Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods

Sweet & Salty is as good a combination as you can get and there’s no better way to get satisfy that craving for both than with chocolate covered pretzels. If you’re looking for a last minute treat to give your loved ones this Holiday season these may be the answer. You only need three ingredients to make them, pretzels, chocolate and a topping (if you choose). Now, when I’ve made chocolate covered pretzels in the past I’ve used the mini pretzel twists and while they taste good I always have an issue with getting the excess chocolate to drip off… It never does. I never end up with pretzels that are nice and evenly coated with chocolate, there is always one or two spots that has a little too much. As I mentioned, they taste good, but, I am just not 100% happy with how they look. This year, I decided I would make chocolate dipped pretzels rods rolled in sprinkles. Figuring that the sprinkles could easily cover any imperfections with the chocolate. Which it did!

Now, I know a lot of directions for chocolate covered pretzels call for a bit of shortening to be added to the chocolate when melting, I have never done this. From what I have read the shortening creates a smoother and more manageable consistency of chocolate – which I suppose would be ideal for the chocolate covered pretzel twists – but, I have also read that it can alter the flavor of the chocolate and that sometimes the chocolate doesn’t harden as well, so I stick with plain old chocolate. If I find that the chocolate is beginning to thicken too much while I am working with it I pop it back in the microwave for a quick 10 seconds just to get it smooth again. Not much longer because I don’t want to scorch the chocolate. Oh, and I melt my chocolate in the microwave as well. I have melted chocolate in my own make-shift double boiler – I place a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water – but, I find the microwave quicker and with less clean-up. I simply pour a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl (I normally use a silicone one) and heat it for 1 minute. I give it a good stir and continue melting the chocolate in 30 second intervals, stirring the chocolate between each zap in the microwave. I don’t melt the chocolate completely in the microwave. Once it begins to melt stirring it will help melt the rest of the chocolate into a smooth mixture. For dipping pretzel rods you want to use a small bowl that is pretty deep so you can get a lot of the pretzel rods coated in the chocolate. As you go along and find yourself with less and less chocolate but pretzel rods remaining you can use a spoon/knife to spread the chocolate on to the rod.

Once the chocolate is ready I pour my sprinkles onto a rimmed baking sheet and push them to the center of the pan. Using a baking sheet will make it easy to roll the pretzel rods in the sprinkles. I set up another baking sheet with wax paper to place the rods on once they are dipped and sprinkled. And then I simply dipped a rod into the chocolate and then rolled it in the sprinkles. I then placed it on the wax lined paper so it could set and once I was done I placed the entire pan in the refrigerator to be sure that the chocolate would harden.

Here are some tips that may help you get a good coating of chocolate on your pretzels… If you have too much chocolate and it’s just not dripping off use a butter knife to smooth it out, or, another pretzel rod. I did the latter a few times. I simply rolled the pretzels next to each other over the bowl to coat the one without the chocolate. For those rods that I wasn’t planning on rolling in sprinkles I actually rolled it on a sheet of wax paper to smooth the chocolate out and then placed them in the refrigerator so the chocolate could harden and then drizzled them with the red and green chocolate the following day. To do so, I melted candy melts and then poured it in squeeze bottles and drizzled the chocolate over the pretzels and once again placed the sheet back in the refrigerator so the drizzle could harden.

My apologies for not having step-by-step pictures, but, I made these late at night (a lot later than I had planned since my car decided to act up that day and I had to be towed from work to the mechanic and then have a friend bring me home… thankfully my car was fixed and back on the road the following day!) and I have learned that late-night pictures are not good for blogging!

So, to recap, all you need for these Chocolate Covered Pretzels is a bag of pretzel rods (I used a 12oz bag that had about 30 good (unbroken) pretzel rods), a 12oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, and to decorate sprinkles, candy melts, chopped nuts or coconut. You will also need wax paper, at least 3 baking sheets and a bowl to melt and dip the chocolate.

Happy Dipping & Rolling!

