Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Orange Chocolate Halloween Bark + Win a Spooky Sounds Witch Candle from Cleo Coyle

Congrats to our comment-to-win winner of the Witch Candle with Spooky Sounds. By random number generator...the winner is...

Sandy Regan Betley!

Congrats, Sandy, and thanks to everyone who left such wonderful comments on my post. Some of you had me laughing and others had me close to tears with your memories of your moms' making costumes and the fun you had on Halloweens past. 

Happy Halloween,

Cleo Coyle, who may be
wanted for breaking
and entering a high
school football stadium,
is author of
Coffeehouse Mysteries
A few weeks ago, the lovely woman who cuts my hair gave me a bit of a shock regarding Halloween. Wendy was born and raised in Ireland, and she told me that the holiday is celebrated in her native land just as it is here in the States with one exception. 

"Oh?" I asked. "What's that?" 

"The costumes there are scary. Here they're tarty."

"Tarty?" I said, choking on the hair salon's complimentary coffee.

"Yeah, from what I've seen in the States, Halloween is Dress Like a Slut Night."

That can't be right, I thought, but then I started noticing the costume displays in this year's shop windows. Dominatrices? Chamber maids? Eegad, Wendy was right. 

I'm assuming that this is an issue limited primarily to New York City, Los Angeles, and maybe Vegas. Somehow I can't picture the young women in Southwestern, PA, where I grew up, dressing like refugees from an adult cable channel--at least I hope not.

When I was growing up, we made our own costumes. (We also colored our own chocolate--more on that below!)

Around age twelve, I actually won a prize for making a costume out of more than one hundred tissue flowers.

The story of getting those flowers was like something out of Nancy Drew. My girlfriends and I crept to the high school's darkened football stadium and crawled under its chain-link fence. We unfolded paper shopping bags and stuffed them with hundreds of Kleenex flowers left behind after the homecoming game. I used mine to create that head-to-toe Flower Child costume, which won me third place in the local Halloween parade. 

After all these years, I still think it was more thrilling to break into that football stadium than win the prize--which should tell you why I so enjoy writing amateur sleuths. They're not cops or lawyers, so sneaking around (and bending the rules) is right up their dark alley.

What was your favorite Halloween costume when you were growing up? 

Let me know in the comments and you are automatically entered to win the fun Witch Candle (with spooky sounds) pictured above. 

And now...time to play!

My recipe for you today is an Orange Chocolate Bark that actually offers the light, lovely natural flavor of orange. I made it two ways. In both cases, I added color the old-fashioned way, by stirring it in myself. 


Food coloring gel will give you the best results. For more info on that, click here. You can purchase these gels (also called icing colors) online or at Michael's craft stores (baking section). If using water-based food coloring--the kind most grocery stores sell, such as McCormick's brand--I have a trick for you to prevent the chocolate from seizing up, which chocolate always does when you introduce water. Try it my way and you will have better luck.

Be advised, however, that you can make this recipe even easier for yourself by using Candy Melts, which come in many bright colors. They're convenient and easy. Click here to see what I mean. You can order these pre-colored meltable chocolate wafers online or pick them up at Michael's craft stores (baking section). If that's not going to work for you, then simply pick up food coloring at your local grocery and give my chocolate-coloring method a try. Okay, here we go... 

Cleo Coyle's 
Orange Chocolate
Halloween Bark

To download a free PDF version of this recipe that you can print, save, or share, click here. 


12 ounces (about 2 cups) white chocolate chips (or see my note about Candy Melts)*
5 large oranges (to flavor naturally)
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (for the marble variety)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (to spice up the darker chocolate!)

Optional finisher: 
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted (or your favorite chopped nut, toasted)

Coloring option (if not using Candy Melts):
Food coloring (gel or water-based - you'll need the color orange OR mix yellow and red colors to make orange)
1 tablespoon butter (you'll need this if you are using water-based food coloring such as McCormick's)

*Cleo Note: Candy Melts are pre-colored chocolate wafers that can be substituted for the white chocolate chips. To purchase Candy Melts online, click here. You can also find Wilton Candy Melts in the baking section of Michael's craft store. 


