Chocolate Pretzel Shortbread Bars.

Pretzels: hands-down, a top-5 snack food. So simple, so good, so surprisingly versatile (just ask Auntie Anne). For me, pretzels get really interesting when you think of them as an ingredient, as the start of something, rather than the end of it. I’ve posted a pretzel-transformation recipe before, and I wasn’t surprised to discover that other bloggers had the same idea. Adrianna from A Cozy Kitchen has got a real knack with pretzels, as evidenced by these insane pancakes.  And Molly from My Name is Yeh‘s pretzel shortbread cookies looked so good, I barely changed anything in the riff I’m sharing with you today–just a slight tweak in ingredients and process. But it’s an important change, where I sub in one of my all-time favorite ingredients besides pretzels: brown sugar. Damn. Enjoy.

Chocolate Pretzel Shortbread Bars | KellyintheKitchen.net | pretzels, butter, flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips, canola oil

INGREDIENTS

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
200 g pretzels (any kind)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp canola oil

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Start by making the “pretzel flour.” Using a food processor (or a plastic bag and a rolling pin, if you’re very patient), pulverize the pretzels until they are utterly dusted. It should look like light brown flour. **Don’t underestimate this step; it took me at least 20 minutes to process the pretzels, pass the flour through a sifter to catch the bigger crumbs, process those crumbs again, and repeat the whole thing. And don’t skip this step – if you have big crunchy crumbs in your batter, it will make for weirdly crunchy, sandy-textured cookies. If it doesn’t take you as long to get to the flour stage, then you’ve got a better food processor than I do.**

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar.

Chocolate Pretzel Shortbread Bars | KellyintheKitchen.net | pretzels, butter, flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips, canola oil

Stir the pretzel flour and all-purpose flour into the butter mixture. Eat a tiny bite of the batter, because it’s sooooo good.

Press the somewhat crumbly batter into whatever pan you’re using (I used what I think of as a “brownie pan”) so that it’s evenly packed. Then, use a knife to cut the batter into bars. Do this before you bake, because if you try to cut them after baking, you’ll probably end up with a pan full of crumbs. Poke a few holes in the tops of the bars with a fork (make a pattern if you’re feeling cute).

Chocolate Pretzel Shortbread Bars | KellyintheKitchen.net | pretzels, butter, flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips, canola oil

Bake for 25-35 minutes, until just starting to brown. Savor the scent of your kitchen…it will smell divine.

When the bars are done baking, remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Use a knife to retrace the lines you cut before the bars baked; it should be easy to do. Let cool completely in the pan.

Once the bars are cool, melt the chocolate chips and oil together in a small bowl. I popped them in the microwave for about 40 seconds, stirring halfway through, but you can use a double boiler if you’re fancy. Take a spoon and drizzle the chocolate in whatever pattern you want. I went for free-form marble and I’m pretty happy with it.

Chocolate Pretzel Shortbread Bars | KellyintheKitchen.net | pretzels, butter, flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips, canola oil

Let the chocolate set. That’s it! Enjoy the salty-savory-sweetness.

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Sugar & Spice Cookies.

Crazy to think it’s been over 4 months since I’ve posted a recipe. I still cook and bake all the time, but my weekend days (when I tend to test out new recipes, and when there’s nice daylight for photos) are not about the blog right now. Instead, I now spend at least one day of my weekend volunteering at a local dog shelter. I started volunteering last spring, but lately it’s become a huge priority for me. It’s so rewarding and special – I encourage anyone who’s interested to start volunteering at an animal shelter near you, because I can promise you they need the help!!

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Meanwhile, I’m exhausted from work travel this week, so I decided to take the day off from the shelter and bake these cookies. Adapted from a recipe by Joy the Baker, they smell amazing and taste even better. And I’ll still get my pup time in – it’s a three-day weekend for MLK Day, so I’ll get to spend all of Monday with them!

