Do you love or hate Valentine’s Day? I’ve yet to meet somebody that is middle of the way in regards to this holiday. Either you love it or hate it. It is usually one way or the other.
Personally, I hate the cheesiness of the holiday, the over-emphasis on romance, the pressure on single people to have a significant other or to be on a fancy date on that particular day. I love the big fuss we make about celebrating it, how the stores profusely show their enthusiasm by being decked in red and pink, how restaurants have fancy menus to honor the occasion and place little tea lights on their tables. But I wanted this enthusiasm to be more democratic and not be confined to just the romantic realm –yes, even if I am a hopeless romantic and even if I have a significant other.
Then, one day I realized that I could reclaim the meaning of this day to the one it had had for me before I moved to the U.S. In Argentina, Valentine’s Day was not a big thing. We called it Dia de los Enamorados, which literally is translated as “day of the people who are in love.” We have, however, one unofficial cultural holiday called La Semana de la Dulzura, which loosely translates to “the week of sweetness.”
This is what I actually enjoyed about the Semana de la Dulzura: the focus was more on sharing sweet edible gifts and love and friendship with all of your loved ones -whether they be friends, classmates, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, parents- rather than focusing just on romantic love. Ah! The memories! I count myself lucky to have grown up around this way of observing Valentine’s Day.
One of the challenges with Valentine’s is that I never really have time to create something super special in the middle of the working week, especially if I want to apply my expanded concept of showing my appreciation to everyone with culinary gifts. So, as a matter of necessity, I tend to rely on simpler recipes that can be put together in 30 minutes or less, and that are packed with flavor (or chocolate!).
This year, I tried to create a recipe that would be very quick and easy but also eye-catching, so that I could have individual treats to share with all the people in my life. Voila! That’s how this strawberry-rose-pistachio-white-chocolate bark was born.
The idea first crossed my mind last Christmas Eve. I had wanted to make peppermint bark and candied-orange-dark-chocolate bark, but all the other traditional Christmas dishes took up all of my time and I never got around to making bark. I was a little disappointed to miss out on this, and I didn’t want to wait a full year to make it.
I wondered if perhaps I could create bark toppings and flavors that would be more apt for Valentine’s, which is the next big celebration after Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
I experimented with making the bark in a long rectangular shape that I would later break into pieces, as traditional bark is made. But I also tried giving my bark fun shapes using molds in the shape of snowflakes, hearts, circles, squares, etc. I actually like the shapes a lot better than one big bar broken up into irregular chunks. I recommend using the highest quality chocolate you can afford, as that is the main ingredient. For sure, Callebaut chocolate is awesome, but it can be hard to find and it is not always affordable. I find Guittard and Ghirardelli make a good choice if you want the practicality of chocolate chips, and Lindt is excellent too. For rose petals, India Tree produces really good candied rose petals, and you can order online from Amazon. You will find the link on the ingredients below, if you like.
Anyway, leaving the recipe aside, I hope this week proves to be truly a week of sweetness for you, and for all those in your life. I hope it’s filled with happiness and that you feel cherished and valued every day of the week, and why not, every day of the year. Happy Valentine’s and Happy Galentine’s and sending much love to you all!
Valentine’s Strawberry, Rose & Pistachio White Chocolate Bark
Prep time: 10-20 min.
- 3 cups white chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup of candied rose petals or culinary fresh rosebuds
- 1/3 cup shelled pistachios, roasted and chopped
- 1/3 cup freeze dried strawberries, chopped
- 1 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt (optional)
- Line a fluted tart pan (13.75 x 4.5 x 1”) with parchment paper. Or, if you don’t have this type of pan, don’t worry, you can use a half baking sheet pan (18 x 13 x 1”). If you want fun shapes, have some cookie cutters at hand and place them on the parchment-covered baking sheet, at least one inch apart from each other.
- To melt chocolate, prepare a double boiler. Add 1 inch of water to a medium saucepan (or to the lower part of a double boiler pot) and bring to a simmer. Place a heat-safe bowl on top of the pot so that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. You want the steam of the water to gently warm the bowl.
- Add the white chocolate chips to the top bowl and stir occasionally with a spatula until they’re melted and smooth.
- Stir regularly and be careful not to burn the chocolate. Remove the top bowl from the heat.
- Using an offset spatula, pour a thin layer of melted chocolate into the prepared pan or into chocolate molds/cookie cutters. It will be important to work quickly to avoid the chocolate to harden.
- Immediately sprinkle pistachios, dried strawberries and candied rose petals (or fresh culinary rosebuds) onto the chocolate.
- Gently press toppings onto the chocolate and let the chocolate bark set completely. (You can also leave them in the fridge to set). If desired, sprinkle with the pink Himalayan salt.
- To have square or geometrical pieces, transfer bark onto a large cutting board. Heat the blade of a sharp chef knife under hot running water. Wipe off the wet blade and cut bark into squares. Make sure that you reheat and clean off the knife blade between each cut to keep edges clean! For other shapes: cut into rectangles and then divide across each rectangle to produce triangles. Or if you don’t want to be as fussy and prefer a rustic look, you don’t need to use a knife. You can break apart the bark with clean hands into small and medium sized irregular pieces. Finally, if you prefer fun shapes, pour the melted chocolate into chocolate molds. Or if you don’t have chocolate molds, you can pour it into cookie cutters placed on top of the parchment covered baking sheets.