There are about five gazillion things that I love about Christmas, but one that I didn’t realize how much I loved until I moved away from home was the neighborhood gift exchange that happens annually on my parents’ street. I know similar traditions pop up in neighborhoods everywhere, but I like to think that our little row of houses (“our” because that place will always and forever be my home) does it up right.
From the second week of December and throughout the holidays, neighbors take turns ringing doorbells and dropping off treats. What makes the tradition so awesome, I think, is the veritable smorgasbord of food that piles up in the end. There are the tins of assorted popcorns, the trays of Christmas cookies, the salty snack mixes and the homemade cinnamon rolls (my parents happen to be flanked by two sets of homemade-cinnamon-roll-makers, which most certainly ups their property value if you ask me).
And then there’s whatever treat my family whips together at the 11th hour and runs out the door in hopes that folks haven’t left yet on their holiday travels. Last year, we succeeded in delivering to all but two neighbors. Huzzah! We bake with love; we just don’t always bake on time.
This year, I’m thinking peppermint bark might be the ticket. This super simple recipe tastes delicious (quite similar to the Williams-Sonoma stuff in fact) and keeps really well in the refrigerator. Now if only we can get it prepared, packed and delivered in time. Challenge accepted!
Homemade Peppermint Bark
• 8 ounces dark chocolate
• 8 ounces white chocolate
• 2 teaspoons canola oil
• 6-8 candy canes
Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil, and smooth out the wrinkles as much as possible.
Melt the dark chocolate with 1 teaspoon of the canola oil, either on the stove or in the microwave, and pour it into the prepared pan. Smooth it out in an even layer, and place the pan in the refrigerator until the dark chocolate has set, about 1 hour.
In the meantime, crush the candy canes. (Giving them a quick whirl in the food processor is a super easy way to get the job done.)
Once the dark chocolate has hardened, melt the white chocolate with 1 teaspoon of canola oil. Spread the white chocolate over the dark chocolate, and smooth it into an even layer. Sprinkle on the crushed candy canes, and gently press them into the white chocolate. Place the pan back in the refrigerator for another hour, until the white chocolate has set.
Peel back the foil, and gently break apart the peppermint bark into pieces. Package the bark in parchment paper in a fun tin for gifting. (Note: The bark keeps best refrigerated in an airtight container.)
Does your neighborhood have any fun holiday traditions? A Christmas party? Cookie exchange? Please tell me someone lives somewhere with a Frosty-on-the-roof tradition à la Christmas with the Kranks!
This recipe was originally included in an article I wrote for the December issue of Carolina Parent on easy DIY gift ideas for kids to make. You can see the rest of the recipes and projects here.