These suckers won me my first cooking competition, The Skint’s Vegan Bake-Off, at The Bell House in Brooklyn on February 10th. I took home both people’s choice and the grand prize, and let me tell you, both were totally unexpected.
Have you ever made dessert for 250 people before? If you have, you know what a huge undertaking it is. If you haven’t, I wouldn’t suggest it. I made the smart decision of starting these the day before the competition because I wanted them to be fresh (I was paranoid about the pretzels getting soggy, which didn’t end up being a problem). This resulted in me breaking down at midnight the night before, trying not to cry, and insisting to my partner that this was the worst idea ever and I wasn’t going to win anything, anyway.
I was wrong.
But the truth is, I don’t even like dessert. I did this for the challenge .. and maybe because I got to wear a cute apron in public. Much like this blog’s namesake, I’d rather have a strong, savory cocktail after a meal than a slice of cake (but ultimately, I’ll eat anything). So if I was going to make a dessert, it had to have two things I love: pretzels and peanut butter, and something everyone else loves: chocolate. And it sure as hell couldn’t involve an oven.
So, peanut butter chocolate pretzel balls with a peanut butter drizzle were born. Except, they needed a more concise name. My friends suggested “something with orgasms in it,” which turned into “nocturnal emissions,” which turned into “chocturnal emissions,” because puns are awesome and if you’re going to be competing against 20 other bakers, you need a memorable name that will stick. Even if it’s a play on … well, you know.
The name actually got me in a bit of trouble when I made these for a Sea Shepherd bake sale a week after the competition. A woman told me the description sounded good, but the name was gross and made her not want to buy them. Yes, it’s a little vulgar, but it’s also funny (to me, anyway). I assured her they were delicious (and award-winning!), and she ended up buying several. I learned a valuable lesson about cooking for strangers: what works at a bake-off might not always translate over to a bake sale. So, feel free to go with the long name if you’re going to be making these for, say, a group of mommy bloggers or your child’s 5th birthday party. Or a bake sale.
From L to R: Chef Adam Sobel of Cinnamon Snail fame (judge), me grinning like a fool, Sarah Gross of Rescue Chocolate (judge), second runner-up (I didn’t get her name! My apologies.), first runner-up Amanda Bruchok, and comedian Myq Kaplan (judge)
Overall, the competition was a ton of work, and the amount of effort that went into all of the desserts made was incredible. My favorite was the trio of fruit sorbets made by a couple whose names I don’t remember. If it was you, let me know! I ate like five cups of that stuff.
Here’s my (award-winning!!!) recipe:
Makes approx. 20 truffles
20-25 mini pretzel twists (I bought a 1lb. bag of Utz Pretzel Wheels, which worked perfectly)
**For the Cookie Dough:
1/4 cup (approx. 1/2 stick, if you’re using the baking sticks) Earth Balance, room temperature
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp blackstrap molasses
3-4 tablespoons non-dairy milk (I use almond)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the chocolate:
10 oz. dark chocolate chips
1 tsp coffee grounds
For the salted peanut drizzle:
¼ cup creamy peanut butter (natural stuff for the cookie dough is fine, but for this you want a thicker, “junk food” peanut butter, like Skippy)
⅛ cup coconut oil
¼ – ⅓ cup powdered sugar
½ tsp salt
To make the dough, cream the sugar, molasses, Earth Balance, and peanut butter using an electric hand mixer. Mix in the vanilla and milk. Slowly add the flour until everything is combined. Chill cookie dough for 20-30 minutes in the fridge.
While the dough is chilling, sort your pretzels. I like to find the saltiest ones and set them aside. Once the dough has cooled, use a 1 inch trigger release cookie dough scoop and scoop out a ball of dough. Before releasing it, press a pretzel into what will be the bottom of the dough ball, remove any excess dough that overlaps (it’s ok if some pokes through the pretzel). Release the ball of cookie dough onto a baking sheet. Repeat this step until you’ve used up all of the dough.
Put the baking sheet of cookie dough pretzel balls into the freezer for about one hour. While the balls are freezing, melt half your chocolate chips in a double boiler over medium heat. Stir in coffee grounds. Once the chips are melted, take the bowl off the heat and stir in the rest of the chocolate.
Take the peanut butter pretzel balls and dip them upside down into the melted chocolate, covering them just over the pretzel. Covering these completely in chocolate is an option, too (you’ll need more chocolate, though), but I found that this was too overwhelming.
Place dipped balls onto a drying rack to cool (add a sheet of wax paper underneath to catch any drippings). Move the rack to the fridge to harden the chocolate faster.
While the chocolate is firming up, mix the coconut oil (you may need to microwave it first in order to soften it, 5-10 second intervals until its a soft consistency), peanut butter and salt for the drizzle with a electric hand mixer. Slowly add the powdered sugar while mixing. If the drizzle is still to thick (you want it thick, but not so much that it’s slowly sliding off the spoon), microwave for 5-10 seconds. Drizzle the sauce all fancy-like over each ruffle with a spoon. Allow drizzle to harden in the fridge.
Now, you might notice that after finishing making these, you’ll have leftover chocolate, peanut butter drizzle and pretzels. This is ok, because you can use it to make chocolate-dipped pretzels. Simply dip the pretzels in chocolate, let them cool in the fridge for about 20 minutes, drizzle them with the peanut butter sauce and refrigerate.
**Note about the dough: This recipe cannot be doubled I don’t know why, it just can’t be (If you care to explain this magic baking science to me, feel free). I tried and wasted a ton of ingredients trying to make it work. If you want to make more than 20 of these, you’ll have to do it in small batches.