On the morning of our Cookie Baking Day, we carry on as usual. I drag everyone out of bed, cheerlead them through bed-making, dressing, teeth-brushing, and the relocation from bedroom to breakfast table.
But everything changes once they hit the Advent Calendar where they read the day’s adventure: Bake, Bake, Bake!
It’s a learn-at-home, apron-wearing day filled with measuring, mixing, sifting, rolling, chilling, cutting, unwrapping, decorating, tasting, testing, and baking, baking, baking!
We usually cover a handful of the same cookies each year, but we also try to add a new one or two to the mix to keep things fresh. This year, we added Fancy, Festive Chocolate Pretzels to our plan.
Here’s the skinny:
- Fancy, Festive Chocolate Pretzels: These couldn’t be easier. And they couldn’t be much more fun for kids to make, which is why I love them.
An easy, quick, kid-friendly copy of the Fancy, Festive Chocolate Pretzels is here to download as a pdf. Happy holidays!
Sometimes they’re called Belly Buttons (like Cora’s preschool teacher calls them), sometimes they’re called Pretzel Turtles (when a Rollo is melted on the pretzel and a pecan is placed on top), and sometimes they’re called Candy Pretzels.
No matter the name, there’s one thing for sure: these fancy-ish, festive, chocolate pretzels are totally awesome.
And I think they’re perfect to add to holiday cookie trays or to use as little teacher or hostess gifts because they’re so fun, so fancy, and so festive.
Though simple, Fancy, Festive Chocolate Pretzels do take a bit of trial and error with figuring out baking (melting) time and determining how many you can do in one batch. Once you figure out the baking time and batch size that works for you, you’re ready to go.
Once aprons were on, Maddy, Owen, and Cora each took a bag of kisses and started unwrapping–a super fine motor practice for little fingers. And as soon as they were finished unwrapping, they placed a ton of snap pretzels on a cookie sheet.
I started out by asking them to count out 20 or 30 to the tray, but soon hands were flying and there were zillions of pretzels–way more than 20. But it’s a great opportunity for kids to do some counting–by putting the same number of pretzels in each row, or by counting as they unwrap the kisses.
This tray is a bit over-ambitious, I must admit. Only if you have eight hands willing and able to add toppers to the melted kisses should you attempt this many at a time. Otherwise, add 20 or so to a tray until you figure out how long to keep them in the oven.
Once the pretzels are on the tray, it’s time to add the kisses.
I try to keep regular Hershey’s Kisses on one tray and ‘special’ ones on another because the Hugs, peppermint, and filled kisses melt much more quickly. If they’re both on one tray, melting time will be tricky.
You want the kisses melted just enough that you can place a topper–an M & M, a peanut, cashew, or piece of candy cane–on top so it sticks. If the kisses aren’t melted enough, they’ll be too tall; if they’re melted too much, the chocolate will turn to liquid and squeeze through the pretzel which makes a huge mess.
(The ones on the right are a super example of too-melty. They tasted great, but they ended up on our ‘ugly’ basket.)
And one thing we’ve found is that it’s best to test the ‘melt’ while the tray is still in the oven, and it has to be done carefully. If you remove the tray from the oven and then put it back in, the chocolate gets all cracked and funny.
Once the kisses are melted properly, the fun really begins!
It’s important to have each kiddo prepare a pile of ‘toppers’ so that everything is ready and to stand at a safe distance from the warm tray. Once the tray is on the counter, toppers can carefully be added to kisses.
- another pretzel to make a sandwich
- plain M & M’s–(with letters facing down)
- special M & M’s: peanut, peanut butter, mint, pretzel
- nuts: peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts,
- candy cane pieces
- junior mints
To sneak in a bit o’ learning is very easy. Kids can:
- add a certain number of each topper (5 peanuts, 5 M & M’s, 5 candy canes, etc)
- make patterns with their toppers
- add certain colors of M & M’s
- stretch their imagination and add unique toppers
- count their finished pretzels by 2’s, 5’s, or 10’s, depending on the number in each row
I know it’s sometimes all we can do to get kids in the kitchen and not have an anxiety attack as we watch a huge mess unfold in front of our eyes, but the kitchen is a super place for sneaky learning, and most kids love being there. With parents. Playing with candy.
And on Cookie-Baking Day especially, when I hit Maddy, Owen, and Cora with the challenge of counting how many kisses they’ve unwrapped or to count the number of pretzels we’ve made by 2’s or 5’s, they’re usually game. Perhaps it’s because they’re on a sugar high. Or perhaps it’s because they just don’t even know it’s ‘work’. Or perhaps it’s because they’ll do just about anything over a pile of chocolate pretzels.
So take a deep breath, help yourself to a kiss or two (or 10!), and have fun where you are, despite the mess.
And that’s it! My goal was to have our Cookie-Baking Day Recipe Book ready for this season, but between the colds we’ve been hit hard with this month, it couldn’t happen. But it will. . . hold on tight! Until then, enjoy Festive, Fancy Chocolate Pretzels with your little ones!
Just a little Cookie-Baking Day thanks to my mom. My amazing mom held a Cookie Baking Day each holiday season for us when we were growing up, and we loved it. My three sisters and I looked forward to this day even when we were in high school. I knew it would be a tradition I’d carry on with my kiddos, and I’m just so very thankful for my crazy-creative mom who made things fun, exciting, and awesome for us.