Pretzel Dust for the Win: Pretzel Linzers with Salted Caramel

There is one dessert I made for our holiday party in December that definitely deserves its own post: Pretzel Linzers with Salted Caramel by Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. I don't actually follow Deb's blog or own either of her cookbooks, but I saw the recipe on and added it to my to-bake list. I have used pretzels in a fair number of desserts, but not in the way they're used in these cookies, i.e., ground up to a powder and used like flour.

This dough comes together quickly in the food processor. You grind pretzels to dust; add all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix in cubed butter; add an egg; and mix until the dough comes together. I had to knead the dough briefly to make sure all of the dry ingredients were incorporated before rolling it out between two sheets of parchment. I've made this recipe a couple of times and the first time I placed the rolled dough in the freezer as instructed in the recipe. I found that made the dough too stiff and brittle; it cracked when I tried to cut out the cookies. So I moved the dough to the fridge and found that it worked much better, and in fact, a quick chill of about 15 minutes was all that was required to get the dough firm enough to handle. I re-rolled all of the scraps repeatedly without a problem.

The recipe says to roll out the dough quite thin, to 1/8-inch. However, I think the cookies in the photo accompanying the online version of the recipe were rolled a bit thicker. The stated yield of the recipe is 24 sandwich cookies, but I've ended up with between 40 and 48 assembled cookies when I've made the recipe (and my cookies were actually larger than specified -- I used cutters that were 2-1/4 inches and 7/8-inch in diameter). The cookies maintained their shape nicely during baking.
The first step in making the filling is to heat golden syrup (or light corn syrup) and sugar until it's deep amber in color, or 305 degrees. I used golden syrup and my mixture was amber colored to begin with -- so I had to use a thermometer because I couldn't judge the progress of the caramel based on color alone. Then you add a mixture of warm cream, melted butter, and salt. You cool the caramel until it's slightly thickened before filling the cookies. I skipped the step of dusting the cookie "lids" with powdered sugar; I wanted to avoid the mess and be able to stack them for storage.

I think these might be my favorite cookies of all time. I love everything about them. The thin cookies are crisp and buttery, with a nice hit of salt from the pretzels. While the raw dough smelled strongly of pretzels before it was baked, I don't think most people would be able to specifically identify pretzels as a ingredient in the finished cookie. The caramel filling is the bomb. Not only does it taste great -- and a little goes a long way -- but it is has the absolute perfect chewy consistency. The texture reminds me of the chew you get when you bite into a Girl Scouts Samoa cookie. The cookies taste amazing straight out of the refrigerator and the cookies don't get soggy at all, even after being stored for a few days. They were immensely popular with our party guests.

I couldn't help noticing that quite a few of the online reviews of this recipe were quite harsh, with a common complaint being that the dough was too dry and crumbly. I have a theory as to why some of these other bakers might have run into problems. The recipe directs you to put three and a half cups of pretzel twists in the food processor; grind them as fine as possible; and then discard all but 1.5 cups/155 grams of the ground pretzels. I just started out with 155 grams of pretzels and didn't bother measuring the volume of the intact pretzels or the ground pretzel dust. I assume that you could run into real problems with the texture of the dough if you either: 1) don't grind the pretzels fine enough; or 2) end up with more than 155 grams of ground pretzels if you measure by volume instead of by weight. Electronic kitchen scales are inexpensive. If you bake with any regularity, just buy a scale and avoid the headaches and inconsistent results you get when measuring by volume -- assuming, of course, that you have access to recipes that include weight measurements, which thankfully is becoming more and more common.

And once you get that scale, run out to buy some pretzels and make these cookies. You won't regret it.

Recipe: "Pretzel Linzers with Salted Caramel" from Smitten Kitchen Every Day by Deb Perelman, recipe available here at

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Louise said…
WOW, "favorite cookies of all time" says a lot. I'll put these on my "to be baked soon" list. What kind of pretzels did you use? I don't buy pretzels very often and I tend to favor bigger ones as I think the little bitty ones like they give you on airplanes have a fake taste.
I can't get these cookies out of my head! I've used Rold Gold tiny twists and the Whole Foods private label crunchy pretzel twists -- I didn't notice any difference between the two.
Louise said…
Thanks. I now have these cookies and Allison Roman's Salted Butter Chocolate Chunk Shortbread on my To Bake Shortlist. I studied the photos and the cookies can definitely be rolled a little thicker than 1/8".
Sally said…
I made these last night and loved them! I rolled to 1/4 in, and loved that thickness. I got 22 sandwich cookies (same size as yours) and 2 misshapen cookies with the leftover dough. Next time I'd undercook the caramel a little - I prefer it a little softer.

You should check out her cookbooks and blog - I love them, and have a number of repeats that I make (tonight: carrot miso soup...)
I have heard some great things about her cookbook and blog... Even though I'm trying to slow down my cookbook purchases, I might have to cave!
Also, I just made these again, rolled them to 3/16" (I used pastry rulers) and I got 32 sandwich cookies. I think I prefer the thinner, crispier cookie. But the one thing I'm doubly sure of now is that I prefer these straight out of the fridge, when the caramel is chewiest!