Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hot Pretzels, Cold Beer

Boy, I had such a picture for y'all tonight. Caught some of the Cedar Waxwings hangin' a bit in the birch trees outside the window. "Hooboy!" I yelled as I grabbed the camera and tore around the table to score the "money shot." (That's intrepid photographer lingo.)

I barely had time to focus on one of the waxwings who seemed almost bright yellow in the sunshine. Then, before I could try for another shot, they all flew away to another destination. No problem, I thought to myself. At least I got the one feller and the light was really good.

So when I uploaded the pictures to the computer, the first one out of the chute was the waxwing photo. Almost drooling with anticipation, I zoomed in on the yellow spot in the branches of the tree. And I blinked. And I backed out of the zoom and looked frantically around the picture. Leaves. Nothing but leaves. All of them green -- except the single yellow one which, in my haste, I had taken to be my feathered target.

It was a nice leaf photo, though. As leaf photos go. (insert sigh)

There was somewhat more success with a cooking adventure today. I have no idea how I happened to decide it might be fun to make some soft pretzels but after browsing twenty-eleven recipes, I had to give it a shot. I chose the recipe I found at Sugarlaws, mainly because it produced a small batch -- plenty enough for experimental porpoises. (Those porpoises will get greedy if you let 'em.)

You will need to go to Katy's site if you want to see the original recipe and a couple of excellent photos of her pretzels. Because you know I'm gonna mess with the ingredients, don't you? And I did the soda water thing a bit different than she did so I could get a browner pretzel.

On the other hand, if you want a good chuckle, you can just look at how my pretzels turned out. In my own defense, I've never made pretzels before. Or if I did, I sure don't remember doing it. Because you'd think I'd have figured out how to make the pretzel twist stay in place. That one in the upper right corner sort of got all relaxed and crossed its legs and there wasn't a durned thang I could do about it. Except eat it, of course.


2 teaspoons yeast and a pinch of sugar dissolved in
1/3 cup warm pale ale
Let it sit for about 10 minutes until it's nice and foamy.

Add 1 1/4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil.
I also added 1 tablespoon chipotle/tomato bouillon and 1 tablespoon onion flakes.

This won't take long -- just dig in with your hand and start mooshing everything together. It may seem too dry but keep at it until the dough cleans the bowl. Trust your instinct -- add a tablespoon or two of warm water if you think you need it. Turn dough out on very lightly floured surface (if you have a silicone pastry mat, you won't need extra flour) and knead for a couple of minutes. Grease the bowl and put the dough back in. Cover and let rise for an hour or so.

Okay, now comes the fun part. First, set your oven at 425 degrees fairyheight. Divide the dough up into 6 equal parts (I only did 4.) Roll each piece into a long rope and let the strands rest while you fix the soda water. In a nonreactive kettle, mix 2 quarts of water and 5 or 6 teaspoons of baking soda. Stir until soda is dissolved and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.

Go back to your dough strands. The dough will have relaxed a bit so you can roll it out even longer. Twist each strand into a pretzel shape -- or any old shape that you fancy. What the heck. They're your pretzels, right? Now slip 2 or 3 pretzels at a time into the simmering water and let them cook a bit. This is what gives them the "skin" so they'll turn that lovely dark brown in the oven. Here's where I found a rather wide variance from one recipe to another. Some folks only boil the pretzels for about 20 seconds, some insist on a couple of minutes. I split the difference and let them boil for 1 minute.

Lift each pretzel out of the water with a spatula or slotted spoon and lay on an oiled cookie sheet (or parchment paper or silicone baking mat). Now is a good time to grind some coarse sea salt over the dough, while it's still wet from the water bath. Slip the pretzels into the oven on the top rack (I raised the rack one setting up from the middle) or the bottoms might get too brown. Cook 8 to 10 minutes. Eat them as soon as you think you can avoid blistering your tongue. Serve with mustard, or maybe jalapeno cheese sauce, and cold beer.


Wendy said...

Oh, Dee, for this kid from the Phila. 'burbs, you may have just let out the secret to heaven.

Bonnie said...

I was surprised about the water bath. Didn't know they did such. As for the bird picture... rotfl

btw appreciate the hug. This morning I'm still laughing at typing T1 instead of L1. See I said my mind was befuddled.

Maggie said...

I'm not looking at your food pictures till I get thin again. LOL

Seriously, why not just not use sweeteners. But thanks for the suggestion. :)

Dee said...

Ah, Wendy -- then it's true. I got the impression, while cruising recipes, Philly folks claim superior soft pretzels over New Yawkers.

Bonnie, you're in good company. We all are well acquainted with the Befuddle Pool.

Maggie, with each food porn photo there is a dose of mojo to aid you in your WW quest. I'm rooting for you, friend!

Ava South said...

Oh, how I love soft pretzels. When we lived in PA while Gordon worked in Philly, I would go the Lansdale station and take the train in and go to the big market there and buy them from the Amish girls. Oh heaven. I got to watch them make them and then hand me one hot from the oven.

I didn't need beer.


Dee said...

That sounds so neat, Ava. By the way, I didn't need the beer, either. In fact, I didn't even need the mustard. I'm wondering -- could that be considered blasphemy?

Jo said...

Dee, you have touched on my heart with your pretzel recipe and picture. If there's one thing I love, it is pretzels!!! Now I've got to try these. You make it sound so easy.

Dee said...

This IS an easy recipe, Jo. Although I will also try one I found that involves the dough cycle on the bread machine. Later. (Smile) Good luck!

Wendy said...

Dee, mustard is a personal preference, although the purists among us claim that if you're going to use it, it must be bright yellow. (grin)

Dee said...

Wendy, what? No Grey Poupon?