Photos: Leeann Plouffe
The Studio, the Pretzels and the Painting
I am blessed to have the most amazing studio space; I actually cried when I saw it for the first time. It was everything I needed: space and natural light. An answer to prayer, to be sure! I had been painting icons in my small home studio for the better part of two decades when I finally admitted that it was bursting at the seams; it was time to find new digs. And so, with a few phone calls (and a heapin’ helping of divine intervention) I found my home on the 3rd floor of Building 26. While it may be modest in the eyes of most with its endless staircases and abandoned-warehouse charm, it feels like a palace to me and I love everything about it. I mean, what’s not to love with its well-worn wood floors and clanging hot water pipes whose intermittent song keeps me company (and toasty warm) on those late night work sessions.
While my studio time is, for the most part, spent in silence (save for the water pipes), anyone who knows me knows that I love a good chat! So, one unexpected perk of my move to the 3rd floor has been the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made along the way…
I was away for a month, installing icons in Texas, when Greg and Sean moved into the “neighborhood.” Best friends since high school, their big hearts and warm personalities brought a new level of life and community to the 3rd floor which previously had been missing. Perhaps that is why it was so easy to find myself offering to help with the food for Greg’s gallery opening. While I was a little disheartened to hear they were all set with the food, I was quite happy to hear they had no plans for dessert. And so, the mission for this wannabe caterer began!
Greg, an amazing artist whose paintings quickly captured my heart with their rich palettes and soulful stories, had not only vision for his masterpieces, but for every last detail of his event. My goal? To make pastries that fit seamlessly into his vision. He suggested the trendy Chocolate Chip Cookie Shot Glasses made famous by pastry chef, Dominique Ansel. I’d never heard of them, but after a quick Google search, I was smitten! Adorable and oh so yummy! I thought they’d pair perfectly with my Decadent Chocolate Cheesecake Bars, White Chocolate Bing Cherries and Dipped Pretzels. The menu was set!
What a fun week I had testing recipes and refining my technique for the cookie cups (I’m pretty sure my family didn’t mind being the guinea pigs); converting my cheesecake recipe into bars (finger foods were the goal); and daydreaming about dipped pretzels that would match my favorite painting, Screen Door Slams, inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road.
The whimsical array of desserts disappeared quickly in this crowd of about 120 friends and patrons. I don’t know if anyone even noticed that the “Pollack”-esque Pretzels were an ode to the painting, but it made me happy just the same. And I’m fairly certain they were quite happy eating them!
SWEET AND SALTY PRETZEL RODS
24 Pretzel Rods
12-ounce bag of Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate Melting Wafers
½ cup Ghiradelli white chocolate*, broken into pieces
½ cup Ghiradelli milk chocolate*
Sea Salt for sprinkling
Terbinado Sugar for sprinkling
Styrofoam Block or Baking Parchment
2 Pastry Bags
FIRST THINGS FIRST: For best results, you’ll want to let your dipped pretzel rods dry standing up. You can use a block of styrofoam, pressing one end of a pretzel into the styrofoam to make the holes. Or, just keep it simple (that’s what I did) and lay your dipped pretzel rods on a sheet of baking parchment. They’ll be a little less perfect, but equally delicious!
DIP THE PRETZELS In a coffee cup or other taller-than-wide container, melt the dark chocolate following instructions on the bag. Dip the pretzel rods one at a time, gently tapping to remove excess chocolate. Set aside to cool.
DECORATE THE PRETZELS Put the white chocolate in a pastry bag and melt (as per bag instructions). Using a pair of scissors, cut the very tip off the pastry bag and drizzle the dipped pretzels rods as you like. Repeat process with the milk chocolate, sprinkling the warm chocolate with a hint of sea salt and terbinado sugar for added texture and flavor.
Let cool and enjoy. If you’re impatient (or in a hurry) put them in the frig for about 10 minutes so the chocolate will set up more quickly. Yumm!
*Cocoa butter is what makes chocolate drizzle smoothly when melted. Some bars of chocolate have higher cocoa butter content than other bars or chips which makes them preferable for melting. So keep that in mind when shopping; alternatively, you can add a drizzle of oil to chocolate chips when melting in order to achieve similar results.