I like to make almond bark for Christmas and give some of it to family and close friends as a gift. A few years ago I thought that the addition of tiny pieces of maraschino cherries, both red and green, and tiny bits of pineapple, would make a pretty and festive holiday addition in the almond bark. I was right. The picture shown with this recipe does not have the fruit in it so you can't see how attractive my almond bark comes out.
I cut the fruits (each maraschino cherry was cut into eight pieces; each pineapple tidbit into four pieces) and dry the pieces briefly between paper towels to keep them from being wet. The drying avoids having the color from the fruit juice/syrup affect the appearance of the almond bark by migrating away from the fruit into the melted white chocolate surrounding it. Then I spread pieces of blanched chopped roasted almonds evenly on waxed paper on a cookie sheet, add the fruit pieces evenly all over, and then gently pour melted white chocolate over the nut and fruit pieces, to a thickness of 1/4". I let the candy cool and become firm, and I cut it into squares about 1 1/2" on a side. I store it in a sealed plastic food container with sheets of waxed paper between layers of the candy to keep it fresh.
For the 2012 Christmas season I decided to use candy molds of circular shape about two inches in diameter and about 5/16" deep. They worked very well and an unexpected benefit was the appearance of the candy after it became firm, for the underside displayed the fruit and almond pieces beautifully.
As you can see from my description of making almond bark it is very easy to do. You can use the fruit like I do or skip it and have excellent regular almond bark. You can even get fancy and use both milk chocolate and white chocolate, one after the other sets/becomes semi-firm, maintaining a total thickness of about 1/4".
The chocolate you use must be of high quality to make an excellent candy. I normally buy it online in ten-pound blocks for about $70 to $80 plus shipping. My advice is to buy the best brands, Belgian if you can find it, or, within the USA brands like Ghirardelli®, which will be less expensive but still pretty good. In short, making almond bark or any other candy with high quality chocolate is expensive, but well worth it when you taste what you have made. Quality trumps quantity, and that is what Food Nirvana is all about.
2 lbs.of high quality white chocolate (not the Nestle® white chocolate chips or similar products)
1 cup of raw almonds to be blanched, chopped, and roasted (or more to suit your preference)
1/4 cup of red maraschino cherry pieces
1/4 cup of green maraschino cherry pieces
1/4 cup of canned pineapple tidbit pieces
Set the oven temperature at 350 degrees F.
Blanch the raw almonds by putting them into a two cup Pyrex® glass measuring cup, adding water to cover the almonds, and microwaving the mixture on high power until the water boils. Drain the water and dump the almonds onto a cookie sheet. Squeeze the skins from them by using a rolling motion of the skin around the nut while pressing the skin towards the pointed end and the skins will come off easily. Dry the almonds with a two paper towels. Discard the skins.
Chop the almonds in half using a butcher knife on a wood cutting board, then spread the almond pieces evenly on the cookie sheet (or in candy molds). Put the cookie sheet into the oven.
Roast the almonds for five minutes, then use a spatula to mix them and redistribute them on the cookie sheet. Roast for an additional five minutes and remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Let the almonds cool and then put them into a bowl.
Clean the cookie sheet and cover it with waxed paper and distribute the almond pieces evenly on the waxed paper.
Chop enough maraschino cherries of both colors into eight pieces per cherry to produce 1/4 cup, pressed down lightly, of each.
Similarly, chop enough pineapple tidbits into four pieces each to produce 1/4 cup, pressed down lightly.
Put each type of chopped fruit on a separate paper towel, spread roughly evenly across most of the towel surface.
Place a second paper towel on top of each type of fruit and press down firmly and evenly all over the paper towel surface to cause liquid in the fruit to be absorbed by the paper towels.
Distribute the pieces of each type of fruit evenly on the cookie sheet (or in candy molds), but do not let any pieces of fruit be on top of the chopped almond pieces.
Chop the white chocolate into small pieces about 1/2" on each side. Put the pieces into a 9" x 9" glass oven casserole evenly and then microwave the chocolate on full power for one minute.
Mix the chocolate pieces that remain with the chocolate that has melted, then return the casserole to the microwave oven and microwave on full power for 45 seconds.
Repeat the mixing step. If any chocolate remains unmelted then microwave again for no more than 30 seconds. Repeat the mixing and microwaving steps as necessary, for microwave ovens vary a lot in power.
Mix the chocolate well to get any remaining softened pieces to melt.
Pour the melted chocolate gently and evenly over the almond and fruit pieces on the cookie sheet (or candy molds). Then use a fork as necessary to even out the surface of the chocolate and to cover any pieces of fruit or almond that are not coated with the chocolate.
Allow the candy time to set and become firm. If you used the cookie sheet method then cut it into pieces 1 1/2" on a side. If you used candy molds simply flex them to release the candy. Store the almond bark in a sealable container with layers of waxed paper between layers of candy.
Enjoy the candy whenever you want, and be sure to share this delight with family and friends.