just saying…you know there are some people who will appreciate the hours you spent knitting and there are others who won’t appreciate your gift as much. Crafty people, you feel me right?

In addition to different levels of appreciation, there’s also the time factor. With many handmade gifts requiring hours of your attention, there’s truly only so many handmade gifts you can make every season.

Well home-made-gift-loving-friends, I have a solution for you…

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CANDY! Homemade candy, that is.

Everyone loves candy, right? Ok, if you want to get technical, not eeeeeeveryone loves candy, but I find most people do. :)

Anywho, this homemade candy would be a fabulous gift to give any time of year, but I’m gifting mine away for Christmas 2010.

If my pink salted caramels seemed too daunting for you, I have an even easier solution. This candy is practically no-cook. This candy is…Bark. All you really need to do to make bark is melt some chocolate and mix/sprinkle in cookies, nuts, or candy. Wait. Break. Package. Seriously…it’s a no brainer. Not only is bark easy to make, but it looks fancy, too, so you’ll get major brownie points for putting this simple candy together.

In this post, I’m going to show you how to make Cookies ‘N Cream bark.

Cookies ‘N Cream Bark

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To make Cookies ‘N Cream bark, you’ll need white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and cream-filled chocolate cookies. You can use Oreos, but I like Newman’s own for the more natural ingredient list.

Ingredients:

  • 2 small bags (11 oz each) of white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup semi-sweet morsels
  • 14-16 cream-filled chocolate cookies (depending on how cookie-ish you want your bark – I used 16)
  • wax paper

Directions:

I decided to go visual. ;)

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Place your white chocolate chips in a double boiler over medium (or medium low depending on your stove…just hot enough to melt the chocolate) to get the chips melting. If you don’t have a double boiler (like me), use a heat safe bowl over a pot filled with roughly enough water to fill the pot 1 inch up the side. The amount of water you need will vary depending on your bowl and pot, but basically, you want enough water so it doesn’t boil away but you don’t want the bottom of the bowl to touch the water.

Repeat with the semi-sweet chocolate chips in a separate double-boiler (or pot set-up as described above).

If you don’t have a double boiler or pot set-up, you can place the chips in separate microwave safe bowls and heat at 30 second increments, stirring between each increment, until the chocolate is melted.

(Bottom line, you’re trying to melt the chocolate in two separate containers.)

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Meanwhile, get your cookies out.

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Place them in a large, sealed plastic bag (try to get the extra air out before sealing). Gently tap the cookies with a rolling pin or back of a large spoon…whatever you need to break the cookies into smaller pieces.

*Options step – Stir half your broken cookie pieces into the white chocolate before moving to the next step. Having made this now and seen a lot of the cookie pieces fall off when you just sprinkle them on top, I recommend this step, but you will not see stirred in cookies in the photos*

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When the white chocolate is melted, pour it into a baking sheet lined with wax paper.

Note: Depending on the size of your sheets, you may need to use one or two. (I used 2)

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With the back of a spatula, spread the chocolate out to an even layer – about 1/4 inch high or to your thickness preference.

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Pour the melted semi-sweet chocolate on top of the white chocolate and use a tooth pick to draw swirls in the chocolate, careful to not catch the wax paper below.

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Before the chocolate sets, sprinkle broken cookies (or remaining cookie pieces if you went with the optional step above) over the chocolate and gently press into the chocolate.

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Wait at least 1 hour with bark at room temperature. When bark is set, break into small pieces.

And you’re done. See…I told you that was easy.

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Now go ahead and do a little taste test before packaging to give to your friends and family. ;) You deserve it!

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As I alluded to on my pink salted caramel post, I have a simple and beautiful packaging idea for you that I’ll be sharing shortly. Stay tuned for details, but here’s a photo preview for you lovely readers!

Cheers! :)

PS This bark is not only great for gifts, but also to serve at a dinner party or to take to pot lucks and other food-sharing parties.

I can’t wait to experiment with this bark recipe and try some new flavors! What’s your favorite type of bark?

Pink Salted Chewy Caramel Candy Recipe

When I first heard about salted caramel candies, I thought it sounded totally gross. I know people love the whole savory-sweet thing (myself included on a rare occasion), but I wasn’t getting why people would put straight up salt on a piece of candy. Maple syrup on sausages…ok. But salt and basically sugar together in one bite?

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Of course, it wasn’t long before I had caught on to the salted caramel trend. One bite and I was sold. Popular eats are typically not popular without reason, so I quickly caught onto what everyone was raving about. I found the strangely delicious combo of salted caramel heavenly. So unexpected…so divine.

It was no wonder that when I decided to jump into the wild world of candy making that salted caramels were my first choice.

I tried this recipe by The Kitchn and had pretty good success at my first attempt. The second however, did not go as planned, though I don’t blame the recipe…I now blame my candy thermometer. See, after my second batch came out rock hard, I googled to find the reason for my botched caramel attempt. Most suggestions mentioned something about cooking too long or to too hot a temperature, but I knew I had very closely monitored my temp, so it must have been something else.

