Candy Cane-Coated Caramelized White Chocolate Pretzels

“Oh, you know you love throwing a party. It’s the best kind of sickness.”

Such was Doctor Lisa‘s friendly diagnosis of my pre-Christmas party stressball whining. And I had promised myself that this time I was not going to go over the top with my menu. Nope. Not the week after Thanksgiving. I wasn’t going to fuss, I was going to keep things traditional, finger foods only, nothing crazy.

And Dan had already requested that the dessert table feature his two holiday favorites, peanut butter kiss cookies and buckeyes. He even volunteered to help me roll and bake them. So how could it be anything but a big old self-imposed helping of masochism that made me add candy cane-coated, caramelized white chocolate-dipped pretzels to the lineup?

candy cane + caramelized white chocolate pretzels, via
Because I really wanted to see if caramelized white chocolate was worth the hype, that’s why. Also often called roasted white chocolate, it’s made through an easy bake-and-stir process. Applying a little heat to the milk, sugar, and fat in the chocolate transforms its simple sweetness into something akin to dulce de leche. As someone who’s only recently been coming around to the charms of white chocolate, this technique—which chefs have been tossing around for the past few years—is fascinating and opens up a whole new field of possibilities.

Don’t be tempted to melt down white chocolate chips for this recipe; chips, even top-quality brands, contain stabilizers that help the chip keep its shape when baked. You want chocolate that will melt down evenly and stay creamy, not chunky. For this recipe, I went with David Lebovitz’s recommendation (based on his excellent tutorial for caramelizing white chocolate, which I’ve adapted below) and used Valrhona Ivoire fêves. These white chocolate baking discs contain 35 percent cocoa butter, a much higher percentage than the standard 20 percent as mandated by the USDA, and make for a lushly creamy chocolate dip. While I use Callebaut chocolate blocks in my everyday baking, their white chocolate only clocks in at 25 percent.

The recipe below makes more caramelized white chocolate than you’ll need for dipping one bag of pretzels, so you’ll have a chance to experiment with other uses for this treat. (I’m planning on making some white chocolate buckeyes for Christmas morning.) It will keep in a sealed container at room temperature for a few months, though the cocoa butter will separate from the other solids and give it a mottled effect.

candy cane + caramelized white chocolate pretzels, via
Of course, on the night I made these pretzels, I suffered for my masochism. At the same time I was keeping an eye on the white chocolate in the oven and unwrapping and crushing candy canes and fending off two inquisitive cats who decided that the kitchen was the place to have a no-holds-barred wrestling match, this website had a complete backend malfunction that required immediate attention. It just goes do show that despite my meltdowns and decisions to make seemingly finicky desserts, it’s completely possible to pull this one off in a holiday rush when your mind and body are being pulled in many exhausting directions.

And you’ll end up with a dessert that takes the traditional chocolate-covered pretzel into surprising and sophisticated territory—a treat for kids from one to 92.

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