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I’m sorry. I know you’ve probably reached your threshold for holiday sweets at this point. But I feel like I would be doing you a huge disservice if I didn’t share this with you.
You might already be familiar with cracker toffee. I’ve been making it every year since I first encountered it here. Crackers (saltines or matzo), swimming in brown sugar toffee and topped with dark chocolate, toasted almonds, and sea salt – it is dangerously addictive. I make at least one batch of cracker toffee every holiday season because people love the stuff. It’s the right thing to do.
I brought the matzo toffee to a Secret Santa party last week and the entire tin was empty by the end of the day, which is always the sign of a winning treat. Even though I’ve had it a million times, I had to try a piece (quality testing). As I munched, I started thinking about pretzels. I’ve had pretzels on the brain the past few months, and have been meaning to make a toffee covered pretzel of some sort. And then I realized that the matzo could very easily be swapped out for pretzels.
So that’s exactly what I did a few days later. I picked up a bag of pretzel sticks and went to town. I decided that cellophane bags filled with hunks of pretzel toffee were going to be a nice little surprise for the peeps this year. I packed up most of it, but made sure to save a few pieces for myself. Salty, sweet, crunchy, nutty, chocolatey – all the bases are covered. Just do it.
pretzel toffee with chocolate and almonds
adapted from smitten kitchen
makes one 11×17-inch sheet of toffee
1/2 pound pretzel sticks
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into a few large pieces
1 cup packed light brown sugar
a big pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips (or a combination of both)
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
extra sea salt for sprinkling (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet completely with foil, and then line the base of the foil with parchment paper, cut to fit.
Line the bottom of the baking sheet with pretzel sticks, covering as much of the pan as possible.
In a medium heavy-duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and stir it over medium heat until it begins to boil. Once it has begun boiling, let it bubble for three more minutes, stirring it well. It will thicken a bit as it cooks. Remove from the heat and add the salt and vanilla, and then quickly pour it over the pretzels. You’ll want to spread it quickly, as it will begin to set as soon as it is poured.
Bake the caramel-covered pretzels for 15 minutes, watching carefully as it will bubble and the corners might darken too quickly and/or burn. You can reduce the heat if you see this happening.
Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand five minutes, and then spread them evenly across the caramel. An offset spatula works great here. If you’re using them, sprinkle the chocolate with toasted almonds and/or sea salt.
Once completely cool, break it into pieces and store in an airtight container.
Ever have one of those days when everything you attempt in the kitchen ends in disaster? I had forgotten what that felt like. And then I remembered. It was a Saturday and I had two items on my agenda for the day: a) Momofuku’s compost cookies and b) passion fruit curd. The passion fruit curd had to be sent to the trash while the cookies remained on the sheet pan for a long time, looking sad. It was that kind of Saturday.
To make a long story short, I burned the curd. I was super bummed out because it was supposed to accompany me to brunch the following morning, and also because juicing passion fruit is sort of a joke; one fruit yields approximately two large drops of juice. I think I felt even more defeated because curd is so easy to make, it just wasn’t in the cards that day.
But I was most upset about the cookies, or the cookie blob rather. I think one of the saddest feelings is opening the oven, only to discover that your perfect mounds of cookie dough have melted into one large mass of cookie. I tried to cut the sheet of cookie into squares, but that didn’t really work out. We ate it anyway, but I just couldn’t get over it. I needed a do-over.
Since I haven’t been back to New York in a few years, I haven’t been to Momofuku Milk Bar. But I’ve been drooling over the Momofuku cookbook for months now. And everyone on the internet has been talking about these cookies. I like cookies, but there are few cookies that do it for me. I needed to know if these cookies were really worth all the buzz they’ve generated.
Let me just say, for the record, that they are. They are also worth the half pound of butter and the two hours lost during the disaster that was the first batch. They are worth the time you spend baking only three cookies at a time so that you don’t end up with another cookie puddle. And they are most definitely worth the pounds you will potentially gain when you make these cookies because you won’t be able to stop eating them.
This cookie is everything. EVERYTHING. It’s chewy and soft and a little bit crispy. It’s playful but still sophisticated. It is the perfect combination of sweet and savory. And it’s buttery and slightly caramelized around the edges, two of my favorite cookie qualities. I love that every bite is a little bit of a surprise; sometimes you get a hunk of pretzel, sometimes a burst of coffee. It’s basically all of the snacks you love baked into one perfect package, coffee included. I totally get it.
momofuku’s compost cookie
adapted from Christina Tosi’s recipe courtesy of Live! with Regis and Kelly
makes 15-20 large cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1-1/2 cups your favorite baking ingredients (I used a combination of bitter-sweet chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and rolled oats)
1-1/2 cups your favorite snack foods (chips, pretzels, etc) (I used potato chips and pretzels)
1 tablespoon ground coffee beans (optional)
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugars and corn syrup on medium high for 2-3 minutes until fluffy and pale yellow in color. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.
On a lower speed, add eggs and vanilla to incorporate. Increase mixing speed to medium-high and start a timer for 10 minutes. During this time the sugar granules will fully dissolve, the mixture will become an almost pale white color and your creamed mixture will double in size.
When time is up, reduce speed to low and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix 45-60 seconds just until your dough comes together and all of the dry ingredients are incorporated. Do not walk away from your mixer during this time or you will risk over mixing the dough. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.
With the mixer on low speed, add your favorite baking ingredients and mix for 30-45 seconds until they evenly distributed throughout the dough. Add in your favorite snack foods last, mixing on low speed until they are just incorporated.
Using a 6 oz. ice cream scoop, portion cookie dough onto a parchment lined sheetpan.
Wrap scooped cookie dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour or up to 1 week.
DO NOT BAKE your cookies from room temperature or they will not hold their shape.
Heat the conventional oven to 400°F. (350°F in a convection oven)
When the oven reads 400°F, arrange your chilled cookie dough balls on a parchment or silpat-lined sheetpan a minimum of 4 inches apart in any direction.
Bake 9-11 minutes. While in the oven, the cookies will puff, crackle and spread.
At 9 minutes the cookies should be browned on the edges and just beginning to brown towards the center. Leave the cookies in the oven for the additional minutes if these colors don’t match up and your cookies stills seem pale and doughy on the surface.
Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pan before transferring to a plate or an airtight container or tin for storage. At room temperature, cookies will keep fresh 5 days. In the freezer, cookies will keep fresh 1 month.