Step 1 - Zest your oranges: For every 12 ounces (2 cups) of white chocolate chips or Candy Melts, you will need about 4 tablespoons of orange zest. You should be able to get that from 5 large oranges. 

(Cleo note: After I zest my oranges, I often juice them or use the flesh in fruit smoothies. Waste not!) 

Step 2 - Zap the zest: Spread the zest flat on a microwaves safe plate and heat it for about 2 minutes. With clean fingers, touch the zest to test whether it has dried out. It should be completely dry and crumbly to the touch, crunching like breakfast cereal when you crush it. If not, keep microwaving in 30 second increments until it is. The drying process will reduce the zest amount by about half its volume. So you will end up with about 2 tablespoons of dried zest.

Step 3 - Grind the Dried Zest into Powder: Using the back of a tablespoon, crush the dried zest into a powder. You can certainly do this with a mortar and pestle if you have one or give it a very light buzz in a spice grinder. (Don't buzz too long or you'll burn the zest via blade friction; this I know from writing the Coffeehouse Mysteries!)

Note: The crushing process will reduce the zest again by about half. So you should end up with about 1 tablespoon of dried and ground orange zest.

Step 4 - Melt the chocolate: Because of its milk solids, white chocolate melts  faster than dark chocolate so be careful when heating. For best results, microwave in 30 seconds increments. Stop, stir, and heat again. (Once chocolate is burned, you can't safe it, so melt the chocolate slowly!)

Step 5 - Add the Flavor: Now stir in the dried and ground orange zest...

The orange zest powder will add a lovely, light orange flavor to the bark. The color will be a very pale orange, and I suggest brightening the color with some food coloring gel. If all you can find is water-based food coloring, such as McCormick's, DO NOT simply dump in the food coloring. Follow my directions carefully; otherwise, instead of remaining smooth and silky, your chocolate will seize up and be ruined. What does ruined chocolate look like? See the regrettable evidence below...

 What NOT to do with chocolate! 
(Scary, isn't it?!)

When water is introduced to chocolate during the melting process, (whether droplets in a wet container or on a spoon), the smooth, silky texture will be ruined.  Above is an example of chocolate that has seized up. There is no saving it. This is also what will happen if you simply dump in water-based food coloring. But if that's all you can find, I have a solution... 


Melt butter: For this recipe, I suggest 1 tablespoon of butter, gently melted in a microwave. To that, add your water-based food coloring. Orange or mix yellow and red to make orange. You will need about 6 times as much yellow as red, so add the yellow first and keep playing with it until you have a nice dark shade of orange.

Slowly stir in: A little at a time, stir the colored, melted butter into the chocolate. The MOMENT you see the chocolate begin to lose its smooth texture and seize up into tiny chunks, STOP. That's as far as you can go in adding color of this kind (water-based) to the chocolate without ruining it.

This colored-butter method made a very pretty pale orange chocolate for me. It was smooth and silky enough to use as frosting on cupcakes or cookies (and I will be doing this in the near future). For today, lets make bark!

If not making marbled bark (see below), then stir in your toasted, chopped nuts now, dump the chocolate onto a baking sheet or cutting board that's been covered by parchment paper or wax paper. Spread the chocolate into a flat rectangle (about 8 by 10 inches) and slip the whole thing into the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Once hard, you can break the solid rectangle up into pieces as show and eat with joy.


NOTE: Marbling bark is fun and easy. For another way to marble bark, using an oven, check out Riley Adams' wonderful Chocolate Pecan Bark post by clicking here.

Place your 6 ounces (1 cup) of semi-sweet chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl, sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and melt 30 second microwave blasts, stirring between each heating session to prevent scorching.

Dump out the 12 ounces (2 cups) of melted orange chocolate onto a flat surface (such as  a baking sheet or cutting board) that's been covered with parchment paper or wax paper. (If you don't use paper, the chocolate will adhere to the surface as it dries.

Using a spoon or spatula, spread the chocolate into
a rectangle canvas of about 8 x 10 inches in size.

Dot the melted semi-sweet chocolate onto the orange
chocolate canvas by generous tablespoons as shown.

To marble the chocolate, use a wooden skewer, chopstick, or butter knife to make long, bold, curved strokes through the dots of chocolate and into the orange canvas as shown. (In my photos, you see a wooden chopstick.)