Sugar and Spice Cookies | KellyintheKitchen | 12 tbsp softened butter, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, pinch of ground nutmeg, 1 egg, scant 1/4 cup molasses, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup turbinado sugar

INGREDIENTS

12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 egg
scant 1/4 cup molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup turbinado sugar (or other sugar with large crystals)

Sugar and Spice Cookies | KellyintheKitchen | 12 tbsp softened butter, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, pinch of ground nutmeg, 1 egg, scant 1/4 cup molasses, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup turbinado sugar

DIRECTIONS

Cream together butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg until the mixture is fluffy in texture and light brown in color. Add the egg and molasses and stir just evenly combined. Then sift in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir just until combined – don’t overstir, or the cookies could become tough. You can advance to the next step here if you like, but I like to put the batter in the fridge for about 30 minutes, just to tighten up a bit.

Sugar and Spice Cookies | KellyintheKitchen | 12 tbsp softened butter, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, pinch of ground nutmeg, 1 egg, scant 1/4 cup molasses, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or baking mats. Set up a little station with your baking sheets, your cookie dough with spoons or a cookie dropper, and a little bowl full of the turbinado sugar. Scoop a small amount of dough, form it into a ball, and roll it in the turbinado sugar so that it’s completely coated. Place on the baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough.

Bake for about 12 minutes, until the cookies are set but the very tops are still soft to the touch. Let cool for 2 minutes on cookie sheet and then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Put them on a plate and bring them to a friend before you eat all of them yourself.

Sugar and Spice Cookies | KellyintheKitchen | 12 tbsp softened butter, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, pinch of ground nutmeg, 1 egg, scant 1/4 cup molasses, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup turbinado sugar

Pretzel Milk and Chocolate Chip Scones.

On a cute and crazy-creative blog called “A Cozy Kitchen, ” I saw blogger/pancake expert Adrianna do something magical: she made pretzel milk pancakes. This is one of the most food-genius things I’ve seen in a long time: she roasted pretzels in the oven, soaked them in milk, and then strained them out so that the milk was left in faintly golden pretzel-flavored perfection, making her pancakes deliciously pretzely. I was mesmerized by this idea, and initially wanted to make a cookie using the pretzel milk method. I’m still working on the cookie version of this recipe, but for now, these scones are pretty amazing. Pretzel milk – I am so glad we’ve found each other. The lightly golden milk gives the finished product the most unusual and profound savoriness—not in-your-face pretzely, but more of a welcome note of something warm and deep. It’s pretty special.

I have a question for my beloved readers: what to do with the milk-steeped pretzels you’re left with after making the pretzel milk? I ate a few (they’re actually good, in a weird, slightly soggy kind of way), but there’s got to be something interesting they could be used for. Crush them up and stir them into muffin batter, or even cookie dough? Or food-processer them with lots butter and maple syrup, shape the butter mixture into a log, toss it in the fridge, and a few hours later you’ve got maitre d’ maple pretzel butter for toast and waffles and all those goodies? If you come up with a good use for them, let me know! And PS – when they’re in the oven, watch these more carefully than I did….my scones got a little bit toastier than I would have liked. Still awesome though!

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INGREDIENTS

3 cups pretzels
1 1/2 cups cream or half-and-half
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (feel free to use all A-P flour if you prefer)
1 tbsp baking powder
4 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp unsalted butter, chilled and cut into little cubes
1/2 cup chocolate, chopped into small bits (I used semi-sweet)
optional: turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Just the Recipe link: Pretzel Milk and Chocolate Chip Scones

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread pretzels onto a sheet pan in a single layer and roast until they turn a nice dark brown, about 10 minutes. Let them cool completely (don’t worry, they cool very quickly).

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Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Transfer the cooled pretzels to the cream or half-and-half and let them soak for about 15 minutes. Then strain, leaving just the beautiful pretzel-y cream. The pretzels will have soaked up some of the liquid; you’ll need just 1 cup total for this recipe. If you have any leftover milk, keep it on hand and maybe dip the scones into it once they’re baked. This stuff is amazing.