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

For today’s Holiday Cake Week treat I am bringing you Snickerdoodle Cupcakes. Snickerdoodles are a simple cookie rolled in cinnamon sugar and are a traditional Christmas cookie. People sometimes confuse them with sugar cookies, but, there is a distinct difference between the two of them, besides the cinnamon sugar topping, Snickerdoodles are chewy while sugar cookies traditionally have a more crisp bite to them. These cupcakes have a cinnamon sugar topping similar to the cookie and are the perfect texture. The original recipe called for a Brown Sugar Buttercream frosting that I opted to omit, I truly feel the cupcake is enough on its own. If you’re interested in the frosting, follow the link after the recipe below. And, if you are looking for a yummy Snickerdoodle recipe, check out the one I post a few years ago. I still use it to this day.

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

  • Servings: 18 cupcakes
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Ingredients:

Cupcakes:

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 egg whites

Cinnamon Sugar Topping:

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line cupcake pans with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter. Then whisk in the sugar, buttermilk, sour cream and vanilla.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated.

Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into the batter until combined.

Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full – about 1/4 cup batter in each one.

Mix the sugar and cinnamon for the topping and sprinkle a generous 1/2 teaspoons on top of each cupcake.

Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with a few crumbs.

Allow cupcakes to cool in pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire tack to cool completed.

Recipe from The Cake Blog

Yule Log Cake

Each day this week I will be bringing you a cake / cupcake idea that is perfectly festive for this time of the year… It’s Holiday Cake Week.

To kick off Holiday Cake Week a traditional cake seen around the holidays… A Yule Log Cake. It originated in France and is a sponge cake rolled and then frosted with chocolate frosting to resemble a tree bark. Customarily a small portion of the cake is cut off and either placed on top of the cake or protruding from the side of the cake to resemble a chopped off branch. The cake can then be furthered decorated with powdered sugar to resemble snow, fresh berries, mushrooms made of marzipan and so forth.

I opted to go the easy route with my cake and used a box cake mix and a container of vanilla frosting for the filling. Also, while the recipe didn’t call for it, I ended up a slicing off a portion of the cake and placing it on the side to get that traditional branch look. And to top it off, I sifted confectioners’ sugar over the cake and placed some decorative holly berry picks I got from a local craft store around it.

Yule Log Cake

Ingredients:

Cake:

6 eggs

1 box of Devil’s food cake mix

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

 

Chocolate Frosting:

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Filling:

1 container whipped vanilla frosting

 

Directions:

Heat oven to 375 F. Line the bottom of a 15x10x1-inch (Jelly Roll Pan) pan with foil or waxed paper, spray with baking spray.

In a large bowl beat the eggs with an electric mixer on high until the eggs are thick and lemon colored, about 5 minutes. Add the cake mix, water and oil and beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then on medium speed for 1 minutes. Pour about 2 3/4 – 3 cups of the batter into the prepared pan. Use the remaining batter to make cupcakes, or as you wish.

Bake 14 to 16 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched in the center. Turn the cake out on a clean kitchen towel sprinkled with the confectioners’ sugar. While the cake is still hot, carefully roll up the cake and towel together from one shorter end to the other. Cool completely on a wire rack from 1 hour.

While the cake is cooling make the chocolate frosting… In a medium pot heat the whipping cream over medium heat until the cream starts to boil. Remove from the heat and add in the chocolate chips and corn syrup, let stand for 3 minutes. Beat with a wire whisk until smooth and then add in the vanilla. Refrigerate for about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until it’s a spreadable consistency.

After an hour, unroll the cake carefully and remove the towel. Spread the vanilla frosting evenly over the cake and roll it up once again. Place the cooling rack on sheet of waxed paper and return the cake to the wire rack and frost the cake with the chocolate frosting. Drag the tines of a fork through the frosting to give the cake a log look. Let the cake stand for 15 minutes and then refrigerate loosely covered until ready to serve. Let stand at room temperature prior to serving.

*If you want to make the log resemble more of a branch, prior to frosting with the chocolate frosting, cut a piece of the cake off and place on the side of the cake or on top and then frost.

