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My grandmother’s name was Norma Lee. She was warm, gentle, clever, funny, and talented. Most importantly, she expressed herself and her love for others with food. When she passed away, she took a part of me with her, and I only recently accepted that she’s gone. In fact, I was so in denial and unwilling to think about my feelings that I left her recipes in a box for several years because it was too painful to see her handwriting.

However, during a recent move, a folder inside the recipe box caught my eye because it had my name on it. There was nothing inside, but I was suddenly paralyzed with memories of special items she’d made just for me. I smiled through tears as I started to hungrily leaf through the box, wondering what had once been inside this folder.

Then I remembered chocolate crinkle cookies. She made an entire batch (as in several dozen) every Christmas even though no one ate them but me. The funniest part is that the recipe involved simply adding a couple ingredients to cake mix! She always laughed about them being my favorite, but they were perfect — chocolatey, soft, moist, chewy, and so ugly that they were beautiful. I’ll never forget exactly how they tasted or how special they made me feel. I mattered. No one else favored these but me, yet that was enough reason for her to make them. It was OK to be different. With a quick batch of cookies, she told me annually that I was accepted and loved just as I was. Isn’t it astounding how powerful food can be?

Since she loved pretzels so much (specifically Rold Gold Tiny Twists), I thought I’d have some fun using them to replace the box mix. I hope that you will enjoy this recipe. One of the best things about it is that you can use gluten-free pretzels if you want to treat someone who has celiac disease. The espresso powder is optional, but it magically enhances the chocolate flavor of the cookies without tasting like coffee at all.

P.S. Perfect cookies for the holidays or breakfast!


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It can make up to 4 or 5 dozen, depending on how big you make them.


  • 8 oz. (Rold Gold Tiny Twist) pretzels, crushed thoroughly in a food processor You will end up with about 2.5 cups of what is essentially pretzel flour
  • 3/4 cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder• 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder, optional
  • Powdered sugar


  1. Combine the sugar, eggs, oil, espresso powder, and vanilla thoroughly. Add in the pretzels, cocoa powder, and baking powder, stirring until just combined.
  2. Cover and chill for 2-3 hours.
  3. Heat oven to 350°F.
  4. Scoop evenly-sized portions of the dough into a large container filled with powdered sugar. For best results, use a #40 spring-loaded ice cream scoop, which measures a bit less than 2 tbsp. (It’s a very common scoop to have at home, and it will be your best friend for every batch of cookies you ever make because it will always ensure perfectly-sized and perfectly even cookies.) If you do not own one, that is OK. Just be sure that your cookie scoops are all the same size.
  5. Very gently coat the dough balls in powdered sugar and lay them out on a cookie sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Give them plenty of space, baking 12 per sheet.
    During this process, the balls of dough will start to soften and flatten a bit. Don’t worry because they don’t have to be round! In fact, if you scoop and roll them into spheres, they may stay round during baking and end up dense or under baked.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, then remove from the oven. More or less time may be needed depending on the size you make the cookies. It’s best to do a small test batch before you make a full sheet!
  7. Allow the cookies to rest in the sheet pan for 5 minutes, then carefully remove them to a platter or a clean piece of parchment paper to cool. These are best when cooled or slightly warm. Store in an airtight container if there are any leftovers!
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