The Kitchen Corner: chocolate pretzel poles

Valentines Day arrives tomorrow. In the midst of bow-tied teddy bears and romantically curling red petals, one thread unifies the married, the dating, the lonely hearts, the “group party” thrower and the bitter and/or relieved recently single. That thread is chocolate. Aside from being high in antioxidants, which basically equals healthy, a University of Michigan study revealed that chocolate causes the brain to release endorphins, the “feel good” chemical. So, whether your Valentine’s Day will consist of cursive poems or a bottle of Jameson, this recipe is an easy ticket to bliss.

Ingredients:

1 bag Pretzel Poles — not the twiggy ones, but the rods. I found them at Walmart; if you value self-image too much to shop there, you’re on your own.

1 bag Chocolate Chips — semi-sweet ones contrast the saltiness of pretzels perfectly.

Sprinkles and/or slivered nuts — these turn the recipe from good to great.

1.   Melt the chocolate chips. If you have a double boiler, that works best. However, you are a college student and likely have no need for such exotic kitchen accessories. In your case, stacking two pots atop each other, the bottom one being slightly larger than the above pot, will achieve the same purpose. Three to four inches of water go in the bottom, the chocolate chips in the top. Bring the water to a boil, and then maintain a simmer on medium to medium-high heat. You will want to be careful though, because if the top pot has plastic handles the resulting steam may melt and/or warp them. If the prospect of hot vapors and melting plastic is frightening, a simple saucepan on low heat will work as well. In the final case, be prepared to pitch the bottom half-inch of melted chocolate, because it will likely be burned. Stir the chips for efficient melting.

2.  Open the bag of pretzel poles, and eat all the “rejects.” Reject poles are any that are broken, cracked or sub-par pretzels. These may be eaten dipped in the melting chocolate, or simply plain. The point is, they will deter from the lovely finishing aesthetic of this recipe, and therefore must be eliminated. Whew, glad we got that out of the way.

3.  Using a spoon, coat three-quarters of a pretzel pole in melted chocolate. Dust one side with sprinkles and/or nuts, then the other. Place on a cookie sheet, repeating until the entire pan is full. Freeze them while preparing the second batch and then freeze those too. It should not take longer than 30 minutes to completely harden the chocolate but leaving them in longer won’t hurt.

4.  Once they are solidified, gently wiggle the poles side to side to separate them from the pan. Depending on your purpose, they can be presented in a mug or glass, tied with a ribbon, placed in a gift sack or consumed from a Ziploc bag. However you choose, a sweet and salty chocolate treat awaits. Voila!

Additional comments:

If you choose the saucepan route, be careful to not stir too vigorously. As previously mentioned, the bottom half-inch will likely burn. Few things ruin a pot of melted chocolate more than having clumps of burnt chocolate mixed throughout.

To add variety to the recipe, try substituting white chocolate, butterscotch or peanut-butter chips. Other toppings could include shredded coconut, chopped peppermint sticks or crushed hard caramels.

Wash the dishes used as soon as possible. Hardened chocolate is matched by only dried bread dough and cooked egg in washing difficulty level. You want to taste your tempting treat, I know, not wash dishes, soaking the pot in hot water is an effective equivalent.

Special thanks to my dear friend and recipe aficionado Michelle Breanna for the inspiration. Happy Valentines Day!