Recipe from Betty Crocker

Cookie Palooza: Bakery Style Butter Sandwich Cookies

Welcome to Day 2 of Cookie Palooza 2018! Today I am bringing you a traditional butter bakery cookie. Not the round ones covered in sprinkles, but the long sandwich ones that are filled with jam, dipped in chocolate and then rolled in sprinkles. YUM! It’s actually one of my favorite cookies, but it wasn’t always. I used to buy a package of butter cookies from my local Costco and I would always eat the round ones with the sprinkles from the package, leaving the sandwich ones for my parents to eat. Then one day I tried them and realized that they tasted much better than the other ones. Unfortunately Costco changed their supplier and the new ones they carry do not taste half as good. They taste more artificial. Thankfully this homemade version fills the void.

You may be slightly intimidated to make these cookies, but don’t be. They are super simple and don’t require any special ingredients. The hardest part is squeezing the dough out of the piping bag onto the prepared baking sheet. But after a few squeezes the dough softens up and it becomes easier and you soon get the hang of it. Using a Wilton 6B Tip I piped the dough into 2-inch pieces on a parchment lined cookie sheet. To end the dough for each cookie you can cut them with a knife or scissors. What I did is a little harder explain. I kind of nudged the tip into the cookie sheet to end it. I tried using a knife and it just wasn’t working for me. After you have piped all of your cookies bake them in a 350 F preheated oven for about 12 minutes. Let them cool completely and then the fun begins, the assembling.

Before assembling I did my best to par up similar sized cookies. If they were off a little in length I dipped the mismatched end in the melted chocolate so no one would be the wiser. Next, I filled a piping bag with about half a cup of seedless raspberry jam to a piping bag (you could also use a small sandwich bag) and snipped off a small piece of the end. I piped a single line of jam down the center of one half of each cookie. I didn’t want to add too much jam as I didn’t want the jam to ooze out of the sides once the cookie was pressed together.

Once I had all of my cookies sandwiches together I melted a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave in a deep enough bowl that would allow me to dip the cookies at least a third of the way in. To ensure that I didn’t scorch the chocolate, I melted it at 30 second intervals and stirred between each. Once the chocolate was about 3/4 quarters of the way melted I continued stirring it to melt the rest of it. You could also melt the chocolate in a small saucepan on your stovetop if you choose. Just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. In a shallow bowl I poured out some sprinkles- you will need a decent amount. I also lined two baking sheets with wax paper to place the cookies once they were decorated. I began by dipping a cookie in the chocolate, allowing the excess to drip off. I actually used a knife to wipe off some of the excess. If you leave too much chocolate on the sprinkles will just slide off. Next I rolled the cookie in the sprinkles and placed it on the prepared baking sheet. Once I was done I placed the baking sheets in the refrigerator for a few minutes so the chocolate could set.

And there you have it…. Easy to make fancy bakery cookies that will impress everyone you share them with!

Butter Sandwich Cookies

Ingredients:

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

Filling & Decorating:

1/2 cup jam (flavor of your choice)

1 cup sprinkles

12 ounce bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat on medium speed with a hand mixer until well combined. Add the egg yolks, vanilla extract and salt and beat until combined, scraping the bowl as necessary. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Fit a star tip with a 1/2-inch opening on a piping bag and snip off the end. Transfer the batter to the bag.

Pipe the dough into 2 inch long segments about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. You can use a knife or scissor to cut the pieces. Bake the cookies for 11 to 13 minutes, until they are golden at the edges.

Let them cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Set aside the parchment lined baking sheets.

Place the jam in a sandwich bag (or another piping bag) and place the sprinkles in a shallow dish.

Once the cookies are cool, flip half of them over and snip a small corner of the jam filled bag. Squeeze a little jam down the center of each flipped cookie. Don’t squeeze too much jam on the cookies as you don’t want it to ooze out when sandwiched. Top with the other half of the cookie.

