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A no-bake holiday treat perfect for gift giving

By Alison Ladman

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Nov. 7 2011 8:55 a.m. MST

Salty and sweet. Savory and rich. It's the treat for chocolate fans who think they've tried it all.

It's caramel bacon peanut bark. That's right. Read that one again.

We start with a smooth, rich pool of melted milk chocolate, then scatter chopped peanuts over that. On top of that goes a healthy scattering of cooked and crumbled bacon. Trust us — the salty-savory-sweet flavors play so well together. But we didn't stop there. Over that goes a drizzle of caramel and a sprinkling of flaked sea salt.

Once the bark has completely cooled, it can be broken into chunks and packaged in plastic bags or candy boxes for gifts. It should hold at room temperature for up to a week.

CARAMEL BACON PEANUT BARK

Start to finish: 30 minutes, plus cooling

Servings: 24

12 ounces maple or brown sugar bacon

Two 12-ounce packages milk chocolate bits

1 1/2 cups chopped peanuts (salted or not)

10-ounce bag soft candy caramels

Large flake sea salt

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high. Working in batches, add the bacon and cook until very crisp, about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then repeat with remaining bacon. Set aside to cool completely. Once cooled, crumble the bacon into small pieces.

Place the chocolate bits in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every 20 seconds, or until melted and smooth. Pour the chocolate onto the prepared baking sheet, then tap it on the counter to settle the chocolate into an even, smooth puddle.

Immediately sprinkle the peanuts and bacon evenly over the chocolate. Allow the chocolate to fully harden, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the caramels in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every 20 seconds, or until melted and smooth. Drizzle the caramel over the bark, then sprinkle lightly with the sea salt. Allow to cool and harden, then break into pieces.

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