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Place flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl or food processor. Whisk or pulse together until combined. Add the butter; if using your fingers, quickly rub the flour mixture into the butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand, handling the butter as little as possible and careful not to melt it as you go. If you’re using a food processor, pulse together until the mixture resembles coarse sand.

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Add the chocolate bits and stir or pulse briefly to combine. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl if it was in a food processor. Stir in the pretzel milk until the dough starts to come together. Then turn it out onto a floured workspace.

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Knead the dough a few times gently with your hands, just until it comes together in a ball – the less you work the dough, the better, since you don’t want the heat of your hands to melt the butter.

Flatten the dough into the shape of a rectangle (roughly….), about 3/4 inch -thick. Okay fine, so this dough is obviously not in a rectangle. I took this picture before I decided what shape I wanted the scones to be. Whatever.

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Cut the dough into squares. Then cut each square diagonally in half, to make little triangles…..Or, cut them however you want!

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If you like, sprinkle each scone with a bit of turbinado sugar. It’s sweet and gives the scones a little bit of crunch. And it’s pretty.

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Place sconces on a baking sheet and bake until light brown, about 12-15 minutes. Cool slightly before serving. These more than rock with sweet cream butter and a cup of black tea.

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And seriously – any ideas what to do with these already-steeped pretzels??

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Sticky Glazed Vanilla-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies.

I haven’t been baking much recently. I miss it! Cutting way down on sugar and processed grains, as I have been, means a lot of my favorite baking activities are on hold. This weekend, however, I was up at my family’s lakehouse in Wisconsin, celebrating my sister’s seventeenth birthday with a handful of her girlfriends. And I saw my chance. My chance to make these cookies, inspired by 101 Cookbooks. Ever the pragmatist, I recognized in this group of high schools girls a captive audience; I knew, if I placed a platter of gleaming sweets in the midst of their Beyonce-listening sunbathe-fest of Saturday, they’d happily help me out by disposing of the evidence. And they did not let me down—when we left the lakehouse on Sunday, only one cookie remained. Nicely done, girls. And happy birthday, Kathleen!

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INGREDIENTS:

for cookies:
12 tbsp (or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar
, plus more for sprinkling
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 scant teaspoon salt
about 3 tbsp chocolate, finely chopped (I used semi-sweet)
2-3 tablespoons milk (I ended up using about 1 ½ tbsp)

for glaze:
2 tbsp milk
about 6 heaping tbsp. powdered sugar
splash of good quality vanilla extract (you want to use the good stuff here – don’t skimp on quality)

Just the Recipe link: Sticky Glazed Vanilla-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

DIRECTIONS:

Using an electric mixer (or your best elbow grease), cream the butter until it’s fluffy. Then add half the brown sugar, stir it in, and scrape the sides of the bowl, and repeat with the other half. Beat in the egg yolks and the vanilla until combined.

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In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and chopped chocolate. You want the chocolate very finely chopped – if the pieces are too big, your dough won’t hold together as well when you’re rolling it out.

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Stirring by hand, gently mix part of the flour into the butter and sugar, just until it combines. Add the rest of the flour, careful not to over-mix. If the dough looks too dry, add a tbsp of milk or two – we’re looking for the dough to just hold together when pressed into a ball. Which, conveniently, is the next step.

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Turn out the dough into a cutting board or countertop and form it into a ball using your hands.

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Then divide the ball into 4 equal sections.

IMG_8660Form the sections into balls and then flatten them into discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

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When the dough has chilled, preheat oven to 350 F.

Take one of the discs out of the fridge. Lightly flour a flat workspace and use a rolling pin to roll out the dough very very thin, like wafer thin.

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With a cookie cutter (or a small glass, because I couldn’t find any cookie cutters) cut out the cookies and place them on a baking sheet. They don’t spread out much, so crowding the cookies is okay. Sprinkle each one with a bit of brown sugar. Repeat with the other 3 sections of dough.

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Now, to the oven. Depending on how big the cookie cutter you use is, these bake pretty quickly because of how flat they are, so watch them. Mine baked about 8 minutes, just until the edges started to turn golden brown.

