Chocolate Pretzel Success

A while back, Deb of Smitten Kitchen fame blogged about the shortcomings of Martha Stewart's chocolate pretzel cookie recipe. "Dry, bland, and not chocolatey enough" and more colorful adjectives described a cocopretzel that just didn't cut it. She suggested trying to make pretzels out of Dorie Greenspan's very flavorful and buttery chocolate rollout cookies, which I had been planning to make later that day. I figured what the hell? Chocolate pretzels they would be.

Needless to say, nothing is ever that easy. Dorie's chocolate rollout cookies are awesome cookies, but they make lousy pretzels. In the oven, they flatten out and spread a bit, losing their pretzel shape, and once cooled, they've got the texture of great cookies, not crunchy, crispy pretzels. Pretzels: 1. Rivka: 0. With disappointment under my belt, I decided to give chocolate pretzels a second chance -- but not without a great deal of research. I googled several different phrasings of "chocolate pretzel cookie" and found total rubbish -- not even one decent recipe came up. I checked all my cookbooks with no luck. Left only to my own devices, I decided to develop a chocolate pretzel recipe.

My strategy was pretty simple (um, amateur?). I wrote out the ratio of butter:flour:cocoa:sugar:eggs in each recipe, noted the addition of baking powder and chocolate to Dorie's recipe and water and espresso to Martha's, and did my best to create a compromise between the two recipes that maintained the pretzely texture without sacrificing (much of) the flavor. And friends, you'll be thrilled to know that I succeeded! Yep, this super amateur method actually, to my total shock, worked!

Rivka's chocolate pretzel recipe (that's right, it's named after me!) yielded a chocolate pretzel that kept its round shape and its relatively toothsome crumb, but also packed a chocolatey punch from lots of cocoa and even a bit of chocolate. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've developed a recipe from scratch -- so pat me on the back, will ya? And then run home and make these. They'll surely spread some holiday cheer (and maybe some chocolate onto your face, too).

Rivka's CocoPretzels makes 18 pretzels Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 or 2 oz. good quality chocolate (I used ghiradelli chips, and 1 oz is about 30 chips; the second time around, I used 2 oz and they were even better!)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • (1 egg yolk, for brushing)
  1. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or with an electric mixer, whip butter until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add sugars and whip until incorporated, 2 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, melt chocolate over double boiler.
  4. Add egg, vanilla and salt; mix until combined, about 20 seconds.
  5. Add chocolate; mix until combined, about 30 seconds, on low speed.
  6. Add cocoa, flour, and baking powder. Mix on low speed until completely blended, about two minutes or less.
  7. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or freeze for 45 minutes.
  8. Remove dough from fridge/freezer. Break off 1 1/2 Tbsp.-size chunks. (Alternatively, do as I did and slice the dough into relatively equal portions from the start.
  9. roll into 10-inch logs, about 1/3-1/2 an inch thick. DO NOT do as I did and roll them all out before shaping, because they'll get stiff and crack when you try to shape them. Shape as you go!
  10. Take the edges in your hand, bring them together, and twist them twice, leaving the tips dangling.
  11. Bring the twist down onto the rounded pretzel, stick the tips to the pretzel, and transfer to a non-stick or lined baking sheet.
  12. Brush with a very light coat of egg yolk mixed with water and sprinkle with rock sugar if you desire.
  13. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, until they've just begun to harden.
  14. Move delicately from baking sheet onto cooling rack, and allow to cool completely before serving. (Don't let that stop you from trying one...or two.)