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!

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

Halloween Sprinkle Cake

Happy Halloween! So, will any of you be dressing up today? I can’t remember the last time I dressed up. These days I prefer to dress-up my baked treats with a Halloween theme. And this year, I made a Halloween themed Sprinkle Cake. If you’re wondering, a sprinkle cake is exactly what it sounds like. A cake covered in sprinkles. What’s fun and great about them, they work for any occasion… you just have to change the color of your sprinkles and you are all set.

I started off by baking, crumb coating and frosting my cake – getting it as smooth as possible. I opted to use a box cake mix – Pillsbury’s Halloween Funfetti Cake Mix – and store bought vanilla frosting – Betty Crocker Vanilla Frosting. Since I wasn’t all that sure how many ounces of  sprinkles I was going to need – I had a rough idea -and because I was planning on rolling the cake in a bed of sprinkles I opted to keep it small – 6 inches.

Speaking of the sprinkles… I order nonpareils – basically tiny balls of sprinkles – in purple, orange and black from NY Cake. I did a little research and they had the colors I wanted at the best price. I also ordered the green cupcake liners I used for the Cupcake Bouquet I made back in May from them. I went to their shop once in NYC and at the time I was just wandering around aimlessly looking at things. Since I decorate cakes more often now I am sure I would make the most of my next visit.

Next, I emptied the sprinkles onto a rimmed baking sheet and mixed them together. Let me just apologize now for my pictures. I need to stop baking and decorating at night and also on rainy days. Well, I can’t control the rainy days, but, I could definitely pick better times to start my baking/decorating projects.

To efficiently cover the cake in sprinkles I opted to roll the cake in the sprinkles. To do so, I placed a cake board on top of the cake, as well as the bottom, and simply rolled the cake in the sprinkles back and forth until it was covered. I used a spoon to cover any small spots I may have missed. To cover the top, I carefully removed the cake board and spread more frosting on it and poured handfuls of the sprinkles over it. To remove any excess sprinkles, I carefully tilted the cake to the side and tapped the bottom cake board so they could fall off.

Now it was time for a little more decorating. I’ve been seeing a lot of cakes on Instagram with a chocolate drizzle and I have been wanting to try it myself. I decided that this cake would be perfect for that. I made a chocolate ganache – the same one I made for the Pumpkin Crepe Cake – and poured it into a decorating bottle. I let the ganache sit for a few minutes so it would thicken up but still be pourable. You don’t want to pour it too soon or you’ll end up with a runny mess on your cake. I put it in a decorating bottle because I was only planning on decorating the edges of the cake and the sides, but, if you want to cover the entire top of the cake you could pour the ganache in the middle of cake and then use an offset spatula to smooth it out and let it drip down the sides.

After that, I tinted some of the remaining vanilla frosting a light orange color and piped a border around the bottom of the cake and used a large star tip to decorate the top. And finally placed a bat and a few creepy crawlers – spiders – on the cake for a final touch.

 

I love how this cake came out! I can’t wait to make another one with a completely different theme.

Happy Halloween!

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

While scrolling through my Instagram feed I saw a picture of Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes and immediately thought… “I want to try that!” This happens a lot when I am looking at pictures on Instagram. It could be a recipe, a cake idea or a craft project. I recently purchased the supplies for a paint pouring project I saw on AC Moore’s page. I am sure it’s going to be a messy one so I am waiting for a decent weather day to make that outside. I initially thought that the cupcakes were baked in a mini muffin tin and then placed inside of the cupcake cones (silly me!) but after a Google search I learned that no, the cupcakes are actually baked in the cones (even better!) And what was even better than that, I decided that since these were a “fun cupcakes” I would use Funfetti cake mix and lo and behold on the side of the Pillsbury box on Funfetti cake mix were the instructions to make these.

I began by placing flat-bottom ice cream cones in a muffin pan…

Next, after preparing the batter, I poured about 3 tablespoons of batter into each cone. You don’t want to overfill the cones, if you do, you’ll end up with a cupcake spilling out of the cone once baked.

I then baked them in a preheated 350F oven for approximately 25 minutes.

