What exactly constitutes a Christmas cookie? Do these count? I mean, they aren't shaped like a tree, or a snowflake, or a stocking, or a star, a Santa, holly or a snowman. They don't have frosting neatly piped in colorful designs, and they aren't incredibly delicate. They don't have nutmeg in them - though they do have cinnamon - or jam inside them. But I think they are special and festive, and shouldn't that be the deciding factor? They are eye-catching in their own way, and certainly intriguing. I think they are a perfect addition to a holiday cookie platter. At least in my house, where in some people's minds, it isn't worth eating if it isn't chocolate. Yes, these will go over very well around here.
I used to work at an amazing restaurant in NYC called La Palapa. (As a side note, the owners of La Palapa just released their first cookbook, definitely something you want to look into!) We made Mexican Hot Chocolate there that was incredible. There is something really wonderful about the flavors of chocolate, cinnamon and vanilla. It is is comforting. It is warming, soothing. Not something I want with my chocolate on a regular basis, just once in a while, for special occasions. These cookies are the perfect vehicle for this tasty combination.
While they are slightly tedious to make - lots of rolling and twisting - they are worth it. They have a strong chocolate flavor, accented with cinnamon and a touch of vanilla. They are firm, but not crunchy - their texture is similar to shortbread. And they are fun to eat!
You could make them look more like savory pretzels by coating them with sanding sugar, or for a combo Dorie Greenspan would surely approve of, top them with sea salt! Any way you do it, these are delicious cookies that are worth the effort, and are sure to impress. Even next to a frosted Santa.
Mexican Hot Chocolate Pretzels
adapted from Not Derby Pie
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks (6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 oz semisweet chocolate, melted in a double boiler (or heat-proof bowl set over pan of simmering water)
In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugars and beat for about 2 more minutes. Add egg and vanilla, and mix until combined. Add melted chocolate, and mix until combined. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, and mix on low speed until fully combined, about 2 minutes. Place dough in plastic bag, or wrap in plastic and place in freezer for 45 minutes, or in refrigerator for at least two hours or overnight. When you're ready to shape your pretzels, preheat oven to 325. divide the dough into equal pieces - I got 19 pieces at about 40g apiece. Roll each piece into a rope that is about 10"-12" long and about 1/3" thick. Then twist into pretzel shape, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment. If you need step-by-step photos of twisting into pretzels, take a look here. You can place them fairly close on the baking sheet - leave about an inch of space between them - as they don't grow a whole lot in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, until they are firm to the touch. Remove baking sheet from oven and place on a rack to cool completely. Repeat until all pretzels are baked.