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. —Alice Medrich
one large basket
(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 the 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, it will help to adhere the plastic a little better, but be sure that 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. Bring about an inch of water to a simmer in a wide skillet. 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 it's 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 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 filled with chocolate truffles, stemmed strawberries, or other treats.
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!).