At Christmastime, my sister and I usually make sugar cookies with royal icing. We make my brother and husband decorate at least one cookie. Last year my husband’s cookie resembled the likes of Jackson Pollock. As a painter, I was proud. As a baker, I was horrified. There will be no royal icing this year. I’ve decided to go the non-traditional route. And these Chocolate Pretzels are kicking us off. Everyone one can get involved. Roll the dough into a snake and curl it into a pretzel. Sprinkle with some coarse sugar, and voilà! Their texture falls somewhere between a cracker and a cookie as does their taste. They’re only slightly sweet which I welcome this time of year. Bring on the Chocolate Pretzels.
Pour the boiling water in a small bowl. Stir in cocoa and espresso powder until dissolved. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until creamy. Add in vanilla and salt. Reduce speed to medium-low. Add in the egg followed by the cocoa mixture. Gradually add in flour, and mix until dough becomes smooth. Place dough on a piece of plastic wrap and form into a square. Wrap and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325°. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces. Roll each piece into 12-inch-long ropes. Twist each rope into a pretzel shape. With either end of the rope suspsended in the air, drop the curve of the dough on the pan, twist the ends once, and overlap with the bottom curve. Place 1 inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or Silpat.
Whisk together egg yolk and 1 teaspoon water. Lightly brush pretzels with egg wash and sprinkle with sanding sugar (or Turbinado). Bake cookies until dry, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely before serving. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.