Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels (and Pretzel Dogs)

I've already made pretzel hot dog buns, and even though they were a success, they did come out way bigger than intended (so the hot dog to bun ratio was way off). That's why I couldn't resist wrapping the pretzel directly around the hot dog, eliminating any guess work. It was fun, tasty and cute, but unless it's a special occasion and the kid requests it, I probably won't take the time to do it again (considering I can open a package of hot dog buns in about two seconds).

Yield: 8 large pretzels or 16 pretzel dogs
(or 4 large pretzels + 8 pretzel dogs)

2 1/2 cups King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
7/8 to 1 cup warm water (use less in summer, more in winter—enough for soft dough)

1 cup boiling water (for pretzel dogs, increase to 4 cups)
2 tablespoons baking soda (for pretzel dogs, increase to ½ cup)
coarse, kosher or pretzel salt, optional
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

8 or 16 hot dogs (if making pretzel dogs), preferably uncured, organic

1.      To make dough by hand, or with a mixer: Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat until well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, until it's soft, smooth, and quite slack. Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
To make dough with a bread machine: Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine, program the machine for dough or manual, and press start. Allow the dough to proceed through its kneading cycle (no need to let it rise), then cancel the machine, flour the dough, and let it rest in a covered bowl or plastic bag (close the bag loosely, leaving room for the dough to expand) for 30 minutes.
To make dough with a food processor: Place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the work bowl of a food processor equipped with the steel blade. Process for 5 seconds. Add the water, and process for 7 to 10 seconds, until the dough starts to clear the sides of the bowl. Process a further 45 seconds. Place a handful of flour in a bowl, scoop the slack dough into the bowl, and shape the dough into a ball, coating it with the flour. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2.      While dough is resting, combine the boiling water and baking soda, stirring until the soda is totally (or almost totally) dissolved. Set aside to cool to lukewarm (or cooler).
3.      Preheat oven to 475° F. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying with vegetable oil spray, or lining with parchment paper.
4.      Transfer dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into 8 equal pieces (about 70g or 2 1/2 oz. each).
5.      Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
6.      Pour the baking soda/water into a 9" square pan.
7.      Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 28" to 30" long), and twist each rope into a pretzel shape. *For pretzel dogs, cut each dough rope in half, so it’s only about 10” long. Roll the dough tightly around each hot dog in a spiral (pinch the edges to seal and leave the ends open). About ½-inch of hot dog should peek out each end of the dough.
8.      Working with 4 pretzels at a time, place them in the pan with the baking soda/water, spooning the water over their tops; leave them in the water for 2 minutes before placing them on the baking sheet. This will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color.
9.      Transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt, if desired (I recommend skipping the salt for pretzel dogs). Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
10.  Bake pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they're golden brown.
11.  Remove pretzels from the oven, and brush thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you've used it all up (it may seem like a lot, but that's what gives these pretzels their ethereal taste). Eat pretzels warm or reheat in an oven or microwave.

adapted from
flour, salt, sugar and yeast
water added
dough resting in a bowl
dough separated into 8 pieces (one pieced rolled)
dough formed into a pretzel shape
dough wrapped around hot dogs
pretzel soaking in a baking soda/water bath
hot dogs soaking in a baking soda/water bath
soaked hot dogs
brushing baked pretzel with butter
brushing baked hot dogs with butter

Next time I would skip salting the hot dogs (the
dogs are salty enough and it's kind of overkill).
pretzel dogs

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Vegetable Stew

I hadn't made this recipe in probably ten years and then suddenly woke up one morning with a craving for it. I don't know what vital nutrient I'm lacking that would account for such an atypically healthy craving. I just labeled it a happy anomaly and went with it. I have to stay, it was a nice change of pace not to feel guilty for indulging myself. And after a walk to the farmer's market (where I was delighted to find every vegetable on my list), I came home and whipped up a batch of this hearty stew that totally hit the spot. Really, I swear (again, I can't explain it).

Yield: 6 large servings

6 tablespoons unsalted butter (or 5 tablespoons olive oil)
2 medium onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium potatoes, cut into small chunks
1 eggplant, diced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 stalk broccoli, cut into tiny florets
3 carrots, sliced
3/4 cup burgundy (or other red wine)
2 medium-small zucchini, cut into chunks
2 large (or 3 medium) ripe tomatoes, diced
¼ lb. sliced white or cremini mushrooms
6 oz. tomato paste
¼ cup molasses (unsulfured)
1 teaspoon dried dill weed

sour cream (optional)
freshly chopped parsley (optional)

1.      Melt the butter or oil in a large stew pot.  Add the onions, garlic, potatoes and eggplant and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Sauté until potatoes begin to get tender.
2.      Stir in the celery, broccoli, carrots and wine. Cover the pot and steam until all vegetables begin to get tender, stirring occasionally.
3.      Add zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, tomato paste, molasses and dill. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender (stirring occasionally). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4.      Serve hot, topped with sour cream and freshly chopped parsley.

slightly adapted from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
onions, garlic, potatoes and eggplant in pot
starting to get tender
adding celery, carrots, broccoli and wine
added vegetables getting tender
adding zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms,
tomato paste, molasses and dill
about 25 minutes later...vegetable stew

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

One Pot Cookies

I don't know about you, but sometimes I don't bake just because I don't feel like doing the dishes. If I'm really tired, just the idea of breaking out the mixer is enough for me to opt out. So when my daughter asked if we could make cookies, I modified this recipe to use only one pot and a spatula. No mixer. That I can handle, even when I'm exhausted and in no mood to deal.

Makes 1 1/2 dozen (3-inch) cookies

12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 to 2 cups chocolate chips (or other chips/candies of choice)

1.      Preheat oven to 325º F. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2.      Melt butter in a large pot. Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.
3.      Add sugars to butter and mix until thoroughly blended. Mix in vanilla, egg and yolk. Add flour, salt and baking soda; mix until just combined. Stir in chips.
4.      Form scant 1/4 cup dough into a rough ball. Place formed dough on cookie sheets, about an inch apart.
5.      Bake, reversing cookie sheets’ positions halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes (start checking at 13 minutes). To ensure a chewy texture, cool cookies on baking sheets. Store in airtight container.

Note:  Dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen up to 1 month (shaped or not). Frozen dough requires an extra 1 to 2 minutes baking time.

adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
adding sugars to melted butter
sugar/butter mixed; adding egg and vanilla
adding flour, salt and baking soda

Stir the dry ingredients together a little, while they're
still sitting on top of the wet mixture. Then mix.
flour etc. mixed in
I let my daughter pick what type of cookie...we used
white chocolate chips
and Vermont Nut-Free Skippers
(faux M&M's that are safe for my daughter's peanut allergy)
dough mixed

The dough is pretty thick, so it's easiest to mix the
chips in with your hands. You're about to roll the
dough with your hands anyway - it's all good.
dough balls rolled

We made ours a little smaller than the recipe says
because we needed closer to 2 dozen cookies for my
daughter's last day of camp party.
boom! one pot cookies