My Chocolate Pretzel Gems recipe was created back when I was first married to satisfy The Big Lug’s cravings. (Ha. Yeah, right. These choco-crunchy, salty-sweet gems were for me, too!) It was December 1992, back when we were living in Lexington, Kentucky, when I set out to recreate those adorable but rather addictive pretzel candies known as “Prezel Joys” in my own home kitchen. For those who are unfamiliar, Pretzel Joys were found for sale in fancy-schmancy department stores in the gourmet foods section. Back in the day, they were packaged in irresistible cartons similar to ice cream (round with lid and cute graphics) and we always purchased ours from Jacobson’s when we shopped there—a fine department store we still miss today. Sadly, the stores have since closed.
Jacobson’s was such a big part of our growing up in Michigan. (Later, when we moved to Indianapolis, we were happy to learn they had a store here.) The Big Lug’s mother shopped at the downtown Ann Arbor store and my mother shopped at the flagship store in downtown Birmingham. And, when I got married, it was Jacobson’s (not some run of the mill bridal shop) who handled the sizing, ordering and alterations for the gorgeous gowns for my bridesmaids. You simply could not receive better service in those days than from Jacobson’s. It is safe to say that Jacobson’s was pretty much our Neiman Marcus.
Incidentally, a quick Internet search revealed that Pretzel Joys may no longer be made and marketed by Harry London® Chocolates—at least, not as they once were. To see the old packaging (not the previous ice cream carton packaging), you need only conduct an image search via the Internet for “pretzel joys”. Harry London® Chocolates once made Milk Chocolate Pretzel Joys and White Chocolate Pretzel Joys. However, per the Harry London® website, they now offer Crispy Joys™ which are a part of their Joys line of confections. As for pretzels, for all the salty-sweet chocolate-pretzel connoisseurs, Harry London® now offers chocolate-covered mini pretzels in both milk and white chocolate as well as a confection called Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzels. (Yum. I need to make some of those next!) Who knew?
It is interesting to note that the name “pretzel joys” is still being used today for the “White Truffle Fudge Pretzel Joys” included in the Harry London® 6-Pound Gold Gift Tin. This is all rather interesting and, I am sure, changes were made to their line of confections due to costs. At any rate, it looks as though Harry London® has managed to keep offering what their customers desire at varying price points. Isn’t this great news? I mean, really. If you are a total diva and don’t want to make your own chocolate-crispy candies, you can just order up some tasty salty-sweet treats from Harry London®!
Okay. Let’s get back to our recipe. For my version of Pretzel Joys, called Chocolate Pretzel Gems (although, The Big Lug still refers to them as “Scooby Snacks” ever since he tasted the first one), I combine both crushed pretzels and crisp rice cereal. Why? Well, when I first made them with all pretzels they were pretty hard and that’s not good for your teeth. And, since I just adore the light, crispy crunch of rice cereal, into the recipe it went. I settled on a 1:1 ratio of pretzels to rice cereal and the taste (still plenty of salty-sweet action going on) and crunchy texture were perfect. Ever since creating these devilishly good, crispy-crunchy chocolate morsels, they appear on my holiday baking and “gifts from the kitchen” list each holiday season. Everyone loves them! You can leave them plain, or you can embellish them as you see fit as there are many options for holiday sprinkles to reflect the seasons and holidays. For gluten free sprinkles, try India Tree brand made with no wheat (they use rice flour). Their sprinkle decorations are kosher products according to their website.
Why create a gluten free option for my Chocolate Pretzel Gems? First and foremost, my heart goes out to stressed-out moms concerned about their child’s nutrition and balancing treats as well as for the children who feel left out from the crowd when it comes to the world of treats and the gluten free world they must live in. It also occurred to me that children really do need fun, festive and tasty treats every now and then for holidays and special occasions despite their strict gluten free diets. Furthermore, busy moms need easy, simple recipe options that do not require much time to whip up in the kitchen. Plus, these days, children seriously need a yummy treat that is also safe to take to school since many schools now ban nuts and food products made with nuts due to so many children suffering from nut allergies. Now, there is an easy-as-pie and kid-friendly homemade gluten free chocolate candy recipe, Chocolate Pretzel Gems, filled with crunchy goodness, with not many ingredients, where children can actually help in the kitchen creating them. How cool is that?
