Although just a few years ago few people had ever heard of candy bark, nowadays it is made in a gazillion delicious varieties. I love bark because it is so very easy to make, yet yields results that never fail to delight family and friends. Bark is something that even the most novice cook can offer to make for a party. It’s even good and practical enough to give as a homemade gift from your kitchen.
I created the following bark using ingredients that are well known and loved throughout Mexico: Marie biscuits are the most basic of cookies, Carlos V is a national brand of chocolate candy bars, cajeta (similar to dulce de leche but made with goat’s milk instead of cow’s milk) is a Mexican delicacy, and the extremely thin wafer cookies (very similar to communion wafers in thickness) are used in a variety of confections. Don’t hesitate to make substitutions if you don’t have or cannot find one or more of the ingredients; see a list of possible substitutions below the recipe.
- 1/3 cup caramel sauce (thick Mexican cajeta or dulce de leche)
- 1 2/3 cup of broken Maria cookies (about 15 cookies)
- 6 20 gram chocolate bars (Carlos V)
- 20 ounces/567 grams white chocolate candy coating (vanilla flavored)
- 1/2 cup peanuts (shelled peanut halves)
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (shelled)
- 1/4 cup decorative sprinkles (brightly colored)
- 1/2 ounce very thin wafer cookies (about 60 pieces, if they are 2 inches / 5 centimeters in diameter), preferably in bright colors
Line a half sheet baking pan (cookie sheet about 17 x 13 inches / 43 x 33 centimeters) completely with aluminum foil. Set aside.
Place the cajeta or dulce de leche into a little glass custard dish. Place the dish into a larger bowl containing hot water, in such a way that the heat will soften and thin out the thick candy paste while you’re preparing the other ingredients.
Break the Maria cookies into pieces of approximately 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) square.
Use a sharp knife to cut up the Carlos V bars into pieces no larger than 1 inch (2.5 centimers) square. Since Mexican chocolate tends to be brittle and a little chalky, many smaller splinters with occur, which is fine.
Use one of these methods to melt the candy coating:
Microwave method: Break the candy coating into chunks. Place them in a microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave in spurts of 30 seconds, stirring with a heat-resistant rubber scraper after each spurt, until melted.
Stove-top method: Break the candy coating into chunks. Place chunks into a non-stick saucepan over low heat. Heat, stirring frequently with a heat-resistant rubber scraper, until coating is melted.
Add the Maria cookies pieces, the peanuts, and the pumpkin seeds to the melted chocolate, and stir well.
Add the Carlos V chocolate pieces and colored sprinkles and stir briefly but well. (We are adding these ingredients after the others have been well mixed in so that there will be less chance of these melting from the heat.)
Note: Set aside a small amount of peanuts, pumpkin seeds, chocolate pieces and sprinkles, if you like, to decorate the top of your candy after mixing is done.
Pour the mixture onto the cookie sheet and use the rubber scraper to spread it out well, within about an inch of the edges of the pan.
Pour the softened cajeta or dulce de leche over the white mixture and use a spatula or spoon to spread it out.
Place the wafers over the cajeta/dulce de leche layer, overlapping them slightly.
Sprinkle any reserved ingredients over the top of everything. Gently shake the cookie sheet so that these loose ingredients will get stuck in the sticky stuff in between the wafers.
Press down lightly on the wafers with the palms of your hands so that all the ingredients will be well embedded into the white candy base.
Refrigerate or freeze your candy for about at least half an hour, until it has completely hardened.
Take candy off cookie sheet. Peel off aluminum foil. Break the candy into pieces; these will be irregularly shaped.
Eat your delicious Mexican Candy Bark right away, or store it for up to a week in a plastic or glass jar or other container in the refrigerator.
Variations on Mexican Candy Bark
There are so many wonderful Mexican candy and nut items that could be used in this recipe! Here are a few to get you thinking:
Pulparindo is a tamarind-paste sweet-sour-spicy candy that can be cut into pieces and incorporated into the mix.
Use cacahuates garapiñados (peanuts in a firm, sugary coating) instead of plain peanuts.
Instead of the cajeta/dulce de leche and the wafers, use already-prepared wafer-with-cajeta candies (such as Las Sevillanas brand)
Add small red cinnamon candies.
Stir some powdered chile (such as chile piquín) into the candy coating mix.
Include in the mix some pieces of colación navideña (candy-coated peanuts and almonds traditional in Mexico at Christmastime).