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or a small saucepan until they are three-quarters of the way melted and then stir to melt it completely. Place the chocolate in a bowl deep enough for dipping the cookies about a third of the way in. Dip the sandwiched cookies into the melted chocolate, letting the excess drip off, and then roll in the sprinkles. Place on the baking sheet. Once all cookies have been decorated place the cookie sheets in the refrigerator so the chocolate can set.

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Happy Holidays!

How was your Thanksgiving? Mine was good… Surrounded by loved ones, delicious food and sweet-tooth satisfying desserts. Of course, I did my fair share of baking… Key Lime Pie, Pumpkin-Brownie Swirl Pie, Pumpkin Pie, a Pumpkin Tiramisu Cake and the below Pear Cranberry Pie, just to name a few things.

 

I’ll admit that I took some major shortcuts when it came to making the crust for this pie. First off, I used a frozen deep dish pie crust as the base and for the lattice pattern I used refrigerated pie crust that I cut into strips to weave and braid and then added a decorative border with leaf cut-outs. I decided to brush the pie with milk prior to baking – I usually use an egg, but, after all of the baking I did I was feeling lazy and didn’t feel like cracking and whisking an egg – so I made sure to dab a little milk under the leaf border so to that the leaves and the lattice and braided strips would adhere to the crust. One other thing to note, I let the frozen crust sit out at room temperature for a few minutes after filling it so that it would be easier for my top crust stick to it. As for the filling, if you’ve never had pear pie you should definitely try one. For me, pear pie isn’t as sweet as apple pie and while I do bake a lot I actually don’t like things that are overly sweet. If you want the best of both worlds, try this Brown Butter & Vanilla Pear Pie I made last year for Thanksgiving. While the filling consists mainly of pears, there is 1 apple in the mix. As for the recipe for this or, I got it from the premiere issues of Magnolia Journal last year. You can find the recipe here.

Now that Thanksgiving is over I am looking forward to Christmas and New Year’s. I can’t believe how quickly the year has flown by. Fourth of July honestly feels like it was just a few short weeks ago, but, it was more like 5 long months ago. Today marks my three-month anniversary at my new job, oh yeah, I never mentioned that, I got a new job. I was working part-time before but I am now working full-time, which has given me some challenges when it comes to writing blog posts and sometimes baking, but, not really. I can always squeeze in some time for baking.

Next week I will be bringing you my 3rd annual Cookie Palooza… Hopefully you’ll try at least one of the recipes and just maybe it will become one of your staples. One of the cookies is actually one I am planning on making and gifting later this month, oops, later next month – we are still in November. I kind of like that Thanksgiving was early this year. I feel like it cuts down on the panic of realizing that the next set of holidays are just around the corner. Although, I was at Walmart a few weeks ago and seeing people shopping for what seemed like Christmas gifts already had me panicking a bit. Like I was short on time to get things done. Yikes! I have to-do lists everywhere I look.

The second week in December I am bringing you something new… A Holiday Cake Week. The idea came about last year when I never seemed to get the time to post about a Yule Log Cake I made and then some Snickerdoodle Cupcakes I made. So, I figured I would save the write-up for both and create a special week for them this year. Rounding out the five is a Pull-Apart Cupcake Christmas Wreath, a Rum Cake and a Rainbow Cookie Cake. Yum!

So, sit back, enjoy this last month of the year and don’t forget to indulge in some delicious treats. ‘Tis the season!

Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprints

There are some recipes you see that you know that you must instantly try… As was the case when I got a recipe in my inbox last week from Land O’ Lakes for a Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprint cookie. I pretty much love any pastry / baked item that involves almonds and then when you throw raspberry into the mix you are definitely in for something pretty delicious. Best of all, not only are these cookies amazing, but, they are simple to make and add a festive to look to your holiday cookie platters.

I began by making the dough (obviously… LOL!)… I combined butter, sugar and almond extract in the bowl of my stand mixer and beat it at medium speed until it was well combined, scraping the bowl as necessary. On low speed I added in flour and continued beat the mixture until it was well combined. Once the dough had come together I covered and refrigerated it for an hour or until the dough was firm.

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Once it was firm, I rolled dough into 1-inch sized balls – I used approximately 1/2 tablespoon of dough for each ball.

