Chocolate, Pretzels and a Day Off From School

Last week I sat down and spent some time trying to come up with some ideas about what to work on for my entry this week. I was kind of all over the map and not totally sold on any of the ideas that I had come up with, so I randomly asked my son what should I write about in the blog next week?

One of the fun things about a 6 year old is when you ask one a question you’ll usually get some kind of answer. At least half of the time you’ll get a crazy response which is if nothing else, something you can laugh about together. He was in a bit of a silly mood that day, so I was fully expecting him to suggest something like dinosaur soup with stones and dog food flavored pasta.

When the more serious response “How about chocolate covered pretzels?” came back I thought “Hmmm… that’s actually not a bad idea!” I then remembered that the following Monday he was going to have a day off from school, so I decided that I would wait until then and make them with him. It was a great way to not only work on his idea for the blog, but also to spend some time doing a project with him.

When the day came to do our project, I began to prepare the chocolate and I got out a bag of mini pretzels. He asked what they were for and I said “for your idea to make chocolate covered pretzels!” He said to me “Oh, my idea was to use the soft pretzels.” I never thought about trying soft pretzels and I didn’t know how they would work, but I told him ok, let’s give it a shot! Part of the spirit of our blog is trying things we’ve never tried before to see how they turn out and his idea fit that spirit perfectly. We agreed we would also make the crunchy pretzels since we’d have plenty of extra chocolate.

Making chocolate dipped treats isn’t particularly difficult, but it can be a bit time consuming. The hardest part, in my opinion, is tempering the chocolate. Why do we temper chocolate anyway? Primarily to help stabilize the cocoa butter in the chocolate. This allows the end product to be more shelf stable by keeping it from melting at room temperature.

Tempering also keeps the chocolate looking smooth and glossy instead of dull and gray. If you choose to skip tempering, it doesn’t mean the treat you make will not be safe to eat or that it will taste awful, but if you don’t do it I would strongly suggest storing what you’ve made in the refrigerator to avoid having it melt. You may also need to put your freshly dipped treats right into the refrigerator to get the chocolate to harden because room temperature may not be cool enough to get the job done.

There are many methods for tempering chocolate out there. I’m not going to bore you by going into all of them, just Google how to temper chocolate and find the method that you think will work best for you. I went with a more simple method that involved melting half of the chocolate in the microwave and then adding the other half to the melted chocolate and allowing it to melt more slowly using just the heat of the already melted chocolate.

We then moved on to the fun part of the project – dipping all of those pretzels in chocolate! For the soft pretzels, we only dipped the tops. For our small crunchy pretzels, we fully coated them. After doing some of the dipping, I put my son in charge of decorating each pretzel while I finished dipping the rest.

After doing the 3 large soft pretzels and about 30 of the small ones, we still had a good amount of chocolate left and I was starting to grow tired of dipping the little ones! I didn’t want to waste the chocolate, so I thought for a moment and that’s when the idea for another treat popped into my head – making chocolate pretzel bark! Chocolate bark treats are one of those things that are so easy to make, but look like they took a lot of work!

I said to my son “check out how we do this” and he watched as I poured the remaining chocolate onto the parchment lined pan and smoothed it out until it was about 1/4 inch thick. Then I broke up some of our small pretzels and let him go to work sprinkling them on top and adding the additional decorations of his choice. The end product looked great – he really had fun and did a nice job. We then set all of the pans aside so the chocolate could completely cool and harden.

After all of the chocolate had hardened, we broke the bark into pieces and then there was only one thing left to do – eat some of our creations! The small pretzels tasted just like what you would get in the store and the chocolate pretzel bark was a hit, but how about the soft pretzel experiment?

For the three of us, they turned out to be the least favorite. They weren’t bad, but the flavors just didn’t meld together in the same way as they do when using hard pretzels and the chocolate didn’t stick well to them. My son asked me why I still said his idea was great when it didn’t turn out well. I explained to him the importance of taking chances and how if we didn’t try the soft pretzels, we’d always wonder how it would have turned out. There’s a lot to be said for that old expression “it is better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all.”

It was a fun project and the treats we made were enjoyable, but even better was the time that I got to spend with my son. Until next time, I hope you all have a great weekend!

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