I used to be one of those “let’s-get-that-Christmas-tree-up-stat!”-on-November-1 people. See here for full effect. I loved the magic of the holidays and looked forward to the whole season starting after my birthday (July).
Lately, I’ve realized that I ease into it. It’s not like I feel a big shift in thinking halfway through November, per se, but I do slow down and enjoy seeing the holidays unveil themselves slowly. A festive Starbucks cup here, a garland hung on a lamppost there. I revel in the in-between now. It makes the season last longer in my mind. No rushing. Just enjoying.
In the same vein, I start baking a bit more this time of year to ease into those holiday vibes. I pull out all those bookmarked recipes and get started on my favorites. Cookies tend to be my main jam. Those remind me of the holidays most of all. Leftover emotional connection to Santa’s cookie plate perhaps?
These particular cookies were seen on Molly’s blog several years ago and have been on my baking to-do list ever since. Think salty pretzels in a sweet shortbread format. I replaced some of the sugar with brown sugar to increase those deep, brown notes and make the final cookie just a tad more moist. They’re addictive and dangerous to have around I discovered. Especially the minis. Definitely snackable.
And they’re pretty simple! I joked with my mom, who was visiting when I made these, that even her friend that brought Chex Mix to our cookie swap for fear of turning on her oven, could tackle these. Beat some butter and sugar, add the ground-up pretzels, and press into a muffin tin. Bake, let cool, and lift out. Flip them over, and you’ve got a smooth, sleek-looking cookie with minimal effort. Win-win!
Decorating with chocolate makes them more festive no matter what season, but I can detect your panic from here. Tempering that chocolate can give you nightmares if you aren’t experienced in it or don’t have the tools to make it successful.
Chocolate needs to be tempered because of the cocoa butter. The fat crystals morph in shape over time because they have a special affinity to instability. However, if you treat it right, you get the perfect, stable crystal shape that lends all those magical properties of chocolate like a nice snap, glossy finish, and no white fuzzy bits (which are caused by those fat crystals changing shape over time). I’ll have a post in the future that gives the ins and outs of chocolate tempering in the future, but this post is the cheater version.
Here, we add vegetable oil to the chocolate to break up that rigid chocolate structure. Once we add oil, it changes the game and prevents the cocoa butter from dominating the conversation. The cocoa butter can change slightly like it is want to do, but the oil inserts itself and keeps the surface from turning white and other less desirable qualities from occurring. While this solution should not be employed for a chocolate bar, it works wonders for decorations or enrobing in a pinch. Let’s do this chocolate-decorating thing!
Okay, now that you have the tools to success, I think we’re ready for cookies. We’re not quite ready for the holidays, but these babes are getting me on the track to be excited! I’ll start looking for those winter wonderland clues soon. In the meantime, let’s get sweet and salty.
Brown Sugar Pretzel Shortbread
Adapted from My Name is Yeh
Makes about 20 large or 48 small cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
⅓ cup brown sugar
⅓ cup granulated sugar
240 grams pretzels
Chocolate and sprinkles for decorating + vegetable oil for easy chocolate appearance, optional
- Preheat oven to 350⁰F. Grease two cupcake pans. I used one standard pan (12) and one mini (24).
- Pulse the pretzels in a food processor until they are a fine flour.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the pretzel “flour” and beat until the mixture comes together.
- Fill the cupcake tins halfway with the dough and press down firmly.
- Bake the cookies for 15-20 minutes (large), or 7-9 minutes (small), until they start to brown on the outside. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack, but let them cool completely in the pan.
- When at room temperature, remove from the pan by running a sharp paring knife around the edges to loosen from the pan.
- Now comes the decorating, if desired. To make the tempering a non-issue (see above), mix together 150 g melted dark chocolate with 20 g neutral vegetable oil. Dip or drizzle the cookies as desired followed by sprinkles, etc. Let dry on parchment until the chocolate is set.
- These cookies are best within a couple of days (and might even taste better on day two?), but beyond that, store in the freezer and let come to room temperature before eating.