It all started about six years ago. I was looking for something new to bring to Thanksgiving dinner at my parents house. You know the drill. There are the staple dishes that are always made and then there are the wow dishes that people look forward to all year. I have a large family and they get together once a year on Thanksgiving, so I needed something new if I was going to break into the cooker's status versus the niece/grandchild status. I mean, I've got four Aunts, my mother, and my grandmother at this event to go up against so there's not a lot of room for error.
And then, I found it. Better Homes And Gardens had had a competition for best new recipes and this woman had made these candy pretzel rods. They looked amazing--sweet, salty, and really fancy looking. Perfect, in fact. The only problem was, was I had never made any kind of candy from scratch and didn't have a candy thermometer. But, after assembling the ingredients, I realized I didn't necessarily need a candy thermometer. I just needed to pay attention to each stage closely. Now here it is six years later and I have made these delicious snacks every year for Thanksgiving (on demand), dolled up several hundred for three different weddings, and turned them into a Christmas treat I try to make every year. They are time consuming, so it's great if you have awhile to devote to them, but trust me they are really worth it. Throw on some Christmas music (anything will do if you can't listen to Christmas music in October like I can), and take these for a spin. I guarantee you'll be asked to make them again and again.

1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup light-colored karo syrup (HINT: Golden Syrup can be used as a substitute)
¼ cup butter
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
½ tsp. vanilla
25 pretzel rods or one 14 oz. pkg. whole Bavarian pretzels
2 cups walnuts (8 oz.)
1 cup peanut butter-flavored pieces
1 cup milk chocolate pieces

1. In a food processor combine walnuts, peanut butter pieces, and milk chocolate pieces. Cover and process until mixture is coarsely chopped (or coarsely chop nuts, peanut butter, and chocolate pieces with a knife and combine). Transfer to a large bowl; set aside. (Hint: as you get more adventurous, try different combinations--especially if someone you know has a nut allergy. I've gone as far as mint drops, toffee bits, shredded coconut, and themed sprinkles--not all at once. The sky's the limit for the last dunk and roll bit.)

2. In a small heavy saucepan combine brown sugar, karo syrup (or Golden Syrup), and butter. Bring to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sweetened condensed milk. Return to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low. Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches 236 degrees F, soft-ball stage (should take about 10 minutes). (Adjust heat as necessary to maintain a steady boil.) Remove saucepan from heat; stir in vanilla. Cool 15 to 20 minutes or until slightly thickened. (Hint: As I don't use a thermometer, I just set the timer for exactly ten minutes; works every time.)

3. Dip each pretzel into caramel mixture, covering about two-thirds of the pretzel. Let caramel drip off slightly. Roll some of the chopped mixture onto the caramel on the pretzel, pressing crumbs lightly with back of a spoon. Let stand on nonstick foil until caramel is set. Store in an airtight container between layers of wax paper in refrigerator up to 4 days or freeze up to 1 month. Makes 25 pretzels rods or 15 whole Bavarian pretzels. (Hint: I lay out my chopped rolling items on a cookie sheet, place the pretzel with caramel in the middle, dribble the bits over top and press in. Be careful! The caramel is hot!)

*Technically you could use soft caramels and melt them down but this way you can say you basically made these from scratch barring the pretzel itself. The caramel is much more delicious this way, I think. So put down those wrapped candies and go for it!


Miss Mommy said...

Yea! I am very excited about these...

Nana Phyllis said...

OOHH! They do look yummy, Rachel. Maybe we can make them when Miss Mommy gets to Texas!

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