Recipe: Pepero (Pocky) Sticks With Nutella

Every November 11th in Korea the shops, bakeries and even convenience stores go all out with outlandish and lavish baskets and assortments of the chocolate bread sticks snack, Pepero (known as Pocky in neighboring Japan). Lotte Confectionary, the maker of these chocolate dipped cookie sticks in Korea, successfully warped the minds of the masses to make this a yearly event, all because the numbers 11-11 are said to resemble the chocolate stick snacks.

Rolling my eyes every year around this time, I've skipped out on this tradition but after years of only receiving the peperos, I was given a strong hint indication from friends, complete with gritted teeth might I add, to not be a Pepero grinch and to dole it back out to others this year.

This is the point where I made the slightly regretful decision to attempt to make the peperos to give out this year instead of just buying them. I thought, after all, they're just cookie sticks dipped in chocolate, how damn difficult could it be?

A few hours later and with melted chocolate, crumbs, flour and other messy things everywhere I realized once again I'm still not completely on board this whole baking thing yet.

When I used to swim, my worst events were always the ones with the butterfly. When it comes to cooking, my worst "events" are always involving baking. There's just so much precision, accuracy and work involved and the return is personally less fulfilling as I'm not all that keen on baked goods anyways. Understandably I had no one to blame but myself for this drawn out cooking experiment since this was only the second or third time in my life I attempted to bake something at all. This actually is an easy and simple recipe but this baking novice has learned quite a lot from this experiment and my hat is off to those out there who whips up baked goods without breaking a sweat.

I adapted the cookie recipe from a really cool blog I follow called Alien's Day Out (click for the link), which is written by a cool vegan gal in Korea who owns and runs a vegan eatery called Plant in Itaewon. My addition of Nutella to the chocolate in here makes the recipe vegetarian friendly but not vegan so please take note of that. The addition of Nutella was added on a whim by me anyways after discovering I used the wrong chocolate in the first place ㅡㅡ

The turnout may not be as aesthetically pleasing to the eyes as the ones from the store but it's the effort that counts right?

And please don't ask me about how to package it up all pretty and nicely. Definitely not my forte either.

Homemade Pepero With Nutella (Adapted from this recipe)
Makes approximately 18 sticks

You'll need:
- 1 cup all purpose Flour
- 2 tbsp of Sugar
- 2 tbsp of Grapeseed Oil
- 2 tbsp of Soy Milk
- 1 tsp of Salt
- 1/2 cup of Dark Chocolate Chips
- 2 tbsp of Nutella spread

Optional topping ideas:
- Dried nuts (almonds, pistachio, etc)
- Dried cranberries
- Orange Zest
- Coconut flakes
- Sea Salt
- Espresso Grounds

1. Sift all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar and salt) into a bowl. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius (about 340 degrees Fahrenheit) 

2. Add the grapeseed oil to the dry ingredients and then use your hands to incorporate until you get a coarse-like texture

3. Add in the soy milk and mix with your hands again and form into a ball. If the mixture is too dry, add in a bit more soy milk. If it's too wet, add in a bit of more flour. The dough ball should be nice and dense

4. Roll out the ball on a sheet of parchment paper in a rectangular shape. The length of the sticks should be about 3 inches while thickness about 1/4 of an inch

5. Use a knife to make lines in the rolled out dough, about 1/3 of an inch apart. You don't want to cut all the way through but just deep enough that you can easily break them out after they're done baking

6. Lay the sheet with the dough on a tray and pop it into the oven. It should take approximately 15-20 minutes. Watch them carefully around the 15 minute mark.

7. When they're just slightly browned and firm (about the firmness of a biscotti) take them out to cool.

8. While you're waiting for them to cool, melt your chocolate and Nutella according to the instructions on the chocolate chips package. Usually popping them in a microwave on a microwaveable plate for about a minute will do the trick. Then use a spoon to incorporate all the chocolate and Nutella together.

9. Pop out the cookie sticks and one by one, get them coated all around in the melted chocolate, leaving about a half inch of the bottoms of the cookie sticks free of chocolate for the "handle" parts. Using a spoon helps with the coating. Lay each of the stick back on the parchment paper for the chocolate coating to cool and harden.

This is also the point at which you can add toppings to your liking.

If you're in a rush, place the whole parchment paper with the sticks in your freezer for a few minutes to make the chocolate firm up faster.

This recipe is more of a template for you to work with and, I'm sure, improve upon. I'm sure all you bakers out there have a plethora of tips on how to do all this better so feel free to inform this baking dunce.

Some things about baking I learned from this experiment:
- Sift your dry ingredients
- Measure well
- Make sure you're using the right chocolate
- Leave plenty of space through the whole process

Sigh. The cleanup was also not fun but it was nice seeing the smiles on the faces of friends receiving them... though I think they were more smiles of sympathy than anything...

In any case, happy pepero day and try it out today if you've got the ingredients on hand!