Now, as to why I call for organic palm shortening in the gluten free recipe and also when using chocolate chips for the traditional recipe but not necessarily for the fine-quality chopped chocolate when melting the chocolate. Well, when I use fine-quality chocolate, I am hesitant to add anything to it because it is perfect just the way it is. But, when I use chocolate chips—especially the Enjoy Life® brand—I do like to use shortening in the recipe. The simple reason is that not only does it make chocolate slightly softer to the bite, but specifically because the added shortening acts as an emulsifier for a creamy and smooth melted chocolate due to the fact that Enjoy Life® does not have soy lecithin (an emulsifier) in their semi-sweet chocolate Mini Chips or Mega Chunks products in order to make them soy free. (However, they could have used sunflower lecithin as an option as some other chocolate makers do.) The type of shortening I use is a vegetable shortening called palm shortening. It is organic, non-hydrogenated (no trans fats) and made by Spectrum Organics. It is a very healthy fat and I even use it in my regular baking. I could go on and on about the benefits of using organic palm vegetable shortening in everyday baking and cooking, but that is best left to another post. If you’d like to read more about melting Enjoy Life® semi-sweet chocolate products, visit their site for Melting Instructions.
Oh. You can bet that I will be creating a treat similar to Chocolate Pretzel Gems for all the Primal and Paleo kids out there, too. That’s a bona fide promise!
Meanwhile, enjoy these wicked good, delightfully crunchy and salty-sweet Chocolate Pretzel Gems as a part of life’s little joys and indulgences. I hope you will try making them for Valentine’s Day!
What makes our Chocolate Pretzel Gems wicked good? Chocolate. Crispy-crunchy chocolate. Salty-sweet chocolate. Tiny morsels. Plain or embellished. Any time of year. Just pop ‘em in your mouth. And, munch. And, crunch. So easy and fun to make. Kids and adults love ‘em. Oh, they can be made gluten free too. And, since they are nut free, they are a safe crunchy treat to take to school. Yep. Chocolate Pretzel Gems are wicked, wicked good!
Enjoy Life® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Chips or Mega Chunks
Spectrum® Brand Organic Palm Vegetable Shortening
Glutino® Gluten Free Pretzel Sticks
Erewhon® Gluten Free Crispy Brown Rice Cereal by Attune Foods™
India Tree Kosher and Wheat Free Holiday Sprinkles
Sweetheart Mix by India Tree for Valentine’s Day
Note: Nothing to disclose. I just really like and highly recommend these reliable brands of products!
- For the Chocolate Pretzel Gems
- 12 ounces (340 grams) high-quality milk or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
- or 1 package (12 ounces or 340 grams) Nestlé® milk or semi-sweet morsels
- 2 teaspoons (8 grams) organic palm shortening, such as Spectrum® brand, if using chocolate chips
- 1 cup (94 grams) crushed salted pretzel sticks
- 1 cup (30 grams) crisp rice cereal, such as Kellogg’s® Rice Krispies®
- For Gluten Free Chocolate Pretzel Gems
- 1 package (10 ounces or 283 grams) Enjoy Life® semi-sweet chocolate Mini Chips or Mega Chunks
- 1½ teaspoons (6 grams) organic palm shortening, such as Spectrum® brand
- ¾ cup (70 grams) crushed Glutino® Gluten Free Pretzel Sticks
- 1 generous cup (36 grams) Erewhon® Gluten Free Crispy Brown Rice Cereal, by Attune Foods™
- Special Equipment & Supplies
- 1 small spring-loaded cookie scoop, not necessary but handy
- Petite baking cups, optional for packaging candy for gift-giving
- Heart-shaped gift box, optional for packaging candy for gift-giving
- Holiday sprinkles of varying colors, shapes and sizes, such as Wilton® brand
- Wheat free natural holiday sprinkles, such India Tree brand
If you wish to decorate your candies by dipping into a small prep bowl full of sprinkles or nonpareils, warm the top of the candy to slightly melt the chocolate. I do this by holding the chocolate candies near a heated stovetop (not directly over the burner). But, do this very carefully and with extreme caution. Once the top of the chocolate is melted slightly, carefully invert it and place into bowl to encrust it with the sprinkles or nonpareils. Since sprinkles “fly” and spill easily like BBs, I like to work on a rimmed cookie sheet or half sheet pan.Recipe Inspiration: Harry London® Pretzel Joys—from back in the day.