Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52—with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.
Today: A centerpiece for your Easter table that you can admire and devour.
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A basket constructed of chocolate-coated pretzel “twigs” makes a super easy but wildly impressive centerpiece. Fill it with rabbits and chicks, assorted Easter candies, or stemmed strawberries. At the end of the party, invite guests to break and devour the basket.
4 ounces (115 grams) dark chocolate or 6 ounces (170 grams) milk chocolate, chopped 4 to 6 cups thin salted pretzel sticks (such as Snyder’s of Hanover)
To prepare the mold, press a sheet of plastic wrap across the bottom and up the sides of a 2-quart stainless steel bowl bowl, as smoothly as possible and with as few air bubbles as possible, letting the ends hang over the bowl. If necessary, press another sheet into the bowl crosswise to cover any bare sides of the bowl.
Tip: If you wipe the bowl with a damp sponge or cloth, the plastic will adhere a little better. But be sure that the chocolate never comes in contact with a moist surface. And no, foil is not better for lining the mold!
Put the chocolate in another (clean, dry) medium stainless steel bowl. In a wide skillet, bring about an inch of water to a simmer. For dark chocolate, set the bowl directly in the water and adjust the heat so that the water is not quite simmering. For milk chocolate, turn the heat off under the skillet and wait 60 seconds before setting the bowl of chocolate in the water.
Stir the chocolate frequently with a clean, dry spatula until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the water and let the chocolate cool to lukewarm, about 90° F. Pour about 4 cups of the pretzels into the chocolate. Use a rubber spatula to turn the pretzels gently in the chocolate until they are completely coated; add more pretzels if you can, as long as you can get them coated. It’s okay if some of the pretzel shows through the chocolate, but they should be coated and the chocolate should still be sticky. Continue to turn the chocolate-coated pretzels in the bowl until the chocolate seems a little thicker and cooler but not yet starting to set.
Use your fingers to arrange the pretzels in the bottom and up the sides of the lined mold.
Refrigerate the bowls to set the chocolate. To unmold, lift the plastic liner out of the bowl. Set the basket down on a serving platter and peel the plastic gently away from the pretzels. Serve the basket filled with chocolate truffles, stemmed strawberries, or other treats.
Pick up a copy of Alice's new book Flavor Flours, which includes nearly 125 recipes -- from Double Oatmeal Cookies to Buckwheat Gingerbread -- made with wheat flour alternatives like rice flour, oat flour, corn flour, sorghum flour, and teff (not only because they're gluten-free, but for an extra dimension of flavor, too).
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).