So these were obviously too adorable to pass up. I’m not even going to try to lie and say these were made specifically for a reason, or I had someone to give them to (although I did take a few to one of my best friends because we were having lunch and they had emerged from the oven in time.) They were made because they were cute. And maybe also because I have never, ever, not even once, been able to make a proper pretzel shape. I’ve seen pretzels for years. Decades. It’s a common thing, right? But I realized that if someone said to me, after removing any pretzels from my line of vision, “okay: your life depends on it. recreate a pretzel!” I couldn’t do it. My life would subsequently be over.
In that moment, I felt that making these chocolate cookie pretzel things was a fabulous idea. Practical; indeed, possibly life-saving. It’s been awhile since I’ve made anything that was completely chocolate; the last truly chocolate post was for the chocolate peppermint wafers way back before Christmas. Which seems like ages ago, now that I think about it.
This is a straightforward, easy recipe, involving nothing special or strange ingredient-wise. Refreshing, considering you’ll want to focus your efforts on the design. In the book I took these from, they were shown with white sanding sugar and a bit of sea salt, but I was going for a more colorful pretzel, so I substituted the tiny sprinkles for the sanding sugar and kept the sea salt, which adds a nice contrast to the dark chocolate cookie flavor.
Making the pretzel shapes was super fun. I feel like I learned something, and I feel like that something got stashed into my long-term memory. I can say with confidence that I now know how to make pretzels. Did I have to look at a picture when I started making them to get the shape right? Yes. Might I add that my first few “pretzels” looked nothing like the picture. They looked more like someone had taken a pretzel, melted it, and then run over it with some sort of large vehicle. But I think I got the hang of it pretty quickly, and by my seventh pretzel, I had nailed it. Most of my cookies ended up looking like these:
I even baked the mangled ones to remind me of how far I’d come in such a short time. After all, I think there are never truly “mistakes” in baking unless it’s completely inedible. If it’s ugly as sin but still tastes good, it should never be considered a failure. You just maybe need to work on your presentation a bit.
I should mention that, in addition to their irresistible pretzel-shapeyness, these were delicious. Dark chocolatey and not overly sweet. A really great cookie paired with coffee or tea, in my opinion.
Another reason I felt compelled to make these is due to a slight sprinkle obsession. I sometimes think about what I can put them on, just for fun. And then movita beaucoup sent me over the edge with her Hot Mess Chocolate Cake, which was absolutely covered, just completely rained down upon, with the aforementioned sprinkles. And it looked so pretty, I couldn’t take it anymore. These seemed like the perfect vehicle.
Now, certainly if you were making these cookies for something more sedate, or proper, you could decorate them accordingly. In the book these came from, they were dolled up with white sanding sugar and a bit of sea salt. I kept in the sea salt, but substituted the sprinkles for the sanding sugar. For a more monochromatic cookie, I think those little chocolate sprinkles would be lovely as well. Do sprinkle them with something; the crunch adds a nice texture to an otherwise soft cookie.
Handle these with care once they’re baked: If you’ve ever made cookies with this combination of cocoa powder and confectioners sugar, you know that they are soft, almost flaky cookie. They are not hard like a true sugar cookie and they’re not chewy like a good chocolate chip, which makes them great for rolling and shaping, but don’t bounce them around a lot or they’ll break. No throwing these in to freezer bags; Store them in a hard-sided container with sheets of wax paper or parchment between the cookie layers.
Adapted from The Art of the Cookie: Baking Up Inspiration by the Dozen by Shelly Kaldunski, the same cookbook I got the little love nest cookie ideas out of. Such a great book if you’re looking for some interesting decorative ideas, to be sure.
Chocolate Pretzel Cookies
- 1 large egg, separated
- 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
- flaked sea salt for sprinkling
- tiny sprinkles or sanding sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white with 2 teaspoons of water until blended. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and cocoa powder. In a large bowl using an electric mixer (or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment) beat the butter and confectioners sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and beat on low speed until completely incorporated. Beating on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and continue to beat until just incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add 1 tablespoon of the heavy cream and beat until just combined. If you feel like the dough is crumbly, add the 2nd tablespoon of heavy cream. I did. Keep in mind your cookie dough needs to be not wet, but pliable like a good clay.
Please refer to the pictures in the post for a little step-by-step on how to create pretzels.
Note: once you shape your pretzels, you’ll want to transfer them to the cookie sheet you’ll be baking them on. These don’t spread, so you can place them about an inch apart. I use half-sheet pans and I used 2 total. So line both and have them ready to go before you start your shapes.
figure 1: for each cookie, shape 1 tablespoon of dough into a round ball.
figure 2: using the palms of your hands, gently roll the ball in a back-and-forth motion on your countertop to make an 11- to 12-inch rope, as evenly as you can. Arrange the rope into a U shape.
figure 3: holding the ends of the rope, place one end over the other.
figure 4: now twirl the ends over each other and lay them on top of the curved portion of the U shape.
Yay! Hard part? Over.
Using a pastry brush, brush each cookie with the egg white mixture, doing your best to cover the cookies well but not sog them out with the liquid. This will act as your sprinkle glue. I did about 6 at a time, so it wouldn’t get messy or dry on me. Sprinkle generously with your sprinkles/sanding sugar/decorations and sprinkle sparingly with sea salt. Obviously you don’t want big clumps of salt on your pretzels. If you feel like you would see the salt distribution better on naked pretzels, do the sea salt bit first and then add your other decorations.
Bake these one sheet pan at a time until the cookies feel firm to the touch but have not taken on any additional color (I know, they’re chocolate, how could you see if they had?), 15-18 minutes, checking after the 15-minute mark. Let cool on the sheet pan for 5 minutes. Using a metal spatula, transfer to wire racks and let cool completely, about 30 minutes.
Store your cookies in a structured, airtight container (remember, no zipper bags please) layered between sheets of parchment or wax paper. Do your best to not jostle them. They’ll keep for up to 4 days at room temperature.
Makes 25 or so cookies.