by Caroline

I discovered this recipe last year in Catherine Newman’s Wondertime column, and now the only problem is making enough both to give away and keep some in the house for ourselves. I’ve made two batches already, and expect to make at least that much more before this holiday season is over. It is so easy the kids can do it without much supervision (just caution them about the baking pan, which is hot when it first comes out of the oven), and of course you can vary it any number of ways (I might make a semi-sweet version next, with raisins and peanuts), but the spicy pumpkin seeds are my favorite.

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds (the green kind)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 (11- or 12-ounce) bags semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup dried, pitted sour cherries (we get ours at Trader Joe’s)

Heat oven to 250. Line a 12-by-17-inch jelly roll pan (or rimmed baking sheet) with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the oil until a drop of water sizzles on contact, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin seeds and cook, stirring constantly until the seeds are fragrant, starting to brown, and making popping sounds, about 3 or 4 minutes (sometimes the pumpkin seeds fly right out of the pan, so be careful!). Turn off the heat, stir in the salt and cayenne, and leave to cool about 5 minutes.

Scatter the chocolate chips evenly in the prepared pan. This is a great job for an enthusiastic helper:
dumping chocolate
spreading chocolate
Place pan in the oven for 5 minutes, then remove and spread chocolate with a rubber spatula.

melty chocolate
Scatter the cherries over the top of the melted chocolate, then scatter the pumpkin seeds; push them in a bit so that they really stick.
bark with seeds and berries

Chill at least 2 hours, until firm enough to break into pieces, then store in the refrigerator until ready for gifting.

packages of bark