Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hit and miss: Martha makes good, then goes bad, Part II

Chocolate pretzels

This post is the part where she goes bad.

If you haven't read the little disclaimer at the beginning of the previous post, then I suggest you do. Just in case any Martha zealots out there decide that they need to defend her honour down to the last perfectly clove-dotted glazed ham and immaculately pressed apron. I know that a lot of you who have been defending Martha think I'm an absolute retard that is incapable of following a recipe, but I'm willing to overlook that.

If my problem is a matter of comprehension, then I admit, I am an idiot. But when parts of the recipe are missing, or there are omitted ingredients and inaccurate instructions, then I would like to know who the idiot really is? Her recipes can be at times lacking and at other times convoluted to the point of ridiculous. For someone who wants to make it easy for everyone to be able to cook and bake, she does a horrible job of it. And it seems that I'm not the only one who feels unanimously about the hit and miss factor in Martha's recipes.

Chocolate pretzels

This recipe is a little different in its degree of suckiness in that, it hasn't failed to include any vital instructions or ingredients, everything in the recipe was there, except for the flavour. It appears that Smitten Kitchen's Deb, also had the same problem with the recipe and many of the commenters on the Martha website feel the same way. I decided to make my own go of it, just to make sure their sentiments were in fact true, and lo and behold- the pretzels are as bland as cardboard.

And when I say they are like cardboard, this is no attempt at euphemism, they are literally as flavourless as paper. There isn't a hint of chocolate in these pretzels, and be careful not to over-bake them even the slightest amount, as they will turn into volcanic rocks- flavourless volcanic rocks. A bitter disappointment when the recipe is introduced as the "sweet versions of the salty snack".

Chocolate pretzels

Oh Martha, Oh Martha. How do you get away with this? How do you continue to publish such rubbish without even checking them first? But the good news is that, were not all doomed to never have the sweet taste of chocolate pretzels on our lips, someone did do their homework and came up with a chocolate pretzel recipe that works. Rivka of Not Derby Pie has redeemed us all with her version of choc pretzels that is proven to work and most importantly taste like chocolate.

Check out the better version here.

The version I have posted below is the original Martha version, just because this is the one I used to make the pretzels pictured above. But I actually would not suggest making them unless you are willing to make some changes. Better yet, just click over to Rivka's recipe and have all the work done for you!

Chocolate Pretzels
Recipe from
Makes 24 small pretzels

¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp good-quality instant espresso powder
3 tbsps boiling water
110g (½-cup) unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp coarse salt
1 large egg
2 cups plain all-purpose flour
1 large egg yolk
coarse sugar (like demarara or pearl) for sprinkling

Stir cocoa and espresso powders into the boiling water in a small bowl until dissolved; set aside.
Meanwhile, put butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until creamy.
Mix in vanilla and salt.
Reduce speed to medium-low.
Mix in egg, then cocoa mixture.
Gradually add flour, and mix until a smooth dough forms.
Turn out onto a piece of plastic; pat into a square.
Wrap dough, and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

Divide dough into 24 equal pieces.
Roll into balls. Shape balls into 12-inch-long ropes.
Twist each rope into a pretzel shape. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 160ÂșC.
Whisk egg yolk with 1 tsp water in a small bowl.
Brush cookies with egg wash; sprinkle with sanding sugar.
Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until dry, about 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of you pretzels.
Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

NOTE: Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 1 week.


Cannelle Et Vanille said...

they might be like carboard but you took gorgeous photos of them! beautiful!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Jenjen, I'm sorry to hear these cookies fail in flavor - because they look really beautiful.

Anonymous said...

As soon as I saw your pictures and the Martha tag on Flickr, I was worried you hadn't been warned! I haven't had a chance to try Rivka's version yet but I want to soon. I still love the notion, if not Martha's interpretation.

(Btw, have you noticed somewhat hilariously that one cannot rate a recipe on poorly? It's either "recommended," "easy," "very good," etc. Defensive, perhaps?)

Anonymous said...

Maybe Martha's taste like cardboard but you sure made'em look pretty!

Cheryl said...

That is such a shame, because they look so stinkin cute. But I guess if they don't have any flavor, than what good are they.

*Azreen* said...

hi! i have been following your blog for quite some time now. congrats on the awards u received. u deserve it. u make baking look sooo easy! i am determined to try out the yummy recipes u have posted on ur blog! :)

Anonymous said...

Shame they don't taste better, because the photos sure caught my attention!

Chef Jeena said...

Hi Jen

I have been following your food
blog for a while now as a silent
reader but have not commented
until now..all I can say is
"WOW your recipes look great",
and I want to cook them all :-)

I would like to get to know
you more, with your talent
for cooking then your going to
be a great friend to have.

Feel free to join our cooking
forum, you are very welcome
to join us.

Jeenas food recipe forum

You have such an amazing food
blog that I am sure our other
cooking members would love to know
more about it.

Thanks from
Jeena xx

biscuitpusher said...

I'm with you, Martha is evil. My boyfriend had the book and I tried several recipes from the book before I banned it from my house forever. He had to give it to his mom because I was going burn the stupid thing.

SO glad to see that I'm not the only one.

Anonymous said...

hi there,
i must admit that i have the "hit and miss" expereience with donna hay recipes. i know that is a real heresy in the food blogging world, but for every one of hers i make that's good, the next is a flop and has me mentally re-writing the dish/recipe... or not bothering with it again. for me it's australian woman's weekley (AWW) all the way (i know we have spoken about this before). i've never had a dud AWW recipe, and they deserve much more love in the food blogosphere.
keup up the mouth-watering work!

