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