Pretzel-palooza!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Whee! We made it to Friday!  ::parade!::

I have no idea why, but this week felt endless. Even though I only worked half a day on Monday and spent the rest of the day frolicking with Constance, the rest of the week dragged on and on. Classes were fine, but by Wednesday, I was beyond wiped out. Around the same time, I started feeling like someone was stabbing me in my left eye socket with an ice pick. I haven't had a really terrible headache in awhile, and this certainly felt like a migraine even though it didn't have the usual nausea and light sensitivity that I get with migraines. By today, I had started feeling more normal, but there's still some residual pain behind my left eye. Lame. BUT, I really can't complain all that much because the rest of my health issues seem to have stabilized for the most part. I still get intermittent joint pain and some skin rashes on my face and elbows, but I no longer feel like I'm going to die on a regular basis. ANYWAY, all that to say, this week felt endless, and my headache didn't make it go any more quickly.

But here we are, we have found Friday. It's currently torrentially downpouring outside, as we are apparently under the influence of Hurricane Andrea. Getting to and from work today was miserable, with the trip home being decidedly more disgusting. I was supposed to drop off our SIGNED lease paperwork and checks for the condo that we were approved for (yay!) but between the traffic and the weather, the realtor and I decided that we would just meet tomorrow. I nearly had a heart attack as I was driving home because there was a lot of standing water on Route 70 and my car (which is a low-sitting coupe) was definitely not happy. I once stalled a car out in some standing water that was much deeper than I thought it was, and it was terrifying, so this wasn't exactly a fun experience. Fortunately, it wasn't a ton of water, it wasn't moving quickly, and I was able to slowly proceed through it to the drier portion of the road.

I hit the grocery store on my way home to pick up some stuff for dinner and to pick up ingredients for a recipe that I wanted to try this weekend. Ken is in Long Island visiting a couple of his friends and his dad, so I am on my own. I wanted to try a recipe for a Cinnabon Cheesecake, but I don't have a springform pan (yet) and I wasn't interested in picking one up tonight. I switched to a recipe for homemade soft pretzels with cheese sauce. I love any excuse to use my KitchenAid that we got as a shower gift from my mom and her friend, so pretzels seemed like a great plan. One of my favorite things to make is bread, probably because it's way harder to screw up than cookies (in my experience, haha). I took some pictures along the way... enjoy!


Original post by Paper & Cake Printable Partyware
Baking Soundtrack: Grinning Streak, Barenaked Ladies' new album!


Ingredients

Yield: 6-8 pretzels
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes


1 1/2 cups warm water
1 packet active yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour (will need extra for kneading)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon flavored seasoning of your choice
 

Smoked Gouda and Cheddar Beer Sauce Ingredients
Yield: about one cup
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

1/2 cup of beer
1/2 cup grated smoked Gouda
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Salt & pepper to taste


Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place parchment paper or Silpat liner on a cookie sheet.

2. In a large mixing bowl, add yeast to warm water. Stir until dissolved. Stir in salt and sugar. Once mixed, add flour one cup at a time. Mix thoroughly until dough is thick and no longer sticky.

3. Create a floured surface for kneading. Knead dough for approximately 5 minutes. Separate dough into even sections, about six.

4. Roll dough into ropes, making width even throughout. Make pretzel shapes by creating a circle with the dough. Twist ends and press down to finish shape.

5. On a plate, mix sea salt and seasoning together for sprinkling. Beat egg in a small bowl and brush on pretzel tops. Place pretzels on baking sheet, and sprinkle salt mixture on top.

6. Bake for 10 minutes. After the first 5 minutes, switch to broil. Keep an eye on them to avoid over-browning. Remove from oven and serve warm with beer cheese dip.

 

I'm in love!



This is my mixer! Our kitchen colors were themed around this color, so everything is apple green, navy, and white. I need to get the head of the mixer looked at though, because it's making noise like a screw it loose. No bueno. Regardless, it did a wonderful job bringing my dough together!


Hello? Yeasties?


I always like to proof my yeast before I use it, even if the recipe says that I don't have to or the yeast says that it can be added directly into the mix. You have to use warm water, sugar, and salt, but the water can't be too warm, or you'll kill the yeasties. I stood around and watched this bowl for awhile, waiting for the bubbles to appear. When they were taking their sweet time, I started a second batch with yeast that I bought this evening, hoping that fresher yeast would proof better.



