A few weeks ago I had a few friends over to celebrate my birthday. We had some champagne and I made a few appetizers to nibble on, but I wanted to keep it low key. I'm not a huge birthday person to start with, and I don't like surprises or lots of attention focused on me, but I didn't have a housewarming for my apartment, so I thought this would be a good excuse to have some friends over who hadn't seen it yet.
As I thought about what to make, I felt the most unsure about the dessert. Technically, I wasn't serving dinner, so dessert wasn't required, but I do have a bit of a sweet tooth. I didn't want to bake myself a cake, embarrassed enough that I was throwing myself a party, and (as stated) I don't like surprises, so I insisted that guests only bring gifts of the liquid variety.
Ina Garten, as usual, solved the problem with her French Bark recipe. A simple, elegant dessert that consisted of chocolate, nuts, and dried fruit, this would be the perfect way to have something sweet to nibble on without going too over the top. She has a few recipes for it - both white and dark chocolate, and with varying nuts/fruit - featured in her books and on at least one episode of Barefoot Contessa that I've seen.
I used a mix of bittersweet and semi sweet chocolate, with almonds, hazelnuts, dried cranberries and dried almonds. The combination was great both presentation-wise and taste-wise. One thing I boldly (stupidly?) did was attempt to temper the chocolate without a thermometer. Ina uses a microwave to do hers, which I don't have, so I looked into various methods, namely Mark Bittman's recent article, and totally guessed the timing on all fronts. I'll admit, it barely worked and I had to keep the pieces in the freezer until serving; I'd definitely recommend getting a thermometer or microwave.
The recipe can be found here. I wish you more success than I had, though of course, the dish was enjoyed just as much as I think it would have had I properly tempered...