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Then using the back of a 1/4 teaspoon (you could simply use your thumb as well, hence the name of the cookie) I made a small indentation into the center of each cookie and then filled them with raspberry jam.

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After refrigerating the cookies for about 10 minutes I baked them in a 350 F preheated oven for about 12-14 minutes, until the edges just began to brown. You don’t have to refrigerate the cookies prior to baking, but, I did so so that the dough could firm up again a bit so the cookies wouldn’t spread as much while baking. My cookies did spread some so I probably could have left them in the refrigerator a bit longer. After removing them from the oven I let them sit on the cookie sheet for a minute or two and then transferred them to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Once the cookies cooled I drizzled a glaze of water, confectioners’ sugar and almond extract over them.

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One word for these cookies… YUM!

 

Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprints

  • Servings: 36-42 cookies
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Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup raspberry jam

 

For the Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 to 3 teaspoons water

1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

 

Directions:

Combine the butter, sugar and almond extract in a bowl and beat at medium speed until creamy, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Switch to low speed and add in the flour, beating well until all the ingredients have been combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F and cover cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls; approximately 1/2 tablespoon of dough. Place 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Make a small indentation in the center of each of the cookies and fill with a 1/4 teaspoon of the raspberry jam.

You could place the cookies back in the refrigerator for a few minutes for the dough to firm up again, or place them directly in the oven for about 12-14 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned. Let stand on the cookie sheets for 1 minute and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Combine all the ingredients for the glaze in a bowl and whisk together until smooth and then drizzle over the cooled cookies.

Recipe from Land O’ Lakes

Vanilla Spritz Cookies

How is your holiday baking going? I’ve been squeezing it in while trying to finish up Christmas cards, Christmas shopping and Christmas gift crafting (i.e. knitting and crocheting.) I think I am on track to get it all done; if not there will be some late nights in my near future.

Today I am bringing you super simple and delicious Vanilla Spritz Cookies. So customarily when you make spritz cookies you pipe them through a cookie press, well, I tried that once and the results were horrible. So for these cookies I decided to pipe them using a pastry bag and a large star tip instead and the end result was great!

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To make the dough I began by beating butter in my stand mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Next I added in sugar and baking powder. Once those ingredients were well combined I added in an egg and vanilla bean paste. And finally flour.

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Next I transferred the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and made simple piped drop cookies which I then sprinkled with festive colored sugar and sprinkles. Now, I went simple and just did simple drop cookies, but, you could get creative and pipe wreaths or different swirl designs.

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After baking them in a 375 F preheated oven for 8 minutes I removed them from the oven and transferred them to a wire rack to cool completely. Now, these cookies are of the dangerous variety… On the smaller side and super yummy. Which means you could grab a decent handful and munch away on them absentmindedly. But, since it’s the Holidays it’s okay!

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Vanilla Spritz Cookies

  • Servings: 72 cookies
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***Please note that I halved the recipe. Below is the original recipe with the original measurements. If you would like to make a smaller batch of cookies, i.e. 36, follow the measurements in the parenthesis. To get the 2 tablespoons of egg, whisk the egg and then measure it out. You might be tempted to use the entire egg, but, that would make the dough to watery and prevent you from being able to pipe or form the dough.

 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened (3/4 cup / 12 tablespoons)

1 cup granulated sugar (1/2 cup)

1 teaspoon baking powder (1/2 teaspoons)

1 egg (2 tablespoons)

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste* (1/2 tablespoon)

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (1 3/4 cup)

Sprinkles and Sugar Crystals to decorate

*If you do not have vanilla bean paste you can use an equal amount of vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl beat butter with a mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add the sugar and baking powder, continue beating until well combined then add in the egg and vanilla bean paste. And finally the flour. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary during the mixing.

Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe drop cookies onto prepared cookies sheets. Sprinkle the cookies with decorative sugar and/or sprinkles.

Bake for 7-8 minutes, until the edges are firm but just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Recipe slightly modified from Better Homes & Gardens 100 Best Cookies Magazine