Soft Pretzels Recipe

Image

Pretzels. They’re like a good bagel with more surface area. Which is like the best thing that could ever grace my oven with its presence. Pretzels and bagels are both things that I have wanted to make for years (both are boiled then baked).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A week ago I was home alone, looking around at recipes online. I decided to make some salted caramel sauce. The salted amber, buttery sauce was amazing, but I wasn’t satisfied with just apple slices getting covered caramel. I thought pretzel sticks would be delicious in caramel. Since we had no hard little pretzel sticks and I couldn’t get to the store, I decided to finally make pretzels.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pretzel sticks and fresh pretzels are about as different as rice cakes and cupcakes are different. I didn’t really care. I don’t care. Because, they were so freaking good.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Most recipes I found online for basic soft pretzels were Alton Brown’s recipe or at least a variation of it. I used his recipe and made salted and cinnamon sugar ones. These aren’t very hard if you have worked with yeast dough before, my one recommendation would be to watch them very carefully once they start to brown. They brown very quickly and mine needed to be moved around as they baked somewhat unevenly. Also, my cinnamon and sugar had too much cinnamon and the cinnamon ended up burning a bit. They were still yummy, but I will have to figure out the right ratios of cinnamon and sugar next time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Homemade Soft Pretzels from Food Network 

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt

1. Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

3. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

4. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

5. Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

And that is how you make pretzels! Enjoy!

Advertisements

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sometime in the past few days I decided that I was going to try Earl Grey Shortbread cookies. So Saturday I looked up all sorts of recipes and went for it. I made a half batch that night and another half batch on Sunday.

20140117-092839 copy

The first batch was a classic shortbread cookie recipe with a ground up bag of earl grey tea, ground up lavender, and some fresh lemon zest. The lemon was too strong a flavor against the tea, so I knew it had to be omitted. I chose to use cake flour instead of regular all purpose flour because some of the recipes I looked at used flour and cornstarch. Since cake flour substitutes are flour and cornstarch I figured it would work. The cookies had a very fine texture and melted in your mouth instead of having a crumbly texture. Plus, one ground up bag of tea was not enough to give the cookies a good flavor. They did however smell wonderful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Second time around I knew I needed more ways to infuse the earl grey tea. The first way I did this was by steeping the butter. The recipe uses softened butter, but for this recipe I melted it, put a tea bag in it and let it steep before taking the tea bag out. I wasn’t really sure if this step would make a difference until I saw dark grey butter come from the tea bag. That grey swirl is earl grey goodness oozing into the butter. At least I think so.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The next way I infused the flavor into the cookies was by making an earl grey reduction. I took our smallest saucepan and made the smallest, strongest amount of tea I have ever seen. Then I boiled it until there was hardly enough to cover the the bottom of the pan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I do not really know which of these two additions of earl grey actually made a taste difference in the second batch. Maybe I will make these cookies again to figure out.

Ideally the tea and and lavender would be ground up in a coffee grinder or mortar and pistil. But since I have neither, I opted for much more difficult ways. The first time I used the side of a knife, which worked but not as well as grinding them  between my fingers and using a spoon and cutting board.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The butter is creamed with powdered sugar and reduction, and then the is tea added. The flour, sugar, and salt are then  added.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I mixed with a hand held mixer as much as I could, and it was a crumbly bowl of deliciousness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I poured the dough out onto a floured countertop and kneaded it into a single mass.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rolled it out and cut my circles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Since I decided to make button cookies, I made an impression on the circles with a smaller cookies cutter and cut the holes of the buttons with a straw. I also wanted to finally try making cookies in the shape of a tea bag. I figured a cookie that is supposed to taste like a tea would be the perfect time to finally go for it!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Voila! Buttery, crumbly earl grey cookies. If you make some, let me know.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies
Makes 40 small cookies.
1 cup butter
5 earl grey tea bags
2 tablespoons boiling water
Pinch of lavender
2 cups flour (plus extra for kneading)*
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt

*For a fine shortbread that melts in your mouth use 2 1/3 cups cake flour

Preheat oven to 350° and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

1. Melt butter and put 2 tea bags in it. When butter starts to cool remove tea bags and squeeze out any excess butter they have absorbed. Put butter in fridge to finish cooling, mixing occasionally. Remove from fridge when butter is soft.
2. In smallest saucepan you have, steep tea bag in water. After 5 minutes, remove tea bag and boil tea over low heat for a few minutes until reduced to about 2 teaspoons.
3. Grind up contents of remaining tea bag and lavender with spice/coffee grinder, mortar and pistil, or by crushing the leaves with a spoon on a cutting board.
4. Cream butter with powdered sugar and add 1/2 teaspoon of tea reduction and ground tea. Add flours, sugar, and salt and mix until crumbly.
5. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface and knead into one mass of dough. Roll 1/4″-3/16″ thick and cut out desired shape.
6. Bake for 8-11 minutes until all edges are about to be slightly browned.

These are best cooled.