Every year, I send my mom a box of rose petal petit fours from Valerie Confections for her birthday. They're her favorite treat and something she would never buy on her own, which make them the perfect gift. Valerie Gordon's chocolates are just as good as her petit fours (the former was recently hailed as the best in Los Angeles). Deservedly so: Valerie and her team hand-make and hand-package every single piece of candy, chocolate, and brittle that come out of her Echo Park-based factory. A woman after my own heart, Valerie relies on her concoctions – namely, this peppermint bark – as presents when the holidays roll around so I asked her to walk me through her process.
When making candy at home for gifts, temperature matters: "Don't be intimidated by candy: It's really very easy. But, my biggest tip is this: Don’t stray from the written directions or you could end up with undesired results. One way to make sure you get the most precise outcome is to make sure your temperatures are precise. Investing in a great digital candy thermometer (I'd avoid the old mercury ones) will help you be exact."
How to get a professional look, every single time: "I'd also recommend getting a small digital home kitchen scale, too. It's the only way to get a uniform look each and every time. For instance, for our peppermint bark, it's a one-pound layer of bittersweet chocolate, a one pound layer of white chocolate, and 8 ounces of peppermint candy. Just repeat exact measurements of your components over and over and you’ll get factory-grade results."
On why cellophane may be peppermint bark's best friend: "There are certain edible presents that people want to see before they unwrap them. Peppermint bark is one of these items: the vibrant colors and layers of bittersweet chocolate and white chocolate, finished with pops of vibrant red candy are too pretty to be boxed. I've found that the element of surprise is no longer engaging with something like this, because seeing it coming towards you wrapped in cellophane triggers just the same amount of excitement."