Super Crunchy Chocolate-Peppermint Bark

There are a few basic, totally non-religious beliefs I have about the holidays:

1. If the Hershey's Kisses "Jingle Bells" commercial doesn't warm the cockles of your heart, you might be dead inside.
2. From December 17th until January 2nd, a glass of Champagne is perfectly acceptable at any time of day.
3. Chocolate and Peppermint are the Brangelina of the season.

I'm also a big believer in edible gifts. Maybe it's because of my Midwestern roots, maybe it's because I desperately need  a way to disperse the parade of treats coming from my kitchen due to an incurable compulsion to bake en masse come October, but either way, edible gifts are one of my favorite things in all the land. This year, with testing for cookbook #2 in the works, there are even more sweet treats all up in here than usual, so edible gifts are as much of a joy to make as they are a necessity to keep perfectly delicious things from meeting the compost. And because my pants will only stretch so much, I can only put my family so close to the brink of diabetes, and to be honest, most of my neighbors kind of creep me out so I'm scared to bring them recipe testing leftovers. True story.

But this, THIS!, recipe, is just too good to keep from anyone, even neighbors that you're less than warm and fuzzy about. It's the super-crunchiest chocolate peppermint bark you'll ever try. It's also the perfect thing to have in your arsenal when you need to make something quick for a crowd, or need a last-minute cheery little gift for someone, the sort of thing you can just pack into a cello bag with a festive ribbon and call it done. I live for little things like this during the holidays, don't you?

This completely addictive and dangerously quick and simple treat came into our lives recently, and let me tell you WHAT. It's really something. I usually am a big fan of peppermint bark anyway, but this version is way more chocolate than white chocolate, and ramps things up with even more crunch than other versions. And the crunch isn't just courtesy of crushed peppermint candies either. Oh, no. The nubbly, irresistible crunch here is also due in large part to the inclusion of a healthy amount of crushed Oreo cookies. Mmm-hmm. I'll just let you sit with that information for a moment.

Oh! And! Speaking of gifts, there's still time to enter the Baking Cookbook Giveaway. I am so loving hearing about all of your favorite holiday treats--such sweet stories! Entries will be accepted through Wednesday, December 7th at 6:00 pm PST. The winner will be announced here Thursday morning.

Super Crunchy Chocolate-Peppermint Bark

Makes about 2 pounds of candy

For the chocolate, you can use either chips or bar chocolate, but I love this recipe with Ghiradelli chips which are delicious and economical, so there you go. The peppermint candies can be either canes or those little round discs. To crush both the cookies and the candies, I put each in to their own separate heavy duty zip top bag, and have at 'em with a rolling pin. I like to crush them somewhere between coarse and fine--a mixture of bigger and smaller pieces with a smattering of cookie and candy dust makes for great texture.

2 12-ounce bags high-quality bittersweet chocolate chips (or chopped bar chocolate)

1 1/4 cups crushed Oreo cookies (about 15 cookies)

1 cup crushed peppermint candy bits

2 ounces white chocolate, melted (optional)

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or a silicone baking mat.

Place the chocolate chips in a large, heatproof bowl. Melt the chocolate in the microwave with 30-second bursts of high power, stirring well after each interval, until the chocolate is completely smooth (you can also melt the chocolate over a double boiler, if you prefer). Stir in all the crushed cookies, and about half of the peppermint candies. Scrape the mixture out onto the prepared pan and smooth into a thin layer (if you're working with a standard half sheet pan, about 12x17 inches, then the chocolate will nearly fill the pan when you spread it out--you want the layer to be relatively thin). Sprinkle the remaining peppermint candies over the top. Drizzle artfully with white chocolate, if you like. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes, before breaking into pieces.

CandyShauna Sever