Friday, 15 December 2017

Chocolate Pretzel Cookies

This is an adaptation of a classic Czech Christmas cookie, originally published in a book of Christmas cookie recipes by Maria Janku-Sandtnerova almost 100 years ago. After I made them it occurred to me to check and see what other versions were out there, and I discovered that Martha Stewart posted a recipe for chocolate pretzels probably adapted from the same original, and that an awful lot of people really hated it, saying it lacked flavour, and was dry, and crumbly, and not sweet enough.

It's true this is not a very sweet cookie. That's one of the things that appealed to me about it. If it is dry, you have over-baked it, (and you should watch them, because they are so thin I expect that's easy to do) although it has to plead guilty to crumbling easily. I found the texture very shortbread-like.

I put mint extract into mine, but I would use vanilla, orange extract, almond extract, or strong coffee flavouring as Martha did. I would think they would also be excellent dipped into a chocolate coating, and maybe next time I will make them a little bigger and do that instead of using the sanding sugar. However I am very happy with how these turned out and expect them to disappear rapidly when introduced to the family. Until then, they are going to have to be hidden.

Oh - one last advantage to these cookies: I made an awful lot of cookies that call for egg whites only, so this was a great opportunity to get rid of a couple of egg yolks.

Makes 24 or 32
1 hour 15 minutes - 45 minutes prep time

1 cup soft unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup unsalted butter
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon flavouring extract
1/4 cup coarse sanding sugar

Mix the flour, salt, sugar, and cocoa (sift it into the bowl) in a mixing bowl. Line a couple of large baking pans with parchment paper.

Cut the butter in with a pastry cutter or a couple of knives. When it is well worked in, add the egg yolks and the flavouring extract. Stir well - one of the forks will be best until it begins to come together. This is a dry enough dough that I find it needs to be pressed together by hand, a bit like pie pastry.

Once you have it in a good, smooth ball, start working on the pretzels at once. The longer the dough sits, the harder it gets to work. To keep the pretzel sizes even, it is convenient if you have a kitchen scale and can weigh each piece as you divide it. Otherwise you will just have to eye-ball it.  Divide the dough in half, and each half in half again, etc, until you have 32 even pieces. To make 24 slightly larger pretzels, once you have 8 portions, divide each one into 3 even pieces instead of 4.

Take each piece of dough and roll it out into a thin, even rope about 6" or 7" long (or 8" for the larger ones). Take an end and pinch it onto the rope just a little on the far side of the halfway point. At the same time, have the other end crossing over it and pinching into itself at the mirror-image spot to the other one... or to put it another way, form it into a pretzel.

Have the sanding sugar standing by in a shallow dish. Drop your pretzel (gently!) face-down in it and press it in evenly, then lift it out and place it face-up on the prepared baking tray. Congratulations! One down, 31 (or 23) left to go.

This is the time to preheat the oven to 325°F. 

Moving briskly along, make the remaining pretzels. Give the dish of sugar a little shake after each pretzel to level the sugar. If the dough gets crumbly, warm it in your hands for a moment or two before forming the rope, then just pinch it back together if they want to break. After a few you will get the knack of it

Bake the pretzels for 10 to 12 minutes, a minute or two longer if larger, and by larger I mean thicker. If you have just rolled them longer, then no. Let cool and store carefully in a tin in a cool, dark place. Can be frozen if made more than a few days in advance.

Last year at this time I made Leek & Spinach Dip.

No comments: