I’ve mentioned before that my family is pretty serious about desserts – well, they’re even more serious about cookie swaps, or so I learned this weekend.
My Grammy Murphy is quite the grandmother – she was the first of anyone to get AOL, email and a ‘screen name’, her recipes for things like whoopie pies and pecan rolls are legendary (even though they never taste quite as good as when she makes them), and at 84, she still manages to have more style than I will ever have in my entire lifetime. AND, her new digs at the Assisted Living facility she just recently moved into are straight up 5-star, making Dave and I’s ‘love nest’ look like just that – a nest – made of sticks – where birds live. But if anyone deserves a sweet pad to hang their hat, it’s grammy Murphy – so that makes me just a little less bitter about it 🙂
My mom organized a cookie swap with all my Aunt’s this weekend to put some trays together for all those fab people who are there to help my grandparents on a day -to-day basis and everyone dawned their best baked goods and prettiest bows and ribbons to make some seriously good looking goody trays. Coming from a family that loves to bake, I think that the best part of the holiday season is that a huge tray of freshly baked treats wrapped up in cellophane and tied with a bow can be just as great a gift as a cashmere scarf or that blender you’ve been eyeing all year – and appreciated just as much, if not more, because there’s the added ingredient of TLC in them!
One of my favorites are these amazingly easy to make Chocolate Dipped Pretzels. I can’t remember when my cousin Jen started making these, but like many other things in the Murphy Family, they must be present on the dessert table for at least one Holiday to avoid stomping, shouting and crying fits – and that’s just my reaction! Pretty basic I know – pretzel – chocolate – dip – let dry – repeat. But, she took them to a new level by adding fun toppings and even hidden surprises like a slab of peanut butter hidden under the chocolate. So while being visually appealing, they’re equally as tummy appealing, especially when you bite into one and say “Wait, is that….is THAT what I think it is?”.
Holiday Chocolate Pretzels
* Adapted from my cousin Jen (if you think these are good, you should see her Trifle!) and Twist, A Unique Approach to Pretzels
mini salted pretzels
milk/dark/white chocolate (one or all three!)
*again, I use the Trader Joe’s 1lb chocolate bars and Ghiradellis’ White Chocolate Chips
1) Lay out your pretzels on wax paper-lined cookie sheets or wire racks.
2) In a double boiler (or in the microwave), temper your chocolate. To temper, take about 2/3 of the chocolate and place it in the double boiler (or microwave-safe dish). When the chocolate starts to really melt, remove it from the heat and add the remaining unmelted chocolate to the pan, stirring constantly until it melts into the melted stuff. The tempering will provide a nice shiny looking chocolate and avoid those unsightly little white spots that can sometimes pop up on chocolate. If you’re doing 2 or 3 different kinds of chocolate, be sure to repeat this process with each kind.
3) Assemble your pretzels:
For the Peanut Butter/Fluff pretzel – on one half of your pretzel, take about 1/2 tsp. of peanut butter and 1/2 tsp. of fluff, and stick them on the 1/2 of the pretzel that will go in the chocolate. Then dip that side in the chocolate and place on wax paper to dry. Top with sprinkles (or if you’re feeling really fiesty, mini peanut butter chocolate chips or rescees pieces!)
For the Nutella Pretzel – repeat the same process as above, only with Nutella. Top with sprinkles like I did, or for the fiesty (and not cheap like I am) dipper, sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts on the top.
For the Heath Bar Pretzel – dip pretzel in chocolate (with no filling) and sprinkle with Heath Bits (you can find those in the baking section a the grocery store)
For the Almond Joy Pretzel – same as above, and sprinkle with chopped almonds (I used the sliced almonds) and coconut
Honestly people, I think the thing I love so much about these is that your options are essentially endless – I had soooo many other ideas but 1) it’s a week night and 2) I still have a sugar hangover from the swap yesterday, so I kept my pretzels to a minimum. But really, you could do a spin on the last post, and do Dark Mint Chocolate with either Oreo crumbles or Peppermint bits. These are fun, so easy, and a serious crowd pleaser. Who doesn’t love Chocolate Covered Pretzels? I mean, really? They also wrap/travel really well, so load them into a holiday tin with some wax paper, or a fun jar with a snap top!
So shake up your Cookie Swap this year – be the mysterious swapper that brings Chocolate Pretzels instead of Chocolate Chip Cookies or Peanut Butter Kisses – make them wonder – and drool at the same time 🙂
Saltines get a bad wrap – they’re square with little holes in them, hard to swallow if you eat too many at once, kind of an ugly color, and for some reason I always associate them with having a stomach ache (that and flat ginger ale). For a while I thought all you could do to spice them up was slap peanut butter on them – until one fateful December when I discovered that they are the base for one of the easiest and most delicious sweet treats I’ve ever had in my life.
It was Sophomore year of college, right before Christmas break when Ash’s mom invited us gals out to the ‘burbs’ from Providence to have dinner with her family – a delicious pork dish with all the fixings was on the menu, a welcome change to the slop du jor we were used to at school. And then after dinner she put dessert on the table – I saw chocolate – YES. But then what in the…saltines? Are those saltine crackers under that chocolate? I was skeptical, but went in head first thinking “How bad can they be?”.
Since then, this ‘brittle’ as Ash’s mom called it has been a staple for every occasion imaginable – at bachelorette parties, we hover over the ziplock bag of it after a night out thinking “who needs pizza when you have brittle!” During the holidays, it’s perfect for wrapping up on a plate with pretty cellophane and ribbon and giving to co-workers, family members, or neighbors. And the best part is that it doesn’t take a lot of time or money to make – 5 basic ingredients – you can top it with pretty much anything imaginable, or just leave it plain and simple.
Saltine Toffee Brittle
(about 2 sleeves)
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 bag semi-sweet (or milk) chocolate chips
*chopped pecans, M&M’s, holiday sprinkles, etc. etc. for topping are optional
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet (preferably with sides) with aluminum foil. Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray and line the tray with the saltine crackers.
3) In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar and vanilla together. Let them come to a rolling boil for about 3 minutes.
4) Pour butter/sugar/vanilla mixture over the saltine crackers and place in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes, until the sugar/butter mixture starts to bubble.
5) Pour the chocolate chips over the saltines. Throw back in the oven for another minute, just to melt the chocolate chips a little more so they become more spreadable. Remove from the oven and spread the chocolate to cover the saltines entirely.
6) Place in the fridge to let cool and then break into pieces once completely cooled.
When I say this stuff is addicting, that is a total understatement. I couldn’t even wait for the stuff to cool last night and boom, 1 row of brittle, in my belly.
It can be served at room temperature, but it tastes really good cold/frozen as well. It freezes fantastically too, so break it up, toss it in the freezer, have a piece (or 2 or 3) every night for dessert, or you can save it for that holiday party you’re hosting. While no ones looking, take it out of the freezer, arrange it on a pretty Christmas plate, and say “Ohhh I just whipped this up! Enjoy!”.
Even puppies want in on it 🙂