pretzel toffee with chocolate and almonds

pretzel toffee with chocolate and almonds

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.

pretzels

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.

chocolate and pretzels

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.

pretzel toffee with chocolate and almonds

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 in bags

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.

best of (a holiday round-up)

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Season’s Greetings! It’s really happening. Since I’ve adopted the tradition of giving mostly food gifts, my kitchen becomes a factory of sorts this time of year. While I really love to do a little bit of experimenting during the holidays, I have a few go-to treats that I can’t do without. Here are a few of my favorites. If you’re looking for some last minute gift ideas, this is for you.

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granola – I’ve heard that this granola has become somewhat legendary in certain circles. People tell me that it’s become their favorite and that they’ve passed the recipe on to others, which makes me incredibly happy. Granola is surprisingly easy to make and totally customizable – add whatever seeds or nuts or dried fruit you like. I love this granola mixed in with a big dollop of plain Greek yogurt. And if you put it in a Mason jar and tie it with some pretty ribbon or fancy twine, you’ve got yourself the perfect gift.

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vanilla marshmallows – The first time I made these marshmallows, I was shocked by how insanely good a plain marshmallow could be. These are perfection. Pair them with a tin of hot cocoa, or some graham crackers and a bar of dark chocolate and you’re all set.

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fleur de sel caramels – I could not let a holiday season pass without whipping up at least one batch of these caramels. Rich, chewy caramels topped with a sprinkle of fleur de sel – need I say more? I know a handful of people who look forward to seeing these caramels every Christmas, and I can’t say that I blame them.

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quince jam – My obsession with quince is relentless. Every Christmas, I make some sort of quince treat; whether it’s membrillo or jam or jelly, I just love this stuff. Since quince pairs really nicely with cheese, I like to give jars of quince jam with a wedge of Manchego. It’s the perfect gift for the foodie(s) in your life.

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rugelach – Rugelach is one of my all-time favorites. These little crescent-shape pastries are one of those treats that really get me going, especially because they’re not super easy to come by in these parts. A tin of ruggies is such a treat. Your friends and family will be impressed.

I know we’re nearing the big day, but I might have one or two new goodies to share with you before then. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that I get everything done over here. In the meantime, I hope you’re getting all of your holiday shopping and/or treat-making taken care of and enjoying these days with loved ones. I’m hoping to sneak in a little down time – I’m so ready for some warm, spiced apple cider (with a nice big splash of bourbon). Happy Holidays, my dears!

 

black ‘n gold chocolate sables

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Hello, stranger! It’s been a mighty long time. I sort of checked out a few weeks ago and haven’t been able to get much done around here. I am still without a Christmas list because I’m having a serious aversion to shopping this year. And I’ve yet to mail a single holiday card. Uh-oh.

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The good news is I’m actually really enjoying this holiday season. I took part in my very first cookie swap earlier this month, which was super fun (and left me with a major sugar hangover). My vintage Christmas trees have gone up at home and at work, and my collection of little Christmas elves is on display. There’s also this playlist I created for Little Magazine. If you need some muzac to get yourself into the holiday spirit, this is for you. There’s also this gem from a few years back.

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You might’ve noticed this little guy in the green suit that makes his appearance every December. He’s my fave. Something about his expression reminds me of the Mona Lisa – a little mysterious, a little bit naughty. He loves delicious sweet treats, especially cookies.

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I made these chocolate sables for the cookie swap I mentioned earlier. These are Dorie Greenspan’s famous “world peace” cookies. They’ve been on my to-do list for a while. I had the most insane chocolate shortbread cookie at a party a few months back and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, so I figured now was a good time to bust these out. I love chocolate sables because they’re so unassuming. But it only takes one bite to realize you’ve hit the cookie jackpot – buttery, crumbly, and oh-so-chocolatey. Because it’s the holidays (and because I love me some bling), I thought it would be fun to add a little gold sparkle to these. How could anyone possibly say no to a gold-encrusted cookie? ‘Tis the season…

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black ‘n gold chocolate sables

makes about 3 dozen cookies

adapted just slightly from Dorie Greenspan via The New York Times Style Magazine 

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

5 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chip-size bits

1 egg yolk

gold sanding sugar

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together. Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until the butter is soft and creamy. Add the sugars, salt and vanilla extract and beat for another 1 or 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the sifted dry ingredients. Mix only until the dry ingredients are incorporated (the dough may look crumbly). For the best texture, work the dough as little as possible. Toss in the chocolate; mix to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a smooth work surface, divide in half and, working with one half at a time, shape the dough into a log that is 1 1/2 inches in diameter. (As you’re shaping the log, flatten it once or twice and roll it up from one long side to the other, to make certain you haven’t got an air channel.) Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and chill them for at least 1 hour. (Wrapped airtight, the logs can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for 1 month.)

Center a rack in the oven; preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk egg yolk in a small bowl to loosen; lightly brush all over 1 log. Sprinkle with (or roll in) sanding sugar. Repeat with the second log.

Working with a sharp, thin-bladed knife, slice rounds 1/2-inch thick. (If the cookies break, squeeze the broken-off bit back onto the cookie.) Place the cookies on the parchment-lined sheets, leaving an inch of space between them. Bake only 1 sheet at a time and bake each sheet for 12 minutes. (The cookies will not look done nor will they be firm, but that is the way they should be.) Transfer the sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest, on the sheet, until they are only just warm. Repeat with the second sheet of cookies.

elfie takes a cookie break