Photo: Marnie Shure
FeaturesStories from The Takeout about food, drink, and how we live.  

There are two types of bakers: the ones who want to impress, and the ones who want to delight. There’s hefty overlap in the Venn diagram of what will taste amazing and what will elicit awed gasps from a crowd, but generally, New York Times cookie recipes cater to a different audience than, say, ones from the back of a Craisins bag. Neither party is untalented or persnickety or correct; their respective goalposts are just a field apart.

I’m squarely in the latter crew, and my go-to recipes are foolproof, high-yield, and uncomplicated (but delicious) in their flavors. I’d rather spend an hour frosting copycat Lofthouse cookies to look precisely like the ones in the plastic tubs at the grocery store than blind-bake a pie crust that might still betray me in the end, thanks to an over-humidified kitchen or a little too much handling. I enjoy menial kitchen tasks as much as anyone, but not those that carry any chance of disaster. A beautiful cheesecake, after all, is what we see only at the end of a long, hidden line of finicky water baths and cracked facades. No: I stick with what’s been good to me. And nothing’s been more reliable than a brick of almond bark.

Photo: Marnie Shure

The name “almond bark” is, like so much else about the product, an oddity; completely devoid of almonds, it’s only called that because of the end product that first gained it popularity—covering nuts. Its more accurate names are less appetizing: confectionary coating, candy coating, and according to Wikipedia, a “chocolate-like confection.” There are no doubt legal complications to calling this product chocolate (or almond), but it sure fits the bill for my purposes. It has vegetable fats rather than cocoa butter, so you especially can’t call the white variety “white chocolate,” but I’ve been doing so my whole life and haven’t been arrested yet.

Photo: Marnie Shure

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The miracle of this product is that you can melt it without tempering chocolate. No double-boiler method or slow, patient, constant-stirring techniques required. You just stick that whole damn brick into the microwave if you want. You don’t even have to cover it with a paper towel. It won’t scorch or bubble up or explode. Two minutes on high heat, a couple stirs with a rubber spatula, and you’re ready to “bake.”

“Baking” with almond bark requires no stoves, no ovens. An infinitude of recipes spiral outward from the possibilities of this chemical brick of confectionery joy. Glossy finishes, a quick set time, and easy compatibility with gel food colorings are further merits. Useful year-round, but especially at the holidays, I present to you just a few treasured family secrets that have delighted family and friends for years on end. James Beard might not see the appeal, but little kids receiving holiday cellophane-wrapped bundles of “chocolate”-covered mini pretzels certainly do, and I know whom I aim to please.


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Chocolate-covered pretzels

  • 1 brick white or chocolate almond bark
  • 1 bag mini pretzels

Dip pretzels in the melted bark with a pair of tongs, tapping the side of the bowl to remove excess. Lay on wax paper to set. Add sprinkles or crushed peppermint (if desired) while still wet. (Sometimes I’ll melt butterscotch chips and drizzle that over the top of the finished pretzels, too.)

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Gift pretzel rods

  • 1 brick white or chocolate almond bark
  • 1 bag pretzel rods
  • Mini red-and-green M&Ms

Dip three-quarters of each pretzel rod in the melted bark, then coat with mini M&Ms. Lay on wax paper to set. Wrap either individually or in bundles with holiday-print cellophane and festive ribbon as party favors.

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Imposter Girl Scout Thin Mints

  • 1 brick chocolate almond bark
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers
  • Peppermint extract

Melt the bark, then add five drops peppermint extract until thoroughly combined. Dip Ritz crackers into the melted bark with tongs, then tap the side of the bowl to remove excess and lay on wax paper to set. (I leave these rather unadorned, to make them look as much like Thin Mints as possible.)

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwiches

  • 1 brick chocolate almond bark
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers
  • Peanut butter
  • Crushed peanuts (optional)

Spread peanut butter between two Ritz crackers, then dip into melted bark. Lay on wax paper to set. Top with crushed peanuts (if desired) while still wet.

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Lemon Sandwich Cookies

  • 1 brick white almond bark
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers
  • 1 tub lemon buttercream frosting
  • Grated lemon zest (optional)

Spread lemon frosting between two Ritz crackers, then dip into melted bark. Lay on wax paper to set. Top with grated lemon zest if desired.

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Cake Pops

  • 1 brick white or chocolate almond bark
  • 24 Oreos (regular or Double-Stuf)
  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • Cardboard candy sticks (optional)

Crush 24 Oreos, either with a food processor or by placing them in a Ziploc bag and taking a rolling pin to them until ground. Mix in 3 oz. softened cream cheese, then roll into balls and refrigerate for 1 hour. Melt almond bark, then dip the solidified balls into the bark (with a candy stick stuck into the end, if using). Allow to set on wax paper. Top with sprinkles while still wet, if desired.

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Mini Taffy Apples (Grapes)

  • 1 brick white almond bark
  • 1 bunch green seedless grapes
  • Crushed peanuts

Pat the green grapes until dry, then freeze until solid. Melt the bark, then remove grapes from freezer and pat again until totally dry. Using tongs, dip 3/4 of each grape into the white chocolate, then submerge in the crushed peanuts to coat. Lay on wax paper to dry. When complete, freeze all of the grapes again until serving. (I wish I could tell you why this combo is such a dead ringer for taffy apples, but I do not know the science, only the result.)

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Zebra Marshmallows

  • 1 brick white almond bark
  • 1/4 brick chocolate almond bark
  • 1 bag large marshmallows
  • Cardboard candy sticks (optional)

Skewer each marshmallow on a candy stick (if using) and submerge in melted white bark. Lay upright on wax paper to set. Once the white chocolate is dry, melt the chocolate bark, then use a spoon to drizzle it “zebra stripes” across the finished marshmallows. Allow the chocolate to set, then wrap up in cellophane or place upright in festive mini-muffin cups. (For the truly ambitious among you, there are ways to decorate the marshmallows to look like penguins and polar bears for the holiday season. But I did not write this for you.)

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Candy Cane Oreos 

  • 1 brick white almond bark
  • 1 sleeve Oreos (regular or Double Stuf)
  • Crushed candy cane bits

Dip those chocolatey suckers whole into the melted bark, then submerge in candy cane pieces for a show-stopping, Christmas-flavored treat that looks great on a holiday platter (or stacked up in a mini gift box).

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There’s a running theme of gift packaging throughout these concoctions, and that’s another one of almond bark’s strengths; it dries so evenly and un-sticky that you can stack, pile, wrap, or bundle these treats together as a cheery holiday offering, with minimal fuss. Everyone’s so stuff-oriented and shopping-fatigued at the holidays, you might as well stake out your position as the person who gives the one gift that’s as fun to give as it is to get, one that won’t cause you undue stress at the holidays and one that never lasts too long. If you’ve done your job right, in fact, your almond-bark-aided tokens of good cheer won’t even make it all the way home.