Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Spider Bark

Now, before I give you the recipe, I need to give you an explanation of the name, lest any misunderstandings occur.
For years, one of my favorite homemade candies was “spiders” – chow mein noodles and peanuts covered in chocolate and butterscotch.  The name was derived from the shape of the candies, as their misshapen appearance vaguely ivaguely suggestive of a spider.  Now, we don’t often stock up on chow mein noodles, so it wasn’t surprising that I didn’t have any on hand on a certain day in 2012 when I was craving this candy.  I ended up improvising, creating my own version of the candy – a lumpy nut-and-coconut-filled chocolate-and-butterscotch-covered… lump.
Not surprisingly, the similarly-flavored candies also ended up being called spiders, though they no longer bore any resemblance to any sort of insect.  I eventually got tired of trying to spoon the mixture into similarly-sized lumps, so I chopped up the nuts and smoothed the mixture into a slab, making it into a sort of bark.  Despite my attempt to give it a more appealing name, however, my siblings didn’t miss a beat and started calling it “smooshed flat spiders”.
Anyway.  If you want to, feel free to think up your own name for this candy.  And if you don’t, rest assured in the knowledge that a spider’s bark is better than its bite.  :P
The first step is to melt a bag of chocolate chips.  If you have a microwave, you could do it in there.  Otherwise, the stovetop works fine, especially if you have a double boiler.  If you don’t have one, you’ll have to watch carefully to make sure you don’t burn the chocolate, but it’s still quite doable.
Oh, and you really must use dark chocolate.  Milk chocolate is sad.  So.
Next, measure out two cups of nuts.  I used pecans and almonds, since they happen to be my favorites; you can use whatever type you like or have on hand.  Raw, roasted, salted or not – all work fine, and it’s really an issue of preference.

Chop up those nuts in a food processor until most of ‘em are smaller than pea-size.  Larger chunks make it harder to chew and break bark into pieces, and smaller would make the nuts disappear in the chocolate and result in a loss of that delightful crunchiness.
(The camera battery died after I took the above photo, and I had to use our old low-quality backup camera for the next several photos.  Pardon the not-so-appetizing quality of these pictures, please.)
Stir those nuts into the chocolate, along with (unsweetened & toasted) coconut flakes and butterscotch-flavored chips.
Pour the mixture out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.   (See how the butterscotch isn’t totally mixed into the chocolate?  That’s good.  We don’t wish for it to disappear – though we don’t want its flavor to be scarce, either.  Adding it in last helps keep it slightly distinct, but the heat of the melted chocolate will still be enough to make sure it melts a bit.)
Then, place another piece of parchment paper on top and smash it until it’s flat.  A rolling pin helps if it’s being stiff and lumpy.  When it’s flattened enough, stick it in the freezer.  And then wait.  And wait.  And try not to think about how good it’ll taste.  And keep waiting.  I know, I know, waiting… it isn’t easy.  But when it finally hardens, pull it out..
…and snap, smash, crush, or break apart in some way or another.
That’s it!  Now all you have to do is guard it from any family members who think it’s okay to claim it all for themselves.  ;)


Spider Bark

  • 12 oz chocolate chips
  • 2 cups chopped nuts
  • ½ cup coconut flakes
  • ½ cup butterscotch chips
  1. Melt chocolate in a double boiler.
  2. Add other ingredients.
  3. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Pour mixture onto parchment paper and cover with another piece of parchment paper.
  5. Use your hands to smoosh the chocolate mixture into a thin layer between the papers. A rolling pin may be helpful if the mixture is being stubborn.
  6. Without removing the parchment paper, transfer the baking sheet to the freezer. Chill until hardened.
  7. Remove from baking sheet; peel off parchment paper. Break chocolate slab into small pieces.
  8. Enjoy! :D