Optional finisher: Sprinkle 1/2 cup of toasted nuts over the top of the marbled chocolate canvas. To make certain these nuts stick, use clean fingertips or back of a spoon to very lightly press them into the chocolate.
CHILL, BABY! - Slip the pan into a refrigerator for 20 minutes. This will harden the bark up quite nicely. Break apart and enjoy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author 

For more of my
chocolate recipes, pick up...

"...a tasty tale of crime and punishment,
lightened by the Blend's frothy cast of
lovable eccentrics." ~ Publishers Weekly

For a peek at some of the chocolate 
recipes featured in Murder by Mocha,
click here

Now a national bestseller
in hardcover 

To purchase the book, 
click here or here or here

Audiobook produced by AudioGo (BBC Audiobooks America) Available at iTunes and Audible.com




  1. VERY useful tip on coloring chocolate. I really liked the pictures where you were swirling the dark chocolate on top of the orange - it looked very Halloween-y - kind of bat or witch-like.

    From my childhood, I remember the masks that have been outlawed now - the ones with little holes for eyes and a little slit to breathe through. I loved those. You put one on and thought that you were fooling people - I'm REALLY a mouse!!!

  2. so I looked at this and my mouth watered. do not know if it would last( except 0n my hips) until the darling little spooks came to my door.

  3. My mouth was watering too, Cleo! I love this recipe and your excellent tips. Happy Halloween!

  4. Our costumes were always homemade and included a clown, scarecrow and hobo but, naturally my favorite was my first--princess.

    Nice recipe.

  5. I remember only 2 costumes. The first was when I was 5. My mother made me a clown costume out of 2 sheets (one blue, one white) and crayons. One side of the costume was blue, the other white with crayoned colored circles (which she ironed in).

    The other costume was as an adult. I went to a party dressed as the Pope. I had a deep purple velvety robe (like a choir robe). Out of poster board and glitter, we made a miter (sp?) and a cross. We sewed a stole out of silky material. I won first prize (2 tickets to an Arizona State University football game). (I live in Phoenix).


  6. These photos are some of your best ever!! I agree that the swirls look especially Halloweeny!! My favorite tip however was about the zest...I had no idea :-)

    Costumes...I was always a hobo because I loved the smell of the burned wine cork my mom would use to smudge my face ;-) As an adult and a kindergarten teacher I was a forced costumer...fortunately I found a wonderful handmade clown costume that sufficed for several years...until we found out that the wee Chef Connor has a serious aversion to clowns!!

    Living out here in the sticks I do miss seeing all the little ones...it just means Mr. Nanc and I will finish a couple of bags of snack sized Butterfingers :-)


  7. I love these pictures! I want to reach in for a mid-afternoon chocolate spike. :) Thanks for the useful tips on coloring chocolate...and keeping water and chocolate apart! Good to know!

  8. Replies to...

    @Christi - OMG. I too remember those plastic costume masks with the tiny little holes! I also remember how warm they kept my face on a chilly Halloween night. :)

    @mary - Ha! Yes, I know what you mean about having goodies around TOO soon before the trick or treaters. Not good for the hips, by any means.

    ~ Cleo

  9. Replies to...

    @MJ - Thank you! Happy Halloween to you, too!

    @Liz V. - Scarecrow is a great costume! I never was one (not skinny enough, lol), but it always reminds me of the Wizard of Oz. Sweet to hear that you still remember your first costume--and, really, what very little girl doesn't deserve to be a princess?

    ~ Cleo

  10. Reply to...

    @Denise - Wonderful hearing about your little girl costume memories, too! Amazing how much you recall--the costume colors, the crayons. What a great mom.

    LOL on that pope costume, as well! Amazing. Sounds like it deserved the prize you won for it and what a nice one. Go, Sun Devils! :)

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  11. Reply to...

    Nanc - Tell Connor that he and I are on the same page with the clown thing. Yes, I am one of those people who think clowns are creepy. Then again, that makes for the best sort of scary Halloween costume...Snack size candy is fun stuff this time of year, isn't it? So much of it and it's all so fresh. (Our Trick or Treaters are getting Snickers and 3 Musketeers. What? You thought I'd give away this beautiful bark. Fuggettaboutit!)

