chocolate pretzel cookies

It’s not exactly news that I have a soft spot for pretzels. I’ve made pretzels into rolls, soft pretzels for a Superbowl Party and once, in the words of Alex, intentionally ruined dinner so we’d have no choice but go to the neighborhood restaurant with some curious egg noodle dish with crushed pretzels on top.

I see pretzel cookies all of the time, but they’re usually just cut from pretzel-shaped cookie cutter, and not actually twisty and knotted, which I consider totally unacceptable. It’s like one of those things I saw Sandra Lee use the other day which cut her pie lid into the shape of a lattice, without actually weaving it. Meh, I say. That would totally ruin half my fun.

rolling pretzel cookies

However, I’m also an obsessive comber of recipe reviews when they are available online, a favor sites that embrace them. It is rarely enough for me to know that a recipe should be good, or is from a well-respected chef, I need to see some people to write in and say “awesome as is!1!!” or “wouldn’t change a thing!” Bonus points for a “this impressed my mother-in-law who thinks I am a terrible cook!”

pretzel cookies

And this is why it just goes to show how stubborn I am that insisted upon forging ahead with this recipe despite more than one comment that it was dry, bland and not chocolatey enough. “I am Super Deb! I can fix this!”

The first thing I did was double the cocoa, swapping the same amount of flour out for it in hopes to fix the “chocolatey” issue. But when the first batch came out of the oven, they were terrible–dry, bland and borderline ready for the trash can. And then it hit me: 35 minutes of baking time? For a butter cookie? I don’t think I have ever seen one that bakes for more than 15 minutes. The second batch went in for 15 and lo and behold–they were no longer dry and inedible!

pretzel cookies

But you know what? They’re still on the bland side, and I’m not entirely sure why. Likely, they being unfairly compared to the ne plus ultra, incomparably delicious World Peace Cookies, which I have also made a batch of this week. Maybe it’s the absence of brown sugar or a light, sandy texture that leaves them lacking; at the very least, they’d benefit from more sugar.

I’d seriously consider making them with Dorie Greenspan’s Chocolate Roll-Out Cookie dough next time, but having not actually auditioned this recipe in pretzel form, I can’t make any promises that it will work flawlessly. Thus, I have listed the Martha Stewart recipe below, with my best stabs at what would fix up the flavor. Good luck!

pretzel cookies

One year ago: Pecan Squares, ohmygaah

Update! Awesome Rivka at Not Derby Pie has triumphed, coming up with a new and improved chocolate pretzel cookie recipe thatI am certain will be the one you want to bookmark. After trying the cookies with my suggestion of a chocolate roll-out cookie recipe, she found that while they were tasty, the pretzel shape fell apart in the oven. She tweaked and tweaked until she got it right and her new version sounds delicious and looks perfect. Check it out.

Chocolate Pretzels

As I mentioned in the post, I was not overwhelmed with the flavor of these cookies and have made some tweaks that I hope will improve them. However, if you have a chocolate roll-out cookie recipe that never fails you, it might be worth trying that instead, with the same egg glaze and rolling technique. [Update: See note above for a recipe suggestion.]

1 teaspoon good-quality instant espresso powder
3 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg yolk
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

1. Stir espresso powder into the boiling water in a small bowl until dissolved; set aside. Meanwhile, put butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until creamy. Mix in vanilla and salt. Reduce speed to medium-low. Mix in egg, cocoa and dissolved espresso. Gradually add flour, and mix until a smooth dough forms. Turn out onto a piece of plastic; pat into a square. Wrap dough, and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

2. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces. Roll into balls. Shape balls into 12-inch-long ropes. Twist each rope into a pretzel shape. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl. Brush cookies with egg wash; sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until dry, about 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 1 week.

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49 comments on chocolate pretzel cookies

  1. Ohiogirl

    Hmmm. All I can add is that, when I make cookies who’s only chocolate flavoring comes from cocoa, they do not really taste their BEST until the day after. Maybe that gives them time to co-mingle and bloom or whatever.

    So, I’d be interested to hear what you say about these babies after a few days.
    Because, chocolate and salt, who could resist?

  2. Andrea in Plymouth

    What about adding a little bit more sugar to the recipe, and then dusting them with one of those fancy finishing salts that have really distinct flavor? There are slightly sweet ones, smoky ones, etc; it might be a great flavor enhancer…like the pepper in those chocolate pepper cookies my sister makes at the holidays. But I’ve never tried to bake the salts; would they just dissolve? Just a thought…

  3. These look amazing – so pretty! I’ve been hard at work, trying to learn the ins and outs of baking chemistry and it sounds like you’re on the right track to a yummy cookie! Maybe instead of the boiling water, mix the espresso with hot milk or cream? And reduce the flour by 1/4 cup, to be replaced by brown sugar if they’re not sweet enough by themselves. You could also try leaving the flour qty. as-is and adding the 1/4 cup of brown sugar + another tablespoon of liquid (or more if it’s really dry where you are)…maybe a nice coffee liquor or orange juice. Since there is no baking soda or powder the recipe, there will be nothing for the acids to react with, so you shouldn’t get a rise in the oven. Sour cream might add some flavor as well.

  4. Funny you mention Dorie’s roll-out cookie recipe — I was actually thinking of trying to replicate your pretzels with that recipe. I’ll let you know how they come out!

  5. Angel McGellan

    my poor computers screen is so dark that when i got onto the homepage i thought i was being greeted by an image of something unmentionable . Luckily they turned out to be pretzels. Thanks Deb, they look delish. Angel xx

  6. Deb, you never cease to amaze me with your latest creations!!! chocolate-pretzel COOKIES?!??! stunning!!

    oh and happy Hanukkah!! I can’t believe the celebration is half-over already!!

