April 19, 2016

Samoa Matzo Bark

Normally by this point in the year I'm sick of Passover and Passover hasn't even started yet. I haven't been shy about declaring this my least favorite holiday of all time despite recognizing it's cultural importance. But really anything that reduces my carbohydrate intake is going to make me a little grumpy. Luckily, there's a way to dress up matzo so that it's not quite as bland and boring, and it's inspired by one of the best Girl Scout cookies of all time: the Samoa. If you're from the unfortunate regions of the world that don't have access to Girl Scout cookies or from an area in the US that only knows of their inferior sibling Caramel de Lites, you're in for a treat.

I'm a big fan of dessert barks. They're basically an excuse to pile whatever you want onto a big tray and smash it to bits, or at least bite-sized shards of deliciousness. It's a really good way to get your bread-starved anger out. The most famous is chocolate bark (which is also kosher for Passover depending on what you use!), but matzo bark deserves some love too when your dessert prospects are severely limited.

It all starts with matzo. I hate the stuff, to be honest. There are ways, however, to transform it from a plain crunchy cracker to something craveable. I've used it as breading for fried chicken (even more smashing involved) and the "bread" in kugel. This is probably my favorite way since it involves chocolate. You can really use whatever you have on hand; plain unsalted will give you the most neutral base but salted will give a salted caramel note to the bark. There's also whole wheat, gluten-free, egg matzo, and a whole lot more. As long as you don't use some savory flavor you'll be fine. The whole point is to add substance and crunch and let the other sweet notes take over the flavor profile.

The chocolate layer (my personal favorite) is next. I put the chocolate on first to protect the matzo from the moisture from the caramel. If any of the caramel gets on the matzo, it will start to seep in and make it all mushy and gross. If there's one way to make matzo more unpalatable, this is it. The good news is you can use whatever kind of chocolate you like. I generally use semisweet chocolate chips since they are cheap and have just the right balance of sweetness and bitterness. You are welcome to use milk or white, but keep in mind that you're about to pile a ton of sweet caramel and coconut on top.

The caramel layer is also incredibly versatile. You can melt down chewy caramel candies, whip up a shortcut caramel sauce, or go all out and make a batch of real caramel from scratch. You can toss in some vanilla beans or orange zest or even a pinch of cayenne to add an extra dimension to the bark. Whatever you decide, drizzle it on the hardened chocolate layer until it's covered with as much caramel as you want.

Immediately after you add the caramel, sprinkle sweetened shredded coconut on top. It's important to do this quickly or it won't stick as well. I like to toast my coconut first to add color and texture and enhance the coconut flavor. Just make sure you make enough to snack on while making the bark. Actually, that principle applies to the whole recipe as well; you'll be wanting to snack on this for all 8 days.

8 Pieces Unsalted Matzo
12 oz Chocolate, Melted
1-2 Cups Caramel (see below)
1-2 Cups Sweetened Shredded Coconut, Toasted

Spread the matzo in a single layer on cookie trays, parchment paper, or cooling racks. Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate evenly around all the matzo. Set aside to cool or chill until firm. Drizzle with the caramel and top with the coconut. Drizzle with more chocolate if desired.

Quick Caramel Sauce:
1 ½ Cups Dark Brown Sugar
1 ½ Cups Cream
6 T Butter
1 Vanilla Bean (Optional)

Bring the brown sugar, cream, butter, and vanilla bean seeds to a boil in a medium pot over medium-high heat, whisking constantly until sugar dissolves. Boil until caramel thickens, whisking often, about 10 minutes.

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