In Praise of Brickle

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Cranberry Walnut Brickle [Photograph: Carrie Vasios Mullins]

Technically, the title of this article should read "In Praise of Brickle, Bark, and Crack." But if there's one thing I've learned about the internet, it's that nothing ever dies. Oh, and that the FBI probably doesn't feel the need to click through the URL to see what you really meant by crack (which is the confection made from crackers or matzoh covered in melted chocolate) before they arrest your candy-making butt, holiday spirit be damned. And that my father's coworkers, assuming they manage to stumble upon this article at all, would probably just send around an email, subject line "OMG Vasios' daughter into crack!", without even reading the thing (who has time?), thereby sealing said father's complete distrust of the internet as not only a place for his daughter to work but as an entity period.

Still with me? Excellent. (YOU would never sell me out, I can tell.) See I just wanted to take a moment to give some respect to a holiday confection that I love. To a confection that more people need to make, eat, gift, and generally embrace as important a holiday tradition as cookies.

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Smoked Salt Pretzel and Potato Chip Chocolate Bark [Photograph: Yvonne Ruperti]

First up, and generally most well known, is Chocolate Bark. At its most basic level, chocolate bark is just a layer of melted chocolate topped with...stuff. Dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, potato chips, pretzels—seriously, you name it and you can add it to the bark. Once the sheet of chocolate has cooled and hardened, it's usually broken up into shards. A popular holiday variation is Peppermint Bark, where melted milk or dark chocolate is topped with a layer of melted white chocolate and pieces of crushed candy canes. (Some people even skip the white chocolate layer but to them I say, phooey.) This is such an easy treat to make that it really doesn't require a recipe. At most, search around the internet for interesting flavor combinations. And don't forget to think about texture—a little crunch goes a long way.

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Chocolate 'Crack' [Photograph: Alexandra Penfold]

While people might look at you strangely the first time you offer them Crack, they'll understand as soon as they take a bite. This stuff is seriously addictive. As any snackologist at Frito-Lay can tell you, it's because crack is crunchy and salty-sweet, which makes those pleasure sensors in your brain start to buzz until you're acting like

To make crack, Saltine crackers (or, as is popular at Passover, matzoh) are covered in a butter, brown sugar, and vanilla mixture (kind of like a loose caramel) and melted chocolate. Like chocolate bark, this is great with any number of toppings, including toasted nuts, coconut, or dried cranberries. I personally like crack better than regular chocolate bark because of the crunchy Saltine base and the added toffee notes.

My favorite of the three? It's hard to say, but I grew up eating brickle at the holidays, so it gets an extra boost from nostalgia. Brickle is essentially the same as crack, with graham crackers used in place of Saltines. The confection works because graham crackers aren't too sweet, meaning they don't send you into sugar overload when topped with toffee and chocolate. (Still, I always use dark chocolate to add notes of bitterness and generally decrease the amount of straight-on sugar flavor.) Alone, the brickle is crunchy and chocolatey with notes of caramel. I think it reaches its full potential with a bit more crunch (nuts), some chew (dried fruit) and an extra sprinkle of fleur de sel.

Still not sold? How about this: I've never brought a box of brickle, bark, or crack to a party and come home with even a crumb. They're demolished, even by people who normally steer clear of sweets, or steer clear of sweets made from other supermarket sweets (but uh, maybe that's because I don't divulge what's in them).

So if you need a holiday treat that's a pleasure to make and eat and gift, try brickle, bark, or crack. The end.

Get the recipes

Cranberry Chocolate Walnut Brickle
Chocolate 'Crack
Holiday Peppermint Crack
Chocolate Kix Toffee Bark
Smoked Salt Pretzel and Potato Chip Chocolate Bark

About the author: Carrie Vasios Mullins is the editor of Serious Eats: Sweets. She likes to peruse her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar. You can follow her on Twitter @carrievasios

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