These tasty treats are chocolate pretzels with a chocolate glaze topped with crushed peppermint candy. They make great holiday gifts since they look great, keep for a long time and ship well. And you can have a lot of fun with it, too, making whatever shapes strike your fancy!
Step 1: Assemble ingredients
Assemble pretzel dough ingredients:
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup hot water
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg (beaten)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Step 2: Dissolve cocoa, cream butter and sugar
Combine the hot water and the cocoa in a small bowl and stir to mix. Let sit while you work on the butter mixture.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and the sugar. This'll be easier if your butter is pretty soft -- you can warm it up in the microwave if you like. You can use either a wooden spoon or an electric handmixer (I just used a spoon).
By now, the cocoa should be fully dissolved in the water and warm, not hot. Add it to the butter mixture and stir well.
Step 3: Add egg and vanilla
Into this mixture add a lightly beaten egg and vanilla. Mix well.
Step 4: Add flour gradually
Add flour about a half cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. It should start looking like dough now!
Step 5: Form a choco-log, refrigerate
Cut a piece of wax paper about 12 inches long.
With your hands, form the dough into a log about 10 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Roll it up in wax paper to cover it and place it in the fridge for about 30 minutes or until it's firm enough to handle.
Step 6: Slice your choco-log
Cut roll into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Take each slice and form it into a ball with your hands. Rubbing the ball between your two hands, make the ball into a long "snake" about 1/8-1/4 inch thick.
Step 7: Channel your inner preschooler!
This is the fun part! Make like you're five years old again and go nuts with the play-doh. Make any shapes you like: classic pretzel knot, Christmas themed shapes (like a Christmas tree, star or stockings). Or you can do something completely different and make Christmas squid, like I did. If you have some patience, you can even use your dough ropes to spell out words to express your own holiday sentiment.
If at any point the dough becomes too warm to work with, just pop it in the freezer for a couple minutes (but don't forget about it!).
Keep in mind that the pretzels will puff up a little during baking so leave so leave enough space for the dough to expand a little.
Lay out your shapes on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet and let cool on wire rack. Make sure they're completely cooled before you go onto the next step.
Note: don't panic if parts of your pretzels break off when you're transferring them to the cooling rack. You'll be able to "glue" them back together when you apply the chocolate glaze.
Step 8: Get out your aggressions
Get a hold of two candy canes and a hammer.
One at a time, place a candy cane between two sheets of wax paper.
Now smash it like there's no tomorrow!
But be careful not to let the little bits go flying.
When you're done, you should have two thoroughly pulverized candy canes, with little peppermint flakes.
Okay, put away your hammer now.
Step 9: Start the chocolate glaze
Assemble the ingredients for your chocolate glaze.
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup cream (milk is fine, too)
1/4 cup light corn syrup
Incidentally, if you want to make a white chocolate glaze for that nice contrasty look, this recipe works exactly the same with white chocolate chips.
Step 10: Stop the world and melt with you
Place the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Put them in the microwave for 30 seconds. Open microwave and stir chips after 30 seconds. Repeat until the chips are completely melted -- depending on the strength of your microwave this should take about 1-2 minutes.
After the chips are completely melted, add the corn syrup first, then the cream. Blend well and then pop the bowl back in the microwave for 15 seconds.
Now you're ready to dip!
Step 11: Dip your pretzels
Cover a cookie sheet with wax paper.
Take your pretzels and dip them by hand into the chocolate. When they are covered to your satisfaction, set them on the wax paper.
If your pretzels are odd shapes that are too difficult to dip, you can use pastry brush (or even the back of a spoon).
If any of your pretzel shapes broke after baking, now's the time to fix them. Make sure you get ample chocolate on both of the broken pieces, stick them together and then add another layer of chocolate glaze around the seam -- and then don't move it until it's set!
Step 12: Make like a sugar plum fairy and sprinlkle holiday magic
As you finish coating each pretzel with chocolate glaze, sprinkle it with your peppermint flakes. You can sprinkle the whole thing or just parts.
You can also use other things as sprinkles: rainbow jimmies, chopped nuts, minced dried fruits, mini M&M's or my personal favorite, fleur de sel salt -- whatever you think will taste good with a chocolate pretzel.
Step 13: Chill out and then enjoy!
Once you've finished all the pretzels, set the whole cookie sheet in the fridge for at least a half an hour until the chocolate has set (you may want to wait a bit longer if you have pieces you glued together).
Once they're chilled they're ready to serve or package up as gifts.