White chocolate, dark chocolate, and crushed candy cane: peppermint bark from Jo’s Candies. All photography by Melody Lan.
Bark That’s White, Bark That’s Dark, Bark We Love to Bite
We can’t think of many holiday flavors that capture the spirit of the holiday season the way that peppermint does. From candy canes to peppermint stick ice cream to the occasional peppermint martini, we happily nibble peppermint-laced treats all month long. A favorite among favorites is classic peppermint bark.
Historically, peppermint has been used to aid digestive ailments, as it soothes the stomach lining and promotes digestion. It can also help with headaches and congestion. It is even rumored to be a liver detoxifyer, something to keep in mind as one prepares for holiday cocktail parties.
We won’t claim that peppermint bark is a great way to get that palliative dose of peppermint...but we’ll use any excuse to have a piece. For the unacquainted, peppermint bark is basically a thin bar of chocolate with broken pieces of peppermint candy mixed in or sprinkled on top. There are many variations on this basic recipe, but it’s a pretty uncomplicated treat.
As we searched for a group of exemplary barks for this review, the problem we encountered with many was that they tasted a little...tasteless. Our finalists are those that don’t sacrifice the bite or the high-quality chocolate, and that were adult chocolates—i.e., not cloying kid stuff.
Any of our three finalists would look beautiful atop an ice cream coupe, or on the saucer of a hot chocolate or cup of coffee. You can add them to a platter of cookies more easily than traditional chocolates because the sweetness level of the white chocolate and mint isn’t out of balance with the cookies. Or, just fill a candy bowl with them—and be prepared to refill, and refill, and refill!
Sensational Sweets’ Chippers
Sensational Sweet’s take on bark takes bark to a fun new level. Their barks, called Chippers, are squares of creamy white chocolate bejeweled with tiny chips of candy. The peppermint doesn’t pack as much of a minty punch as the other flavors, but it distinguishes itself as a rich and mellow white chocolate confection with a quality crunch of the candy pieces—and it survived a tasting process that felled many mintier competitors. Among our finalists, we award it Miss Congeniality, for its irresistible chocolatey* appeal.
|Peppermint Chippers are white chocolate squares with chips of peppermint candy. They could be mintier, but the mellow white chocolate hits the spot.
*Yes, we know that the FDA guidelines say that white chocolate is not chocolate, but to us at THE NIBBLE, it is!
For holiday gifts, check out the entire Chippers: the orange, lemon and lime chippers provide a refreshingly tart bite, while blueberry and raspberry are a bit more subdued like the peppermint. The most unique Chipper is the espresso, featuring ground espresso beans instead of candy pieces. The texture, flavor and aroma will delight coffee lovers.
Jo’s Candies and Traverse Bay Confections
Most elegant in appearance with a bottom of dark chocolate are Jo’s Candies Peppermint Bark and Traverse Bay Confections’ Chocolate Peppermint Bark. They look very much the same in photography, except that Jo’s comes individually wrapped in 2" squares, and Traverse Bay packages five 4-1/4" x 2-5/8" rectangles in a cellophane bag with a perky candy-striped grosgrain ribbon. For the candy dish, Traverse Bay makes more sense; for wee gifties, Jo’s.
Both balance a dark chocolate bottom layer against a creamy white chocolate top layer that is studded with crushed red and white peppermint candies. Jo’s it’s the sweeter (in fact, the sweetest of all four). These are the prettiest barks, the “swimsuit contest winners” of the finalists.
Sweet Darlings barks are made in Alaska. Their long journey is a worthwhile trip. The all-white chocolate covered in bright red, white and green crushed peppermint and the candy has a crisp snap. Its sharp, minty flavor gives way to a mellow, creamy sweetness that lingers. They won the competition as “Best Overall Peppermint Bark”: pretty, minty, and overall, addictive. Birch Bark made with Alaskan birch toffee (birch bark syrup is a spiritual cousin of maple syrup), also tastes very much “of the season,” and is a nice addition to the peppermint.
|Sweet Darlings bark has lots of crushed peppermint and a deep mint flavor.
Ready to Bark?
Break your bark up into large chunks and fill your candy bowl to the brim; or crush the bark and use it to top ice cream, cakes or cupcakes. Add a piece to a dessert plate or perch a piece on a coffee or tea saucer. Stirring a piece into hot cocoa produces a happy, minty beverage that compensates a bit for the paucity of sunlight.
Peppermint barks from left to right: Jo’s Candies, Sweet Darlings, Sensational Sweets.
Shipping additional. Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change over time.