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Put the cookies on a cooling rack and cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze, pour the milk into a small bowl and add the vanilla. Then add 4 tbsp of powdered sugar and whisk or use a fork to combine. From there, add the rest of the powdered sugar as needed until you reach the right consistency – thin, but not watery.

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When the cookies have cooled, glaze them. The quick way is to spoon the glaze over the cookies, drizzling a bit on each one. If you want to put a bit more TLC into the glazing process, dip the top of each cookie into the glaze. Either way, set them back on the cooking rack to set before plating.

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That’s all! Enjoy.

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But be careful – my tasters found these pretty addicting.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake.

As ever, Nigella Lawson dishes out another perfect dessert recipe. There isn’t much need of an introduction for this beaut. I’ll just say that every step of the process is spoon-smackingly, bowl-lickingly good, and that the finished product is indulgent and fluffy and dreamy in every way. A graham cracker crust with bits of chocolate in it, filled with a smooth and creamy peanut butter cheesecake, and finished with a sweet, chocolate topping. Glamorous. Indulgent. Chocolate peanut butter cheese cake. Enjoy.

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PS I looked for the video footage from Nigella’s show of the episode for which she makes this cheesecake, but I couldn’t find it. It looks so dang amazing when she makes it, I’ve had it on my list for at least a year.

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INGREDIENTS

for crust:
12 graham crackers (or 1 1/2 packets, from a box of three 8-cracker packets) (sub any gluten-free cookies if you like)
4 tbsp butter, softened
1/4 cup salted peanuts
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-2 tsp vegetable oil

for filing (all these ingredients must be at room temperature):
16 oz cream cheese or neufchatel cheese (I used one packet of low fat and 1 packet of full-fat)
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
heaping 1/2 cup of sour cream or Greek yogurt (I used non-fat Greek yogurt)
1 cup smooth peanut butter

for topping:
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 scant cup sour cream or Greek yogurt

Just the Recipe link: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Let your puppy eat the pieces of graham cracker that you'll inevitably drop.
Let your puppy eat the pieces of graham cracker that you’ll inevitably drop.

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 338 F (okay, so you can go with 350 F if you like and you’ll be fine. I converted this recipe from metric, and the original 170 C is exactly 338 F. I do what I’m told).

Next, the crust. In all honesty, crust is my favorite part of any cheesecake, and this one is awesome. One thing I didn’t do, but I think I will next time, is to start by pulverizing the chocolate chips in the food processor, so that they’ve broken up before the rest of the ingredients are added. This time, I added all the crust ingredients at once and pulsed until they came together, drizzling in just enough of the vegetable oil until the crust started to hold together. There were some chunks of chocolate left un-blitzed, so next time I’ll blitz the chocolate separately first.

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Turn it out into a well-greased spring-form pan and use your fingers to press it into the bottom and up the sides. Put the crust in the fridge while you make the filling.

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In a food processor, combine all the filling ingredients until totally smooth. Jeez, that’s beautiful.

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Pour filling into the graham cracker shell. Spread it gently into all the “corners ” (can circles have corners?), careful not to mess with the tenuous architecture of the crust.

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Bake for about an hour, but check it as it nears the end of the baking time. You want the top to be set and no longer wet or sticky, but for the inside to still be jiggly. In Nigella’s words, we’re looking for the center to have “just a hint of inner-thigh wibble.” Perfection. But I forgot to take a picture before I doused it in chocolate. See next step.

When the cheesecake is nearing the end of it’s bake time, melt all the topping ingredients in a pan over low until they come together. Pour over the cheesecake once it comes out of the oven, and then pop it right back into the oven for about 10 minutes, so that the topping can set.

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Take it out of the oven and pop it right into the fridge to chill overnight, cake pan and all (careful when you take it out of the pan though, as the chocolate topping is prone to stick to the sides). To be honest, I made this cheesecake to give to friends, so all it got was a quick chill in the freezer for an hour and then another hour or so in the fridge until we ate it. So the overnight chilling time isn’t mandatory, but it is nice.

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