It's aliiiiiive!

After politely requesting that the yeasties start respiring, I was pleasantly surprised by bubbles! Of course, the mix in the bowl had also bubbled at that point, but not nearly as nicely, so I dumped the original batch and used the second one. As per usual, I made a gigantic mess with the flour. Does anyone out there have a recommendation for measuring flour that doesn't involve throwing it all over the kitchen counters? I know Alton Brown says that I should measure my dry ingredients by weight, but all I had were volumetric measurements, so I went with those. I don't think measuring the flour by weight would have kept it from getting everywhere... but who knows? I always debate using the splash guard for the mixer when I'm adding dry ingredients because sometimes, I feel like it makes more of a mess. This time, I decided not to use it and took my chances... it wasn't like the kitchen wasn't already a disaster!



Dough ball!

I don't have any great pictures of the mixing process, mainly because I am not the best at using my DSLR (read: I have no idea how to do anything with it). Bread dough is magical to me. You go from a wet, sticky, disaster, and bit by bit, the dough comes together and before you know it, it's cleaning the sides of the bowl and it looks like something you'd find in a bakery! I think one of my favorite things about baking is how much science is involved. It's chemistry that you can eat! The next step was to knead the dough for 5 minutes, but I let my mixer do the hard work and it turned out just fine.


They look like mini-challah!

The recipe called for making the dough into "pretzel shapes", but I preferred the pull-apart-ability of twists. Because of this, I got 5 twists that were 8-10 inches long each from this recipe. There's a sad lack of photos of the rest of the braids and the cheese sauce process, because our smoke detector is a giant pain in the ass. I am not sure why, but it was placed in the ceiling about 2 feet from the kitchen, and it goes off randomly when we're cooking. It was at the precise moment that the first batch of pretzels had to be removed from the oven and the cheese had to be added to the beer/flour mixture on the stove that the smoke alarm chose to sing me the song of its people. LOUDLY. I then spent the next ten minutes alternately trying to mix cheese sauce without letting it burn, holding a fan up the smoke detector to get it to calm down, pulling the pretzels out of the oven and nearly throwing them on the floor because the pot holder wasn't thick enough to protect my hand (note to self: get new pot holders), and yelling obscenities at the smoke detector to shut up. I finally plugged in a fan, opened all the windows and the sliding glass door, and turned the ceiling fan on high, the combination of which seemed to placate the damn detector. Surprisingly, nothing was thrown on the floor, nothing was burned, and no one came running to the apartment to see if it was on fire.


Holy crap, I have a lot to clean up.

Yikes. I usually clean up as I go along, but seeing as I was a little busy trying to do 27 things at once and wishing I was an octopus, I ended up just throwing dishes into the sink. Also, our kitchen is TINY. We have about 3 feet of usable counterspace, and most of it was covered in ingredients and bowls, so that's part of why the kitchen was such a disaster.
First batch of pretzels

Golden brown and delicious pretzels! I was pretty proud of myself, and I'm sure they would have been better if I had gotten to eat them when they were warm, but even cooled, they were AMAZING. The dough was just chewy enough, and the 5 minutes of broiling really browned the pretzels nicely. The cheese sauce was a little heavy on the smokey side, but when I thought about it, I remembered that I had used a whole cup of smoked Gouda and only half a cup of cheddar. I think that if I had done what the recipe actually called for, the sauce would have been better. The texture was good, though, although I had to had an extra teaspoon of flour (again, probably b/c of the extra cheese that I threw in there.)


Yum!



Other things that are useful to know about what I did:

- I used Yuengling, because the only choices of beer in our fridge were Yuengling and Guinness, and I figured the lighter beer was the better choice. I'm pretty sure you could use whatever beer your heart desired, so let me know if you use something fun and different and how it turned out!

- I didn't use any flavored seasoning on the pretzels; I just used sea salt. Again, feel free to thrown whatever the heck you want on there with the salt, but I'm a pretzel purist.

- In the future, I'll probably use Alton Brown's pretzel recipe, because they are closer to "real" pretzels that get browned with lye. These were good, but very bread-like.

Up close and personal


So that's it! If I get adventurous tomorrow and try the cheesecake, I'll try to remember to post some pictures of that as well. As for me, I'm off to continue relaxing while the rain pours down outside. Have a good weekend, all! 

- A


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