Friday, December 26, 2008
The lovely Nanette made us some of these as a holiday treat, and I was hooked! They are simple, festive, and delicious - you get crunch from the pretzels, smooth chocolate goodness, salt, and sweet all at once. When I started searching for the ingredients, I realized I'd made a modified version of them before with waffle-shaped pretzels, topped with a Hershey's Kiss, with an M&M stuck jauntily into just the tip of the Kiss, but I really wanted to follow Nanette's lead on the adorable look of these. She used melted chocolate which she piped into a round pretzel and topped with an M&M. I wanted to stick with the Kisses and try some of the different flavors, but the round pretzels were a must. Guess what? Nearly impossible to find. No worries; Nanette supplied me with two huge ziploc bags of round pretzels from the 8 pound box she had to buy online. Thanks, Nanette!
There's no recipe here. These are easy-peasy. I've made trays and trays of them this season, and Bug Bug even helped me with the prep on the two most recent trays! (Yay, more successful baking with the small person!)
Preheat the oven to 275F. Prep a rimmed cookie sheet (so they don't slide off) with parchment. Lay out pretzel rings everywhere. I will confess here that I am completely anal and did the math to figure out approximately how many Kisses were in each bag, and then laid out that many pretzels in rows of ten. Yeah, I'm nuts. Feel free to just throw a few huge handfuls on the tray and spread them out.
Next up, unwrap the Kisses. Do not skip this step! A big, important note: different kinds of chocolate have different melting points. I learned this the hard way when I had to throw out about 3 dozen milk chocolate Kisses that I could. not. get. to. melt. at. all. What the heck? Anyway, the important part is to only use ONE KIND of Kiss per cookie sheet. Place one Kiss on top/in the center of each pretzel. It's okay if they don't fit perfectly, but they should be fairly well centered and balanced. Pop the tray in the oven for 2-3 minutes so the Kisses start to turn shiny and melt a little. They will hold their shape but start to droop a little.
While the tray is in the oven, pour a bunch of M&Ms into a dish so you have easy access. Remove the tray from the oven, take one M&M and place it flat on top of the point of one Kiss, then push it down to see if they're melty enough. If they aren't warm enough, the Kiss won't push all the way down; put them back in the oven for another minute. If they are warm enough, the Kiss will smush down just enough for the chocolate to spread and fill the entire pretzel circle.
You have to work fairly quickly, but don't make yourself crazy. They will stay warm long enough for you to place the M&Ms on the whole tray. Put them aside until the chocolate is totally set. For me, this took way longer than I expected - several hours at least. They should peel right off the parchment without sticking when they are totally cooled and hardened.
I used Dark Chocolate Kisses, Hugs (which look SO cute when they melt, because the stripes come out perfectly!), and holiday M&Ms. I was a little afraid of the Kisses with other, weird-flavored centers, but truth be told, I am a Hershey Kiss purist and really only like the plain flavors. I think it's obvious why Kisses with almonds won't work here.
The only other thing I'll say about this "recipe" is that it probably took me longer to type all of this (and I'm a good typist) than it does to prep and make an entire tray of them. Oh, and also, some people apparently call them Reindeer Bellybuttons. Ha!