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When I stumbled upon a tip to check the calibration of my thermometer, I thought it was a waste of time. But since I didn’t know what else was wrong with my botched caramel making attempt from before, I decided to give it a go before trying my third batch. To my surprise, the candy thermometer I was using read 175 degrees F in boiling water while my instant read thermometer read a closer to correct 211 degrees F. No wonder my second batch came out so wrong! I can’t believe I got something usable out of the first batch!

With a reliable in thermometer on hand, I decided to try out homemade caramel candies again…this time making up my own recipe based on internet research and the proportions of this recipe.

See, when I was researching, I found many instances of caramel recipes that threw all ingredients into a single pot, unlike the 2 The Kitchn recipe used. Since I’m not a fan of cleaning extra pots, I decided to go with that method. I still wanted to keep the size to something I could put in an 8×8 casserole dish, thus the proportions I utilized. I also found differences in final cooking temperature, but most varied between 245 and 250. I decided to play it safe and stick with 245 so I didn’t experience slab-o-caramel again. The recipes varied quite a bit with types of creams, fats, and sugars, but I decided to stick with the ingredients that seemed most traditional and simple. After all my research, I was extra comfortable embarking on a third caramel candy making adventure. :)

Here’s what I did…

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I lined my 8×8 dish with parchment paper. Be sure to line up both sides using 2 sheets of parchment. If you don’t (and I made this mistake on my first attempt), the caramel will be extremely difficult to remove from the sides of the pan. Don’t skip this step.

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This recipe is simplified to allow you to put all ingredients into a pot at the same time.

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When the mixture boils, it will rise quite a bit. Use a pot that is at least 2 times as large as your liquids, but more like 3 will be safer. The temperature will most likely waver around 222 for quite some time, but I found when it started raising in temperature, especially closer to the end of the cooking time, the temperature jumped faster and faster! Watch your candy thermometer!

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Once the mixture reaches 245 degrees F (using your calibrated thermometer), remove from heat, stir in vanilla. Then, pour into your baking dish. Cross fingers and hope for the best.

Let it rest at room temperature for 3 hours.

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After patiently waiting, remove your caramel candy from the baking dish and cut into small pieces. Most recipes recommended 1 inch pieces, but I found a slightly smaller cut to be easier to eat and yields more servings.

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I used pink salt because I thought it looked the prettiest. It also reminded me a bit of the candy I reviewed from Theo awhile back. But you can use almost any salt you want, just be careful of the flavored ones. Dean and Deluca had quite a few options but most grocery stores will at least have a coarse fleur-de-sel type of salt, which is what you want (not table salt).

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Sprinkle the tops of the caramel with a bit of salt and press salt gently into the tops.

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You can put the candies into individual paper cups or wrap them in small pieces of wax paper.

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I liked the wax paper because it was easier to package.

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Pink Salted Chewy Caramel Candy

Inspired by this recipe by Live Laugh Eat who adapted it from this recipe.

These chewy caramels are easy and a great first-candy-making experience. They also make a great gift. Wow your friends by using a fancy salt and labeling your candy so it sounds extra chic.

See photos and notes above for some helpful tips.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) cut into 1 tbsp pieces
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • coarse salt like pink salt or fleur-de-sel for topping caramels

Directions:

  1. Prepare an 8×8 casserole dish with parchment paper, ensuring to cover up the sides of all 4 sides (see photo above), using 2 sheets of parchment paper criss-crossed.
  2. Combine the first 7 ingredients (heavy cream through table salt) in a medium pot (should be about 2 to 3 times as large as your total ingredients because the mixture will grow as you cook it). Insert candy thermometer into mixture (I believe you want to avoid allowing the tip of the thermometer from touching the bottom of the pot). Turn heat to medium high and bring to a boil, stirring frequently to ensure sugar crystals dissolve completely.
  3. Once mixture reaches a boil, turn heat down to medium and do not stir any further. Instead, use handle to gently swirl mixture in pot occasionally. Cook mixture until it reaches 245 degrees F (roughly 20-30 minutes, but it will depend on your stove heat and vary quite a bit). Monitor your temperature closely, especially towards the end of cooking.
  4. Once the mixture reaches 245 degrees F, remove the pot from heat, gently stir in the vanilla and then pour mixture into your prepared baking dish.
  5. Cool at room temperature for 3 hours or until set.
  6. Cut into small pieces (I cut mine into just under 1 inch pieces, about 2/3 inch – I eye-balled the sizes).
  7. Sprinkle tops of caramels with pink salt of fleur de sel. Gently press salt into the tops of the caramels.
  8. Place candies into individual paper cups or wrap in small pieces of wax paper.
  9. Enjoy!

Handmade caramels make a wonderful gift any time of year!

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Pinterest review:

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Pin by Jacqueline

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Check back later for my cookies ‘n cream bark recipe and a fun holiday packaging idea!

Do you like salted caramels? Any other savory-sweet combos?

Peachy-Keen Breakfast + Theo Pink Salted Caramel Review

Howdy folks! Hope you’re all having a spectacular week!