    @Elizabeth - Thanks for dropping back and I wish I could pass you some of this chocolate to enjoy. We're pretty good about eating a little at a time with coffee breaks, etc...but it would nice to share through the screen with fellow writers, too. :)

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  12. Cleo, wow, is this gorgeous candy. And I bet we could do it in "red" for the Christmas holidays. Or blue for Hannukah! Fun, fun. Can't wait to make it. And I adore the candle.


  13. Love making chocolate bark with different things in it, like toffee pieces, cookie crumbs, pretzel pieces. YUMMMM

  14. My mouth is watering. This looks super yummy and like something my kid could help with.

  15. All of my costumes were homemade and I continued that philosophy by making my kids' costumes each Halloween. From a simple white dress with long sleeves, I was an angel one year (gold cardboard wings and a gold metallic rickrack halo with a tie-on the forehead) and the next a bride (tulle veil, tulle tie on skirt), a witch, a ballerina. I think one of my favorite was a gypsy - a long flowered skirt, lots of beads and bracelets, a wig, a sash...

  16. Beautiful bark, Cleo! I love the candle, too. I've been using flameless candles and love them with the new kitten around, poking her nose into everything.

    ~ Krista

  17. i had to get this recipe . Im going to try it tomorrow ... Thank you so much :)


  18. YUM, I love orange and chocolate together!
    Cute candle too!

  19. i love this recipe, im going to try it tomorrow and the candle is so cute!

  20. i forgot tp say my favorite halloween costume was any disney princess. every year i was one of them :)

  21. superman is my favorite costume till this day. when I go with my kids around the neighborhood my cape will be with me

  22. I love these books—nothing better than a great read complete with recipes for great eats!! My son was born on Halloween so I always tried to make sure he had a special costume. One year he was an orange crayon; another year he was supposed to be the Ace of Spades but decided that since he was turning 5 years old he'd be the Five of Spades instead. But the best costume I constructed for him was a papier-mache wolf head modeled after the manga character, Inuyasha! I don't have a favorite from when I was a kid so the memories of my son's costumes are the best. The orange chocolate bark looks fabulous; I'll have to try it out. Also, I work at a Michael's store and I'm sure they'll be grateful for your recommendations! Happy Halloween, Cleo!

  23. Wendy is right, a good portion of today's Halloween costumes are tarty! My costumes have always been handmade-as I child one of my favorites was a dog. In college my favorite was the year I went as Jimmy Page! I was also a groupie (yes, quite tarty!) for 3 years in a row-as I lived in different states during that time. Most recently I was a woodland nymph.

  24. My favorite costume was an 18th century bar maid outfit I made. Not completely historically-correct but I enjoyed the creative, unique style. Wish I were that ambitious now!

  25. Dropping by to thank everyone for their wonderful comments and Halloween costume stories and memories. This is so much fun!

    I will drop back again at 6:00 PM (Eastern time) - 3:00 PM (Pacific time) to announce the winner of the flameless witch candle (with spooky sounds)!

    Keep those comment entries coming!

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  26. Yummy recipe and adorable candle! Thanks for the contest!!

  27. Honestly, I just buy the colored candy wafers from AC Moore.

    I can't remember my favorite costume as a child, but my favorite Halloween memory is from when I was 2 1/2 years old. Both my brother and myself were sick and couldn't go trick or treating. We stayed at the top of the stairs as my father handed out treats. When my 6 year old cousin rang our bell, my father shut out the lights, donned a scary mask, put a flashlight under his chin, and opened the door saying in a spooky voice, "Yesssssss". My poor cousin screamed and ran across our apartment courtyard as we all giggled.
    And the best part of the night? Our neighboring teens rang our bell and handed us full bags of candy because we couldn't go out ourselves.

  28. I've always been a huge fan of make your own costumes...I'm pretty sure this comes from the fact that we didn't have much money as a kid, so my mom saved back each of our costumes and we just sort of rotated year after year. You eventually get tired of the same ol' same ol'. One year, I wore a ballet tutu and over the tutu I spread like 2 packages of that cotton spiderweb stuff that my mom had gotten on clearance the year before over it (the tulle in the tutu held it in place perfectly). I put a bunch of the spider rings in it and then painted my face like one big spider. I was the queen spider!

