Tag Archives: pretzels

(Hello Dolly!) Swalty Chocolate Bars

Well hello there, thanks for stopping by!

I spent the last week in Vegas for a company trip, and upon returning home late on Friday night I knew I probably wouldn’t have the energy to do much on Saturday except catch up on sleep.  When a friend invited me to her house for a BBQ, I wanted to accept but knew I couldn’t go empty-handed.  I did a quick survey of my fridge and knew I would have to decide between either (a) going to the grocery store to pick up ingredients to make a dessert, or (b) making do with what I had on hand, even if that meant making something without butter, eggs, or fresh fruit.  I’m never one to back down from a challenge, so I darted into my walk-in pantry (aka storage room) and contemplated my options.  Besides, I wanted to have a nap and going to the grocery store would cut into my precious sleeping time.

You should also know that this dilemma was further complicated by the fact that the hostess of said-BBQ was my lovely hairdresser Wendy, which meant that I couldn’t just show up; I had to show up and look half-decent.  In other words, I couldn’t spend long cooking; I had to do my hair!

Hmm…what to make, what to make.  I started grabbing random pantry ingredients, since the contents of my fridge were rather pathetic – a cake mix (embarrassing but true; I’m a hoarder, remember?), some marshmallows, and chocolate chips for good measure.  A can of petite diced tomatoes rounded out the mix, and with my arms full I sauntered into the kitchen ready to create something edible without having to change out of my sweats to go to the grocery store.

Once in the kitchen, I surveyed my goods, and made the executive decision to make a pan of gooey bar cookie/brownies/whatchamacallits.  Everyone loves chocolate, I reasoned, and a pan full of something would be less finicky to make than drop cookies.  I needed all the time I could get for my nap and hair, after all.

I vaguely recalled that Hello Dolly bars are always a hit at parties, and wondered if I could replicate something similar using what I had on hand.  I scrummaged around and found some shredded coconut and a bag of chopped walnuts in the freezer, and unearthed a can of sweetened condensed milk from the pantry. How this stuff gets here, I’ll never know, but on occasions like this one I’m always grateful to not have to leave my house or pick up TimBits.   I preheated the oven to 350 degrees, ditched the marshmallows and tomatoes, armed myself with an apron and spatula, and got to work!

I began by mixing the dry cake mix with 1/2 c of canola oil, until it formed a dough.  As a sidenote, have you ever made cookies using a cake mix?  I would have probably done that, if I had eggs or butter or the desire to get dressed and leave my house.

Next, I ate 1/4 of the dough patted the dough into a 9×13″ pan that had been lined with parchment paper.

If the dough looks glossy greasy, its because it is.  No way around that one, folks.  This was NOT a situation where I was trying to make something healthy; it was a situation where I was trying to make something quickly so I could do my hair.

It’s all about priorities, after all.

Once I made peace with the grease, I then sprinkled 1 c each of coconut, chopped walnuts, and chocolate chips on top of the chocolate base…

…and then poured a can of sweetened condensed milk, otherwise known as nectar of the South, evenly on top.

Sweet, sweet, goodness.

It was at this point that I stared at the pan that was before me; the pan that contained enough sugar to put anyone into a diabetic coma, and wanted to add another layer of complexity.  Since I adore anything that is sweet and salty (or swalty), I recalled the chocolate covered caramel pretzel rods that I love so dearly (and therefore never make), and knew instantly that I needed to add a salty element to these bars.  I dashed into my pantry again, and emerged exactly 11.27 seconds later with a bag of these beauties:

Oh happy day!  I smashed up 10 or so, using the bowl from the chocolate batter base and the jar of coconut since I try to avoid doing dishes at all costs.

I put the pretzel pieces over the sweetened condensed milk, and gently pressed them in so they’d stay put. And not end up on my hips by way of my mouth, since we all know that pretzels like to travel.

I popped the whole lot in the oven, jumped in the shower, and in 25 minutes pulled a pan of pure goodness out of the oven.  I left them to cool, and quickly got ready to head out.

A few hours later, after we were all stuffed with grilled chicken and fabulous side dishes, it was time for dessert.

(I’d show you a picture of the pan when it just came out of the oven, but it looks almost identical to the pre-oven shot so just use your imagination, ok?)

I nervously cut into the pan, not sure what to expect.

They cut cleanly; that was a good sign.

With the disclaimer that this was a last-minute throw together type dessert, I quickly summoned the children to do some quality control prior to placing the bars on a plate and bringing them to the adult table.  The children approved – 6 year olds have discerning palates, in case you weren’t aware – and deemed them “safe” for the grown-ups.