I allowed them to cool completely on a wire rack…

And then piped frosting on each cupcake using a large star tip (I used Wilton size 1M) to resemble a soft serve ice cream cone. And no ice cream cone is complete without sprinkles.

There you have it… Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes. While they are fun and delicious (and probably the perfect treat for a kids party) they do have a downfall, they are top-heavy. Which means transporting them can be a challenge. I dropped a few of them while trying to balance them on a cake stand while walking. Lesson learned!

Funfetti Cake

Are you ever too old for sprinkles? If you ask me, I’ll say absolutely not! I’m thirtysomething and when I go to Carvel to get a cup of soft serve vanilla ice cream I always ask for them to put sprinkles in the bottom of the cup before swirling in the ice cream and then ask for more sprinkles on top. So, when a friends’ younger sister asked me to make her a Funfetti cake for her 30th birthday I was more than happy to oblige!

To create this Funfetti cake, I followed a recipe to make a white cake and in the end I folded in a cup of rainbow sprinkles. To create the batter for the cake I began by beating butter until it was creamy and then gradually added in sugar and continued beating it until it was light and fluffy. In a separate bowl I sifted together flour and baking powder and in a measuring cup I mixed together milk and vanilla extract. I added these two to the butter mixture alternating between the two, starting and ending with the flour mixture. In another separate bowl, I beat 5 egg whites until stiff peaks formed. I then folded the egg whites along with the sprinkles into the batter.

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I divided the batter among 3 8-inch round cake pans that I sprayed with baking spray and then baked them in a 350 F oven for about 25 minutes. After letting the cakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes I then turned the cakes out on wire racks so they could cool completely.

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I then made my go-to frosting, a Fluffy Vanilla Frosting from Martha Stewart. After crumb coating the cake…

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I finished frosting it, added some dropped dollops on top and of course some sprinkles. While everyone wasn’t a fan of the Funfetti Cake – I never realized it was one of those cakes that you either love or hate – the Birthday girl thoroughly enjoyed it!

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Funfetti Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup whole milk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups sugar

3 cups cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

5 egg whites

3/4 rainbow sprinkles

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease and flour 3 8-inch round cake pans.

Stir together the milk and vanilla extract and set aside.

Beat the butter at medium speed until creamy; gradually add in the sugar, beating until the mixture becomes light and fluffy.

In a separate bowl sift together the cake flour & baking powder.

Alternatively add the whole milk and flour mixture into the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat at low speed after each addition until just combined.

Gently fold in the egg whites and sprinkles and then divide the batter among the 3 pans.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tested come out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, and then invert the cakes on the racks and let cool completely.

Recipe based on Mrs. Billets White Cake

 

Fluffy Vanilla Frosting

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 pound (4 cups) Confectioners’ sugar, sited

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

With an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until pale and creamy.

Reduce the speed to medium and add the sugar 1/2 cup at a time, after every 2 additions increase the speed to high for 10 seconds to aerate the frosting. Scrape the bowl as necessary.

Add the vanilla and continue mixing until smooth.

Recipe from Martha Stewart

Chocolate Crinkles

The Christmas Cookie fun continues with today’s Chocolate Crinkles. Now, I know the cookie recipes I’ve posted earlier – Rosemary and Pine Nut Cookies and Orange Scented Elephant Ears – aren’t your traditional holiday cookie recipes, but, these are definitely in line with what you see around the holidays. I’ve seen recipes for these cookies for quite some time, I probably have 1 or 2 saved in my recipe binder, but, it wasn’t until I was flipping through a Christmas Cookie recipe magazine recently that I finally decided to try them out and I wish I had tried them sooner. They are a cinch to make and delicious… Chocolatey without being overpowering.

I started off by melting unsweetened chocolate, shortening and butter over low heat in a medium saucepan.

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After letting the chocolate mixture cool for a few minutes I continued making the dough for the cookies by mixing together eggs, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

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Once that was well mixed I then added in the melted chocolate and vanilla extract and finally flour and unsweetened cocoa powder.

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It wasn’t long before the dough had come together. To make sure all of the ingredients had incorporated I gave the dough a few good folds using a spatula.

