Spicy Orange and Almond Dark Chocolate Bark

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It wouldn’t be February without chocolate. Even better, this spicy dark chocolate is zinged with orange zest, making it bright and picante in the same bite. Make it for someone you love and keep half for yourself, okay? -Maggie

My first experience with spicy chocolate was when I was an undergraduate. I was living in Burlington, Vermont, and one of my roommates, Susan, worked part-time downtown at the most fantastic locally-owned chocolatier. At the end of each of her shifts, she’d return to our apartment with a box of assorted chocolates – all the leftovers that were too old to sell but were still perfectly fine to eat. The two of us (and our six other roommates) would gather on her bed with bottles of wine and sample all the fancy, artisanal chocolates we couldn’t actually afford.

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It was on one of those nights when Susan spoiled us with a box of miniature dark chocolate bars blended with cinnamon, pumpkin seeds and spicy cayenne pepper. While the crunch of the seeds and the fragrance of the cinnamon felt vaguely familiar, the slow burn of the cayenne on my tongue and the back of my throat felt like a revelation.

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This Spicy Orange and Almond Dark Chocolate Bark is a bit of a homage to that night. The cayenne in this recipe is subtle; it releases just enough of a slow burn at the back of your throat to make it satisfying without feeling overwhelming. And like all barks, it requires the most basic of steps (melt chocolate, stir in a few goodies, freeze), but looks incredibly impressive to guests.

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Spicy Orange and Almond Dark Chocolate Bark

Makes: 1 9-x13-inch baking sheet

Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces dark chocolate (you choose the percentage, but we like 60-70%)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Zest of 1 orange, divided
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped, divided
  • Sea salt

Directions:

  1. Line a 9- x 13-inch baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. When the chocolate is melted, stir in the cayenne, 3/4 of the orange zest and 3/4 of the toasted almonds.
  3. Spread the chocolate mixture onto the prepared sheet, being sure to smooth it into as thin a layer as possible. Sprinkle with the remaining zest, almonds and a generous pinch of coarse sea salt.
  4. Place the baking sheet in the freezer until the chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.
Photos taken and styled by Angela Brown.

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