Monday, December 5, 2011

Nibs & Seeds Chocolate Bark and Spiced Curry Cocoa Mix – Time for Holiday Gift Making!

December is here and the holiday season is buzzing already. I love the festivity and lights during this time of year. I just brought our Hanukkah box in from the garage and am having fun pulling out the colorfully painted dreidels, the Hanukkiahs my sons made from clay when they were little, cookie cutters and familiar decorations. Listening to Pink Martini sing “Ocho Kandelikas” has me in the holiday spirit, too.

It’s time to begin my holiday gift making. I always appreciate receiving handmade gifts - I know that someone used their talents and personal touches to create a gift that is meaningful and unique (and delicious!). So pull out your Mason jars, spice bottles, gift bags and ribbons!

I have two recipes to share with you today: Nibs & Seeds Chocolate Bark and Spiced Curry Cocoa Mix. I’ve made a variety of chocolate barks over the years – toasted coconut and macadamias, chilies and cinnamon, pistachios and dried cherries – and this year I decided to try something new with a roasted, crunchy flavor.

Cacao nibs have become my go-to snack to nibble on when I crave some chocolate. They are wonderful to include in granola, to top your vanilla ice cream or yogurt or to roll a log of goat cheese in for a quick appetizer. I could go on and on about cacao nibs!

I also have roasted pumpkin seeds on my mind from Halloween which leads me to think about other seeds. Flax seeds have health benefits and add some lovely texture, so why not include them, too? And with a sprinkling of coarse grey sea salt this bark is complete. I usually prefer very dark chocolate (85-90%) but when making bark for gifts, I use 72%. The large bars at Trader Joe’s are wonderful to stock up on this time of year.

I was inspired to make homemade cocoa mix by Jennifer Reese in her new book, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter. I read her book cover-to-cover in almost one sitting and loved it. I promise to write more about it in another post – lots to share! Jennifer’s recipe is for classic hot cocoa, and I decided to take it a step further and spice it up with cinnamon and curry powder. It is fragrant, delicious and just a little bit different.

Some other gifts from the kitchen that I am making are granola, dukkah spice mix, chipotle spice rub, cacao nib brittle and cranberry bread. I do love spending time in the kitchen during this time of year. Happy December to you!

Nibs & Seeds Chocolate Bark
Makes 2 1/2 - 3 dozen pieces

1 pound dark chocolate
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1/8 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup cacao nibs
1/2 teaspoon coarse grey sea salt
Gift bags to package it

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

In a medium saucepan, melt the chocolate over very low heat, stirring often and being careful to not scorch it. When most of the chocolate is melted, remove from the heat and keep stirring to melt the remaining pieces.

Reserve a few of the seeds and nibs to sprinkle on top. Stir the rest of the seeds and nibs into the chocolate. Pour the chocolate mix onto the prepared baking sheet and use a spatula to spread evenly. Sprinkle the reserved seeds and the salt over the top.

Pop the pan in the refrigerator for about an hour or until solid. When ready to package, break the chocolate into pieces. You can also score the chocolate with a knife (perhaps 4x8) and break along the lines if you’d like more uniform pieces. Store at room temperature in an air tight container.

Spiced Curry Cocoa Mix
Adapted from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter
By Jennifer Reese
Makes 2 1/2 cups mix for about 15-20 cups of cocoa

1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 teaspoons curry powder
Small jars with lids for packaging

Sift all of the ingredients together into a bowl. Store in an airtight container, such as a lidded jar. You can give it as gifts in smaller Mason or Weck jars – just add a tag with instructions.

To make the cocoa, use 2-3 tablespoons per cup of hot milk and stir.


  1. Hannah, I want all of the homemade gifts you've mentioned here. What brilliant ideas! That curry cocoa sounds so phenomenal, and I love flax seeds in chocolate. Yum! Happy December to you, too!

  2. @Brianne
    Thank you, Brianne! Lots of fun in the kitchen. And the Food52 Secret Santa swap inspired me to start earlier this year.

  3. The chocolate bark looks interesting, but I think that most of the people I would want to feed it to would meet it with raised eyebrows.
    The coco mix though, that is a godsend. I like to make up my own hot chocolate on occasion, but do it rarely enough that I never quite remember the ratios I used last time. I end up with cocoa powder, sugar, and gallon of milk all out and buy the stove as I add various amounts of each until I finally get something near what I am looking for. Having an actual ratio will be delightful.

  4. Nice! I've been experimenting with chocolate bark lately and I like your take on it. And I hope Santa brings me some spicy cocoa...

  5. Hey, how do I end up on your gift list?! =D This looks awesome!

  6. @Erica
    Hi Erica - I had similar cocoa dilemmas so I was very happy to discover the ratios and start making it to keep on hand (in a sealed jar it will keep indefinitely). I hope you enjoy it!

    Thank you, rowdychowgirl! Chocolate bark is great to experiment with - I'd love to hear what you discover!

  8. @Brooke
    Aw, thanks, Brooke! Lots of fun in the kitchen this time of year. :)

  9. Great ideas! I usually have some homemade cocoa mix on hand, as well, though it's nowhere near as adventurous as yours!

    P.S. I'm oh-so-envious of that Weck jar, by the way. They're such adorable jars!

  10. @Lauren
    Hi Lauren - You're right, the Weck jars are adorable! I just learned about a place selling the little tulip shaped ones and I need to run by and grab some. So fun to fill the jars up!

  11. Lovely post - funnily earlier I was staring down my 70% bar of dark chocolate thinking about making bark!

  12. @Lisa (this litttle piggy)
    Thanks, Lisa - I guess chocolate bark is in the air! Not a bad thing, at all. :)

  13. Beautiful gifts :) There may well have to be some chocolate bark making very soon!

    1. Thank you, Mairi! Fortunately, chocolate bark is good any time of the year. :)


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