  7. My first idea to amp the flavor a bit would be to cover them with a tasty chocolate glaze… yes, I know, as if we all needed the extra calories! But it could work to save this particular batch from blandness (just in case you still have some laying around).

  8. melanie

    years ago I found a recipe for chocolate pretzels in a women’s magazine–maybe family circle or women’s day–they weren’t terribly sweet and they were also seasoned with black pepper — and I put colored jimmies on them. they looked great on the holiday table and my guests liked nibbling on them with their glass of wine. anybody have that recipe?

  9. MMC

    I’m interested in the cocoa/flour exchange … does this generally work in most recipes? I just made a cake today that I think could use more cocoa, but I don’t know what I have to do to compensate if I increase the cocoa called for in the recipe. Thanks!

  10. I’d love to try this– do you think that dipping the finished cookies in melted chocolate would help? And maybe “salting” with nuts? Or would that overdo it?

  11. Awesome idea! I also LOVE pretzels. I’m not sure if it’s just the salt that attracts me or the carbs – it’s gotta be both. Wonder what these would be like dipped in cheese sauce…

  12. Ian

    It may help the flavor to use “natural” cocoa powder (that is, not the Dutch-processed variety) – it has a much more intense flavor. There’s no baking soda in the recipe, so it should be okay to try natural cocoa here.

    Also, re some prior comments, I believe that’s sugar on the pretzels, not salt, right?

  13. deb

    Interesting–I’ve always found that the Dutch process has much richer chocolate flavor. I hope to update this recipe soon.

    It is sugar, clear sanding sugar on the cookies. They’re pretzel-shaped cookies, not pretzels.

  14. Alexis

    totally unrelated to the current recipe… I made the pecan squares today – from last year today… and ohmygaah! indeed! My husband will be taking the vast majority to his office tomorrow to save me from myself. They certainly are delicious though.

    Also, world peace cookies are now a staple in our christmas traditions… thanks! I love making cookies :)

  15. Drakenrahl

    You know, rather than going so heavily for sweet, you might consider just going for chocolatey. I make a dark chocolate cookie that is just slightly sweet, more of an adult palette type cookie, that has some similarities.

    You might consider adding in some melted dark chocolate to the dough. Coacoa powder is all well and good, but there are other elements in finished chocolate that make a big difference. I’d try adding about 2oz. of melted dark chocolate to the mix and see if that doesn’t perk it up

    It might also be interesting to dust the tops with salt rather than sugar, once again for something a little more towards the adult palette.

    I think I’m going to give this once a go, with a few tweaks.

  16. Ian

    Last night I give them a try with natural cocoa powder (maybe it’s just me, but I think the Dutch-process has a milder taste, so I thought the natural version might boost the impact), and, following the advice of WickedGoodDinner above, added a wee bit of brown sugar and orange juice. Overall a success – they were pretty chocolatey but not super-sweet, and they were soft and dense inside. My office taste-testers and I liked the result – one even compared them to chocolate cake doughnuts.

    Thanks for a great idea Deb! This will be a fun and unique item at our neighborhood cookie exchange.

  17. deb

    Hi Ian — So glad to hear they worked. I really do think they needed some extra sugar–1/4 cup (in the original recipe) to 1 stick of butter is rather low for a cookie. I bet brown sugar would be wonderful. I will definitely be tweaking these again when I have time and appreciate your input.

  18. jo

    I made these with Dories Chocolate roll out cookies and have been getting raves all week long!! I used to be a baker and have missed making pretzels, this helped bunches!

  19. Sherry G

    I just found this recipe and would like to include a few cookies in my chocolate pretzel bags as a surprise for Christmas. What tweaks seemed to work well?

  20. Emily

    Well, I made these last week and they were… eh. I’ve made other cookies from your site, which were delicious, but these (how can i put this delicately?) aren’t very good. They were a little dry, and bland, and the coffee taste just a little overpowering. Either that, or I mismeasured. Anyways, I won’t be making these again… but margarita cookies, here I come!

  21. I just made the pretzels and blogged about how much I love your blog…ha! I found that my pretzel twisting got better the more I did. I went with all of your headnotes and the new suggested recipe. Took them to work and they were gone! On to the next Smitten Kitchen recipe that I will be trying.

  22. Sanni

    I’ve just made those with my 11-year-old, and we both really enjoyed them. We didn’t add the espresso, though, just the water instead, so that changes the flavor, of course. But I don’t find them flavourless at all, on the contrary.

  23. Amy

    My boyfriend and I had so much fun making these! we made a few changes, first we left out the expresso (not really big on coffee) then we added a half cut of melted peanut butter with a handful of melted chocolate mixed with brown sugar, this really helped with making these cookies sweet and savory. Along with making them a little more savory we added a half cup of chopped pretzels to give it the full effect :) thanks for another great recipe!

  24. Rachel

    I made these after have some similar at a coffee shop. I really enjoyed them but I feel like they’d be better if I could get a more crisp out side. I was considering trying again with a shorter hotter baking time or using melted butter? Wanted to see if you had any thoughts or tips?

  25. Michelle

    I’m in search of the chocolate cookie recipe that my mom used every Christmas–rolled and twisted into pretzels, with a hint of peppermint, dipped in mint (and green) glaze! This looks similar, but not exact, but I will be trying it!

  26. Alex Belmore

    Hi Deb,
    I tried making Rivka’s version of the recipe but the rollout part was a complete disaster. I followed the instructions pretty closely and the dough felt pretty moist and buttery, but it was really crumbly and I could not get it to roll out without it falling apart. Any suggestions on how to fix it?