    My favorite childhood costume of all has to be a gumball machine. I made a machine front using cardboard and my (almost non-existant) artistic skill, then cut arm and a head hole in a large clear plastic bag. I put the bag over my body, sealed the bottom, and had my siblings fill it up with blown up water balloons. We put the cardboard on the front, and voila. $1 for the balloons, and everything else was just lying around the house!

  29. I like the make your own costume, but I have noticed the tarty costumes when shopping with my children. My daughter, who is twelve and almost as tall as I am, is not going in a tarty costume and cannot fit into any of the little kids costumes. It was quite a challenge to find something suitable. We did find a Cleopatra costume that was workable :)

    I went as a tube of toothpaste one year. You can bet no one else was toothpaste. My dad actually wrote my weight in ounces on the white sheet at the bottom. I was mortified. He said no one would notice :)

  30. My favorite costume was the year I went as a Red Crayon. My mom made it out of felt, it was a red 'dress' with 'crayola' spelled down the front in black felt and a red cone shaped hat for the tip. I wore black tights & leotards underneath. It was fabulous! But thinking back I wasn't a kid, I was about 24 or 25 I think!
    All my costumes growing up were home made, we'd pore over pattern books starting early September looking for just the right one. Nowdays everything is store bought with little imagination. Oh you have the occasional one that you can tell some thought was put into it but so many are just the same old thing. I get excited when a kid comes to the door in something really special!
    Happy Halloween everyone! This candle would be a huge addition to my Halloween arsenal - I think I decorate more for Halloween than I do for Christmas! And outside we will be showing "It's a Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" on Halloween night for all the neighbors to watch while the kids are trick or treating. It's our 5th anniversary to do this and it's a big hit. Mom & dad stop by and have a cold beer and their kids can hit all the houses on our end of the block. It's a great time.

  31. What I remember most about Halloween costumes is that no matter what it was, we (girls) always had to wear corduroy pants underneath...for warmth (I lived in Chicago) and privacy!

  32. Love the recipe!! I'm going to give it a try!! When I was little we couldn't afford to buy costumes from the stores so we always got handmade costumes from our mother....she wroked so hard and it created such wonderful memories for my siblings and I. My favorite costume was Dorothy ..those dark windy Halloween nights were so much fun! My favorite time of year is fall and I savor every moment of it!

  33. Tried posting a comment and it didnt' take. Lets try again. Recipe is definitely a keeper! Can't wait to try.
    My favoite costume was one I made in college. I took a red poster board and made a crayola crayon with a little tilted hat for the sharpened top. Sadly, it was destroyed when my parent's basement flooded.

  34. YUM - the bark look luscious! I remember one year being Pocahontas. It was a white pillow case, made brown (don't ask) and fringed at the bottom, a hole for the head and arms, then a headband with a feather - cute as a button and so real to me - I was an India princes. Thanks for the fun today.


  35. Oh my, that looks scrumptious! I must try that recipe!
    It's hard to pick my favorite costume since my mom made all of them. One year a Southern Belle, a Geisha girl, Little Red Riding Hood.... but my favorite right now is the one I wear to the preschool where I work as the school's librarian. I wear a satin robe with wings and a halo. The kids always love my angel look and we all have fun dressing up!

  36. Cheers, everyone! These comments are amazing. Some of you had me laughing, some brought tears to my eyes to know that you remember your childhood Halloween costumes so beautifully. All of you clearly deserve a candle!!! I wish I could send one to everyone who left a comment...but, alas, one candle is all I have to "treat" you with and I'll be back shortly to announce who won (by random number generator)...

    Thanks again for dropping by and sharing today!

    ~ Cleo

  37. And the winner, by Random Number Generator is...

    Sandy Regan Betley!

    Congrats Sandy. I'll be in touch via your link to Facebook.

    Thanks to everyone for dropping by and sharing. I have this post linked on my Website and I'm sure many of my readers will be just as delighted to read your fun "costume" comments and wonderful Halloween memories.

    If you didn't win today, check this blog for more giveaways, all week long.

    Happy Halloween!

    ~ Cleo Coyle Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter