Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Soft Pretzels

So, I saw a picture of these pretzels, and within 6 hours, I was baking them,
because I couldn’t possibly wait another minute to have one, they looked THAT
good! I wish my photography skills were also that good to drive someone to
cook something of mine within hours of seeing it.

The recipe was SO GOOD that I made these not once, but twice within a week!
In my defense, the second time was for the Super Bowl, they seemed like the
perfect item to add to the party spread.

And do you want to know another good thing (I can’t say the best
part, because clearly eating them is the best part, but this is a close second)
they freeze well, as in the dough, so you can let it rise, shape it, do all the hard
stuff on the weekend, freeze them and then pull one out at a time to finish up
by boiling and baking. You can have fresh, homemade soft pretzels within 20
minutes any day. Amazing right?

I have frozen my pizza dough, but you can’t just pull that out and bake
(I freeze it as a ball), but these pretzels???? They go straight from the freezer to
the boiling water and are then baked super easy.

Ok, it’s time, you’ve waited long enough, let’s get too it. . .

What you'll need:

1.5 cups warm water (110 degrees)
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp yeast
2 tsp kosher salt
22 oz flour (about 4.5 cups, I used about 3 cups of bread flour and 1.5 cups of AP flour)
4 tsp butter, melted
2/3 cup baking soda
Additional kosher salt

Start off by combining the sugar, salt, yeast and water and mixing for about 15 seconds on a medium speed. Change to the dough hook for your mixer and add 3.5 cups of the flour and the butter mix until well incorporated.

You can add the rest of the flour at this point to your mixer, but I prefer to finish the kneading by hand, it's easier to tell if more or less flour is needed then just looking at it on the dough hook. Knead in the rest of the dough until it's no longer sticky. Oil the ball of dough, place in a clean bowl cover with Saran wrap and leave to double in size (about an hour).

Typically, with other doughs I have made, they're not sticky at this point, but for some reason both times this dough has been quite sticky after it rises so I poured a small pile of AP flour to help make the dough more workable. Use it sparingly but keeping your hands well floured will make the next step much easier.

Divide the dough into eight pieces, roll each piece out to a long rope around 12 - 15 inches long. Then shape it like a pretzel make a U then layer one side over the other. Place the pretzels on a map and keep covered while you work so they don't dry out. (If you are going to freeze some for later, do it NOW).

While you're shaping the dough, go ahead and heat a large pan with 10 cups of water and the 2/3 cup of baking soda. You want the water to come to a boil before you use it. And while you're at it go ahead and preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Depending on the size of your pan and your comfort level, you can boil between 1 and 4 at a time. I personally don't do more than 2. You want to boil each pretzel for 30 seconds (45 seconds if frozen, pull straight from the freezer into the water). Have a baking pan near by to place them on when you're done. Carefully drain each pretzel with a spatula before placing it on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the desired amount of salt on top. Repeat the process until all of your pretzels are ready to be baked.

Place the pretzels in the oven for 12 - 14 minutes (13 - 16 for frozen), or until golden brown.

Serve while warm.

These are really good plain, but if you like to dip your pretzels, I recommend using Stadium Mustard. I thought I would want queso dip with it but I was wrong, the Stadium Mustard enhances the flavor and is the perfect accompaniment.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Peanut Butter Cream Pie

Cookies or pudding tend to be the default weekend desserts in our house, but every once in a while, I venture out to something a bit more creative. While I didn't stray far from the peanut butter and chocolate kick I've been on, instead of a cookie, I went for a no-bake pie.

Starting with a cookie crumb crust and filled with a peanut butter cream filling and chilled until solid, this was a real treat.

What you'll need:

12 oz package of cream filled chocolate cookies (Oreos or a similar substitute)
3 TBSP butter, melted

3/4 cup whipping cream
8 oz cream cheese (I used the reduced fat one, do NOT use the non-fat one)
1 1/3 cup JIF peanut butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
14 oz can of condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice


First off. . .this what it typically looks like behind-the-scenes of my ingredient photo. The Little Girl stands to the side, telling the ingredients to "say cheese."

Start by putting your cookies into a food processor or blender, and pulse until you have a finely ground cookies. Pour into a bowl, combine with the melted butter. Now, take a 9-in spring form pan and press the cookie mixture into the bottom and sides of the pan. I went about 1 inch up the sides.

It looks like one of the cookies didn't make it into the food processor. . .

Place the cookie crust into the freezer to set. Add your whipping cream to the bowl of your mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on high until stiff peaks form. Transfer to another bowl and refrigerate. Clean out your mixer bowl, dry and find your paddle attachment.

Add the cream cheese (room temperature) and JIF, cream until smooth. You can use a PB other than JIF, for eating sandwiches we have moved on to less sugary options, but for baking, I haven't found an acceptable substitute.

Slowly add the powdered sugar until well combined, making sure to stop to scrap down the sides a couple times.

Now add the condensed milk, lemon juice and vanilla, beat until well combined on a medium speed.

Remove your paddle attachment and move the bowl to a counter, grab your whipped whipping cream and stir in half with a rubber spatula. Once all the white streaks are gone, add the rest. Once well combined, grab the crust from the freezer and pour the peanut butter mixture over the top.

If you want you can garnish the top with either an extra cookie crumbled or drizzle melted PB or chocolate if you want something more fancy.

Now refrigerate for at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight. . . THEN enjoy!