By: Kathleen Neafsey
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…..there are cookies, candies, and goodies everywhere! I started my baking some of my Christmas cookies this weekend. Each year I try to add something new to my old family favorites, and the list is pretty extensive by now. I was, however, trying to do something a little bit different this year – a break from the cookie norm, if you will.
Everyone loves sweet, buttery cookies but sometimes it’s nice to mix it up with something sweet and salty. Chocolate covered pretzels! They’re so easy, and you can get a lot done at one time. The key is having a rhythm: melt, dip, decorate, repeat.
Let’s start by gathering the ingredients:
* Pretzel rods (mainly because they’re the easiest to work with)
* Chocolate morsels (semi-sweet, dark, milk, white – it’s up to you)
* Decorations, sprinkles, colored sugar, red and/or green chocolate melts for drizzling
Kitchen items needed:
* microwave-safe bowl(s)
* baking rack covered with parchment or waxed paper
I’ll be honest, I started this project with caramels. I thought it would be a little different to dip them in caramel before the chocolate. Needless to say, they were not the success I’d hoped.
First things first:
Melting the chocolate – there are several methods to melting chocolate – one using a double boiler (not my preferred method), and microwaving the chocolate.
Microwaving the chocolate can be tricky, but I’ve found the key is in the timing: start out slow, and do it in small increments. Chocolate can go from “almost melted” to “hard, useless rock of chocolate” in a matter of seconds. That’s kind of the purpose of this column; you get to learn from my trials and errors.
Pour half the bag of chocolate chips in a glass, microwave-safe bowl. Place in microwave and cook for 50 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir. Cook for another ten seconds, stir again. Work in ten second increments after that, until the chocolate is melted. You may reach a point where you see only a few chips that haven’t melted; stir them around and they will melt without being nuked again.
I like to work with half a bag at a time because the chocolate doesn’t get too cool to work with, and will still flow or swirl easily. This is especially true of white chocolate – it tends to harden quickly, so it’s much better to work with smaller batches.
If you use a deep bowl to melt the chocolate, you can dip the pretzel directly into it, holding onto the end of the pretzel. If you use a more shallow bowl, just hold the pretzel over the bowl and spoon the chocolate onto it, making sure to cover it all around.
If you’re going to decorate the pretzels with sprinkles or sugar now is the time to do it; while the chocolate is still soft and the sprinkles will stick to them easily. If you’re going to drizzle them with the red and/or green melted chocolate, then time isn’t an issue and that can be done after you’re done dipping all the pretzels.
* Place on covered baking rack to cool and let chocolate set.
* Melt the colored chocolate in the microwave using the steps shown above. Once it’s melted, use the tip of a spoon to drizzle on to the pretzels.
* Let set for a couple of hours and store in a tightly sealed container until you’re ready to use them. When storing them, I put a layer of waxed paper or plastic between the layers so they don’t stick to one another.
You can purchase the plastic goody bags in the dollar store and wrap a few together to give as treats, or to set them out with the other desserts and goodies after dinner. I’ve made trays of these to put on tables at birthday parties, and I’ve seen them at bridal and baby showers. They’re always a hit!
As the year winds down I wish you all a happy holiday season. May the new year bring joy and peace to everyone, everywhere.