Wedding Bliss

I, myself, am getting more and more excited for my trip this weekend. I haven’t said much about it, but I think I mentioned yesterday that the wedding is for my oldest best friend. Oldest as in years I’ve known her. I moved around quite a bit when I was younger and when I was around 7 or 8, we moved to yet another new neighborhood in Orlando, FL. Shortly after moving in, a little girl in our neighborhood stopped by with a plate of no-bake peanut butter and jelly cookies. And the rest is history. We instantly became best friends, which was really convenient since we both lived in the same cul-de-sac, just 2 houses away from each other. We took piano lessons together and visited theme parks together (especially the water parks! love those!) and just had a blast…till a couple short years later when my family decided to move back to SC. *sad face*

My friend and I vowed to spend two weeks together each year so we could stay in touch, but that eventually fizzled out.

Well, fast forward many years and around 2005, I decided to google my dear friend and would you know it…she was in NC for school! She actually lived just a couple miles away from hubby’s mom and was taking a class from his aunt! Small world!

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I found my friend, Serena, just in time to have her be a co-maid of honor in my wedding and now, I’m going to be a bridesmaid in hers!!!

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The photo of my bridesmaid dress was one hint and this weather report is another. Check out the weather report for the wedding destination for the weekend. It’s going to be gorgeous! Know where I’m going yet?

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While I’m super pumped about the wedding, I’m really sad to be leaving this little guy behind. He never gets to go on the cool trips! Luckily, my family will be taking care of him this weekend, so I know he’ll be in good hands.

(Think I could sneak Bailey into my carry-on? heehee)

Wednesday Eats

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My Take Out Oops from last night (click) brought me a fantabulous breakfast of a Flying Biscuit Oatmeal pancake with peach topping. Sooo good…I feel a new obsession coming on.

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Hot coffee.

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Morningstar “sausage” on the side for extra TFB effect (TFB is the first place I had a non-meat “sausage”)

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I re-heated my pancake in the oven for a crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside texture.

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Did I mention this peach topping is delicious. *drool*

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Thanks to my ankle, I wore sneaker to work today. I don’t really think that many people noticed. My ankle is actually feeling pretty good today…I almost wanted to work out on it, but I want to ensure I rest enough for it to be 100% rather than push myself too far, too soon.

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Lunch was basically a repeat of yesterday.

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A big organic salad with dressing leftover from last night. Hey, waste not, want not. That dressing was delicious! I need to try to re-create it!

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Southwestern Quinoa Salad.

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Spelt toast (no topping). I need to get some jelly or something to keep at work, right?

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Heeey Minneola!

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It was cold in the office today, but luckily I was prepared. I bundled up in a Patagonia blanket I keep at my desk. The only problem is that I usually still need to type on my keyboard, so my arms/hands tend to stay cold.

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I swung by Great Harvest on my way home from work and got some treats for me and hubby and sampled their spinach bread. Dee-lish! I need me some of this!

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I dug into my first snack immediately – a mini cinnamon roll…yuuuum!

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Matt swung by today to help hubby bottle his home-brew and brought us a loaf of sourdough. Thanks Matt!!

I was going to incorporate the bread into dinner plans till hubby ordered pizza.

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I had two slices of cheese before I decided that I just HAD to have some of the sourdough.

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You try saying no to this! Nothing beats fresh-baked bread!

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I had a piece and a half (hubby asked for a bite) with some real butter.

Nice balanced, carb-aholic, dinner…riiiiight? hehe Some veggies would have been nice, but…oh well.

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Post dinner, we dug into our other GH treat – a split blondie.

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The blondie tasted almost like it wasn’t quite cooked through all the way, so I baked it for an extra 5 minutes.

The extra bake-time helped a little bit, but I wasn’t a fan of this one. Some people like the really dense, squishy center, but it’s not my thing. Now, those berry oat bran muffins…I am still infatuated with those. Yum!

Theo Pink Salted Caramel Review

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And, as if I didn’t have enough desserts today, I also decided to sample one of those Theo caramels I requested recently.

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Aren’t these Theo Chocolate Pink Salted Vanilla Caramels in Dark Chocolate gorgey?!

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I’m ready for my close-up Mr. Demille. ;)

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The verdict: delicious! It’s true what they say – that the salt accentuates the flavor of the caramel. The caramel was lovely and tender and was just the right amount of sweet. The dark chocolate was a nice, subtle shell for the main event – that fabulous caramel. I liked how the salt was nice and coarse so you could really taste it and get a good feel for the crunchy texture. This was a lovely marriage of savory and sweet. I think that these caramels would be best for the slightly more refined palate or the more adventurous eater or if you just want to give the gift of extra special sweets. Ooh la la! Click here to check out Theo’s other caramel flavors or to purchase the pink-salted vanilla flavor.

Thanks to Theo Chocolate for the samples! I’m moving on to the Orange Dark Chocotate next!

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Learn how to use food to your advantage with these tips I learned from Brendan Brazier.

It’s Earth Day tomorrow! Check out my article (click) for some easy ways to go Green.

Have you ever had salted caramels? What did you think?

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