She never understood her mother’s need to embellish everything, from her head to her food. Hycymum also insisted everything should be a meal. That meant taking three extra hours and twelve extra ingredients and stirring them into something no one would recognize anymore, then giving it a made up name like la-zhan-ya. ~Forest at the Edge of the World
“I read your blog, but I didn’t see any recipes.”
That’s what my friend complained about the other day.
“Well, that’s because it’s not a recipe blog.”
“So? People LIKE to see recipes.”
“But I’m not exactly a great cook—”
“But people LIKE to see recipes.”
“But I’m trying to be a writer, and—”
“Cooking bloggers write, too. Usually stories about the recipe, or what event they made it for, or—”
“BUT IT’S NOT A COOKING BLOG!”
She stared at me, genuinely confused, and said, “You should put at least one recipe on it.”
“Will you read it if I do?”
“If you tell the story about the recipe, yes.”
That’s the story, right there. And the recipe, down there.
Seeing how it’s Christmas, I probably should share something Christmasy, and since my 10-year-old took a bite of my Log Jam and said, “Hey, this is good enough for Pinterest,” (which, from him, is about the highest compliment one can receive) here is my recipe from a blog not normally a cooking blog:
(like those fancy dipping pretzels, but much easier, less messy, and nearly fool-proof. I’ve screwed it up only twice.)
1 bag of pretzel logs (12 oz.)
½ bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 1 cup; you’ll probably need the second cup later)
sprinkles (optional, but they shouldn’t be)
*Note: Either unwrap a whole bunch of caramels until your fingers are chapped and melt those—look up on Pinterest how to do that, because I don’t know—or use this recipe that I stole from Marcie Bingham’s grandmother (yeah, nothing’s original in my cooking):
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter (not margarine)
¼ tsp salt
1½ cup white corn syrup
2 TBS vanilla
Mix first five ingredients and stir constantly in a HEAVY pan until it reaches 245 degrees on a candy thermometer (about 20-25 minutes). Take off of heat and add vanilla. (*Note—I undercook it a bit, to about 220 degrees. That way the caramel stays soft and chewy, and your fillings stay in your mouth.)
While the caramel’s cooling, and your tongue has been iced down because you kept licking the spoon when you KNEW it was still boiling hot, get a large cookie sheet with sides, because you do NOT want these pretzel logs rolling all over the place. (Trust me—after the fourth time, it’s pretty annoying.)
Butter the pan heavily until it resembles a creamy yellow snow scene, then lay all the pretzel logs side by side on the pan. Go ahead and snap them in half, too. Most will already be broken anyway since you accidentally dropped a 20lb bag of sugar on them in the grocery cart; the beauty of this recipe is that you’ll chop them up at the end, too, so no need to be delicate. Hey, you can even toss in other kinds of pretzels as well to fill in all the little gaps. We don’t care.
Next, pour HALF of the cooked caramel recipe over the pretzel logs and other stuff you threw in there. You can try dribbling the caramel artfully, but it’s gonna goo all together anyway, so what’s the point. Pour the remaining half of the caramel into a heavily buttered 8×8″ pan, fully intending to cut and wrap them up prettily in wax paper but knowing full well you’ll stick a spoon in there “just to sample it occasionally” and blame the missing candy on the toddler who can’t defend himself.
Next, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler until just starting to melt. Don’t let it get too hot or it will mysteriously burn and clump together into something no one will want, even if you slip massive chunks of it into cookie dough. If you mess up the first half of the bag, remember, you’ve got the second half, so try the melting process again with the remaining chocolate, but this time slowly, and take it off the heat as soon as half of those chips are melted. They’ll convince the others to join them in the mess in about 3 to 4 minutes if you keep stirring it.
Now, dip a spoon into the melted chocolate and whish-whish-whish it over the caramel layer. Go all in one direction, realizing that the chocolate you fling all over the counter will be licked up later by the cat or your 17-year-old son. This technique will actually make your Log Jam look a bit . . . artful!
But to make it really festive, pour some sprinkles over it. Nothing says “professional” like sprinkles. People will forgive just about anything as long as there are sprinkles on it. For an added splash of professionalism that will make your neighbor think you’ve gone all Martha Stewart on her, melt some white chocolate chips and do yet another layer as a highlight. (That’s too fussy for me; I was thrilled I found sprinkles from four years ago I could use.)
Shove the whole thing in the freezer for about half an hour, or outside on the porch if it’s cold enough and the neighbor’s dog is locked up. When solid, take a sharp knife and start chopping that slab of fantastic goodness into pieces, like brittle. (See why you could be sloppy with the pretzel rods? Next time I’m going to try using a sledge hammer, just to see.)
Remove the Log Jam pieces while they’re still cold, or you’ll have a horrible mess that will take you hours to lick off your fingers. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the children do get jealous.)
I’m not really sure how long it stores, because it shockingly doesn’t last until morning (but my stomach ache sure does).
Makes enough to feed your family, the in-laws, and maybe a few neighbors.
All right, friend–you know who you are. Here’s your recipe, now start reading!