You guys.  These.Are. Awesome.  They are sweet, salty, rich, and decadent.  They are serious. Cut them into small pieces, or have insulin on stand-by. They were referred to as “the best dessert I’ve ever had”, and R told me the only time I could make them again was for special occasions, like winning the lottery.  Yes, they’re THAT good.  Make them for your next BBQ with your hairdresser, or your sister, or your neighbour, or The Bachelorette.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to make sure your hair looks good!

Chocolate-Covered Caramel Pretzels

Happy New Year my loves! I don’t know about you, but I am SO excited that 2011 is finally here…so excited that I had to make swalty* pretzels to celebrate.

* Swalty = sweet and salty, a term coined by my friend “Jon” (name may or may not have been changed to protect the privacy of the innocent)

I know what you’re thinking – shouldn’t we be talking about spinach smoothies, grainy salads, or fish now that it’s January 1? Well, quite frankly, no! I am fully aware that about 99% of us resolve to eat healthier and exercise more come January, but I have to get something off of my chest: I have a comfort zone, and it involves butter and chocolate . And cheese, but that’s another post for another day.  I’m tired of setting myself up for failure following the crowd! The year I resolved to eat more sugar and saturated fat.

I want to give myself resolutions I can stick to, you see.

Besides, we have 364 days left to go to the gym.  Today, just focus on making these pretzels.  Trust me, the Stairmaster isn’t going anywhere.

Just to make some of you feel better, I used multigrain pretzels, thereby making these health food.

I just solved your internal dilemma, so let’s play already!

Here’s what you need:

White sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, sweetened condensed milk, sea salt, vanilla, pretzels, chocolate (I used milk and white).

Allow 1 c each of white and brown sugars and corn syrup, 1/2 c butter, and 1 can of sweetened condensed milk to get acquainted over medium heat.

Mood lighting optional.

Once everything has melted together and the mixture has come to a boil, set your timer for 5 minutes and stir constantly so the caramel doesn’t burn.  I could tell you what temperature you’re looking for, but there really isn’t a need to complicate things today.

And also, I’m at my parents house right now and I’m not sure where my Mom keeps her candy thermometer.

Take the pot off the heat, and add vanilla extract or paste, and a pinch of sea salt.

Ladle up some of the caramel in a mug and begin dipping the pretzels!

Let the excess drip off, then put the pretzels on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet.  Repeat until you get bored, or until you run out of pretzels or caramel.

Let the caramel harden for a few hours at room temperature, or speed up the process by putting the pan in the fridge.

Both of my parents fridges are full to the brim, so I had no choice but to wait it out at room temperature.

So I ate some chocolate to console myself.

You can too, if you’re into that kind of thing.

I decided to use milk chocolate for these pretzels, but dark chocolate would also be nice.  A word of caution – use good quality chocolate for these pretzels. I sampled a “melting wafer” and gagged, so I was very thankful that I had the foresight to throw a few bars of Belgium milk chocolate in the grocery cart the other day.

Melt the chocolate chunks with a smidge of butter in a bain marie or in a mug in the microwave if the idea of boiling water on the stove sounds like a lot of work to you.

If you choose to melt the chocolate in the microwave, as I did, make sure you don’t try to rush the process by zapping it at the highest heat.  Low and slow is the way to go, and stir every 30 seconds or so.

Dip the caramel-covered pretzels in the chocolate, and place back on the parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet.  If you had a lot of excess caramel that didn’t stick to the pretzels, you might want to re-line the pan.  Otherwise, the same one you used is probably fine.

Sprinkle the top with some flaky seat salt, if you feel so inclined.

Or what about drizzling the tops with some white chocolate?

You could really top these with anything you’d like – I was tempted to sprinkle the top with some chopped and toasted nuts, or some Craisins, or Skor chips, or even to stir a big spoonful of PB into the chocolate before dipping.

But you know what? I resisted.  And these swalty pretzels are fabulous just as they are.

Don’t you just love healthy food?!?!

P.S. I made 2 cookie-sheets full of these pretzels and got bored, so I poured the leftover caramel into an 8 x 8″ pan that was lined with parchment paper.

I’m planning on cutting it into squares tomorrow for soft caramels, but if you could really do anything with the leftover caramel….dip some apples, some celery, or your arm, for example.

Don’t act like the thought didn’t already cross your mind.

To new New Years Resolutions involving chocolate and caramel instead of celery and Stairmasters – Cheers!