Anonymous said...

What a pity, they look great! I've only tried one of Martha's recipes (the french macarons). Luckily it wasn't flavourless like cardboard but it wasn't brilliant and needed quite a bit of adjusting. I think I just steered away from Martha recipes after that as I just don't want the stress lol Thankfully I found comfort in Nigella's macaron recipe which is much better.

Peabody said...

Martha truly is hit and missed.

Paula said...

Agreed - its so annoying when people whose job it is to get the recipe right fail you. I've also had the same experience a couple of times with Martha's site, bad recipes make cooking feel like hard work, rather than fun, which is a pity.

But others are right - your photos are beautiful nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

Considering the number of recipes the Martha corp cranks out, it's no wonder there are misses! Thanks for the warning...

Beth said...

Just started reading your blog. Love it!!! IMO, Martha is way overrated.

Nezaket said...

I have similar experiences with Martha :( I am sorry about the taste but cookies are looking great.

Anonymous said...

are the pics of the good ones or the bad ones? because they look lovely.

Anonymous said...

At least they're adorable! Especially next to those shots!

Simply...Gluten-free said...

well, they look pretty! maybe martha likes cardboard(?) i just like to look at her cookbooks, i don't really use the recipes - good to know it's hit and miss!

Y said...

What a pity, because they look so good, in a waxy kind of way. I broke up with Martha a long time ago, but feel for you all the same.

Gloria Baker said...

I think they look wonderful!!! Nobody think... that you say are you sure???? and you don't have any idea how really taste of the MArta!!!!But the pictures are so nice, maybe in the issues the pictures we see don't have taste!!xxxxxxxx (dear you have wonderful recipes don't worry) Gloria

Starfruit Gypsy said...

I've had way too many close calls with Martha to want to try any of her recipes ever again. I had a particularly nasty encounter once with a horrid macaroni and cheese recipe that gave me a lifelong fear of the taste of nutmeg. I just steer clear of them, but I know there are some beauties out there.

I love your blog, by the way. It's always wonderful to read.

Anonymous said...


Emily said...

Oh, Martha, how did you get to where you are?? Thankyou Jen for the Martha posts (previous and present) which seem to mirror my experiences and thoughts re the giant Martha Stewart phenomenon...and kudos also to the person who commented about similar issues with Donna Hay - I have many of her books yet can never seem to get enough joy out of the recipes to want to return and try again.

Half Baked said...

Great photo's too bad Martha let you down (again!) they look so cute:)

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that you are willing to let other people know that some of her recipes don't work. I discovered that a few years ago...although I confess, I still have a few of her books. It could be a sort of guerilla warfare tactic...a subversive way to keep us all from being "perfect"...not that I am paranoid or anything...:)

Anonymous said...

As usual, I don't really know who she is but I can see how much resent you have toward her recipes. I think you are right about 'sweet versions of the salty snack' - so should it be salty or sweet?

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Rachael Narins said...

That is such a downer! On the plus side, they certainly are pretty!

Whatever Dee-Dee wants said...

I just found your blog and love it! I love all your pictures, so pretty!

Irene said...

LOL, your anger towards Martha recipes is totally justified. I think she's more concerned with making things *look* good rather than *taste* good, and that's an important distinction. That said, I do love her show!

Anonymous said...

These cookies LOOK great, but I am not surprised about the recipe not working. I have read in reviews of Martha's cookbooks that this is common in her cookbooks as well, and that she even published at least one cookbook without even testing over 50% of the recipes in the book. I think she's a big fraud. She's got endless people writing recipes FOR her, and these are the ones that probably turn out good....I don't trust her recipes and won't ever buy another cookbook.

Design Addict said...

Oh you are not the only one who has had this problem with Martha Recipes. I tried her recipe for a Chicken, tomato and mushroom dish and it was *blegh* nasty! I do like a recipe that she has for Dutch apple cake but that's it.

Although, I do like to watch her show sometimes. I've never actually attempted any of her crafts or the recipes she does on the show but her set is pretty and I think her interactions with her guests are hilarious. It's like everyone knows she's a giant biotch and I'm just waiting for her to snap at one of her guests when they don't do the craft right.

Mallow said...

That's so weird - who tests these recipes? Some of her stuff is AMAZING (white chocolate raspberry sandwich cookies), while the bad is sooooooo bad.

Ang said...

i am not much for actually getting the cooking done, but really love looking at the pictures!
stunning photog - as usual seriously!
when is your cookbook coming out? i would love it - i mean it.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

I'm with you. I don't trust Martha's recipes. Some are great. Some are horrible.

Mcwhisky said...

Have been catching up with your posts nowadays! The shots taken were lovely though.

Kathy said...

Hi JenJen. I just discovered your blog and am really enjoying it! I had to comment on Martha. I have hated Martha, I have loved Martha. Right now I am somewhere in between, but I totally feel you with the internet recipes. I have had my own mishap with her recipes, as I wrote about here: The Great Cupcake Debacle

Thanks for the great site!

Anonymous said...

These look really unique!! I will attempt them at home. I'm not sure if oatmeal cookies are as popular in Australia as they are in the US, but if anyone's interested there's whole bunch of innovative oatmeal cookie recipes at . These recipes are not just the old-fasioned "oatmeal raisin" variety -- they're completely unique and creative. Worth checking out!!!!