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Using a cookie scoop I scooped up the dough and shaped it into a ball and then rolled it in granulated sugar and then confectioners’ sugar. I then placed them on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

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To give some of the cookies a festive touch I sprinkled them with red, green and white sprinkles.

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After baking them in a 350 F preheated oven for 8 minutes, I let them cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. While the recipe says to bake them for 8-10 minutes, I always like to bake my cookies on the lower end of the time span to ensure that I don’t end up with cookies that are like rocks. Letting them sit on the hot pan for a few minutes allows them to cook and set for a few more minutes. At first I thought I may have removed these cookies from the oven too soon, but, as they continued to cool on the wire rack they firmed up more and the texture of the cookie was spot-on. A little crisp on the outside and completely soft on the inside!

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Chocolate Crinkles

Ingredients:

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup shortening

1/4 cup unsalted butter

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

 

For Rolling Dough:

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

 

Directions:

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

Over low heat in a medium saucepan melt the chocolate, shortening and butter. Let cool.

In a large bowl combine eggs, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in the melted chocolate and vanilla extract. And then stir in the flour and cocoa powder.

Using a cookie scoop, scoop out dough and shape into balls and roll the ball in the granulated sugar and then the confectioners’ sugar. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or just until edges are set and the cracks appear slightly moist. Cool on the sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Better Homes & Gardens 100 Best Cookies Magazine

Valentine’s Heart Candy Box Cake

A great thing about blogging and social media – Instagram in particular – is the chance to discover other bloggers. One blog that I have enjoyed following is The Cake Blog – a blog with amazing cake designs that include tutorials so you can recreate them yourself if you wish. Recently they featured a Valentine’s Heart Candy Box Cake that I thought was too cute not to try.

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Using one milk chocolate box cake mix I baked two heart cakes filling the pan with about 2 cups of batter for each of the cakes. After letting the cakes cool completely I leveled the cakes using a large serrated knife. I used to use a cake leveler but have found that using a knife allows me to level the cakes more evenly.

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Following that I frosted each of the cakes with vanilla frosting and then placed them in the refrigerator so the frosting could harden in preparation for decorating them with fondant.

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And while I was on a kick making marshmallow fondant recently, I opted to go with store bought fondant to decorate these cakes. I picked up Wilton’s Decorator Preferred Fondant in red and pink and I was pleasantly surprised; it was easy to knead and roll out. I’ve used Wilton’s Rolled Fondant in the past and it wasn’t as easy to work with.

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After rolling the red fondant out to an 1/8 of an inch thick I cut two strips of fondant long enough to wrap around each of the heart cakes, one an inch and half wide – the height of the cake – for the top of the candy box and the other two inches wide for the candy box.

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I rolled up the strips and then unrolled them around each of the cakes.

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Next I rolled out more of the red fondant and using my heart cake pan as a template, I traced out a heart for the cover of the candy box.

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Once I was done with the red fondant I rolled out the pink fondant and cut out two hearts – one smaller than the red cover I previously cut and one to fit inside of the wider red border – the candy box cake. On the smaller of the two pink hearts I used a fondant stitching wheel to etch an angle design.

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Next it was time to make the candy box cake actually look like a candy box and to do that I needed candy, more specifically chocolate candy. I melted some Wilton Dark Cocoa Candy Melts and filled heart & circle swirls molds to create the candy.

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After refrigerating the molds so the chocolate could set I tapped them out onto wax paper.

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I then used some of the melted chocolate to glue two pieces of the candy together so they would have a little height inside the candy box cake.

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To add a little more pizazz to the chocolates I drizzled them with melted chocolate and then sprinkled them with Valentine’s themed sprinkles.

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Then I used more of the melted chocolate to glue the pieces onto the candy box cake.

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On the original cake the edges were painted gold using gold dust and extract. I attempted to do the same with shimmer powder I had on hand…

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But unfortunately I wasn’t too successful as the powder I have didn’t have the same color intensity. It was worth a try though! While there were some imperfections with my final outcome, overall I was pleased with it. I definitely need to work on cutting fondant shapes and making straight lines when etching a design into the fondant.

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