The Soft Pretzel

Soft PretzelThere are a few snacks that I enjoyed with my parents growing up, and yes, one of them is popcorn, however there is something that my Dad and I really enjoyed, and that was the soft pretzel. We would make these store bought pretzels throughout the week, typically heating them up in the oven, however the microwave only takes thirty two seconds. Go figure. This is a snack that I have handed down to my kids, and they love it as well.

I have always been curious if I could make the pretzel, and because yeast packets were on sale a couple of weeks back, I decided to do just that, master the pretzel. The flavor was better than the store bought pretzels, the aroma was inviting, and the process was pretty interesting.
Making the dough is just like making the pizza dough I’ve written about in the past, let the yeast and water dissolve and get bubbly, then add the dry ingredients, let rise, and get moving with the pretzel making.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 cup Warm water
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 TB Vegetable Oil
  • 1 TB Sugar
  • 6 TB Baking Soda
  • 6 Cups Water
  • Course or Kosher Salt

In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast into the one cup of warm water. After the mixture becomes fizzy, add 1 1/2 cups of the flour,the oil, and the sugar. Mix for about 3 minutes to make a smooth batter. Gradually stir in enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and satiny, roughly five minutes. Adding flour as needed to prevent any sticking. This does get a bit sticky, but keep on trucking. Place the dough in a greased bowl and turn over to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, roughly one hour.

Pretzel in Soda bathWhen you are ready, punch down the dough, take it out onto a floured board, and divide the dough into 12 pieces. Shape each into a smooth ball by gently kneading then roll each into a smooth rope about 16 inches long, and twist into a pretzel shape. Place slightly apart on a greased baking sheet turning loose ends underneath. Let the dough rise once again, until nice and puffy, approximately 20 minutes.

During this time bring the soda water to a boil in a non-alumninum pan. Adjust the water to keep water gently boiling. With a slotted spatula, lower one pretzel at a time into the pan. Let simmer for for only 10 seconds on each side, then lift from water,drain briefly on spatula, and return to baking sheet. Let dry briefly, then sprinkle with coarse salt and let stand, uncovered, until all the pretzels have been simmered.

Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until they are golden brown. Enjoy the aroma. Transfer them to racks and get ready to eat. There are plenty of ways to enjoy these. My favorite is with mustard and squeeze cheese, yes, I said it, squeeze cheese. Other ideas are to sprinkle cinammon and sugar on them after the simmer process, serve with warm butter or garlic butter for that matter. If you are looking to wrap or store these, be sure to store in a cool place, in an airtight seal, and freeze. To reheat them, place the frozen pretzels in a 400 degree oven for roughly 10 minutes.

Cucumber Salad

Cucumber SaladThe summer garden is gone now. It is somewhat sad to see it go. We had an abundance of cucumbers this year, as my wife simply loves them. The cucumber was on the table throughout the summer in some form or another, typically sliced thick, with a bit of salt. As I am not that big a fan of the cucumber as my wife, I do enjoy it from time to time. A recent meal included barbecue meat on the grill, asian flavored to some degree, and I thought it needed a great, refreshing side. I decided to put together an cucumber salad, as we had many on the counter that day. This recipe is super simple, and yet ultimately fresh and delicious. Ingredients could not be any simpler:

  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot julienned
  • 1/4 teaspoon of chili flakes
  • 1/3 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

Mix the vinegar, chili flakes, and pepper in a mixing bowl. Toss in the other ingredients and coat. Refrigerate for up to an hour, then plate and serve. As stated, this was a great side and would accompany bbq beef, chicken, or pork really well. Enjoy.

Deep Dish Pizza

This dish is my wife’s favorite. I have made several attempts to master the pie since my wife would like to call an order into Pizzeria Uno’s, nearly 30 minutes away. My ingredients (store bought, and garden) cost under $7 and made one large and one small pie. This is also served great as left overs. 🙂

Great Deep Dish Pizza Recipe

Dough:

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 2 Cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of fine ground yellow cornmeal
  • 5-6 cups of flour

Add the water into a mixing bowl with the yeast and let it begin to bubble for nearly 8 minutes. Then add the oils, cornmeal, and begin to mix in the flour slowly. Mix and scrape down the sides for nearly another 8 minutes until the dough comes together.

Take the dough out (I flour my hands to prevent any stickiness) and punch the dough down. Oil (1-2 Tablespoons) the bottom of a large bowl, add the dough, add a bit more olive oil to the top, and cover with a dampened warm towl. The trick to this dough is a double rise. After an hour, check the dough. If it has risen, punch it down, and let it rise again. This will then double to triple in size.

Once you are ready to make the pie, you will need some deep cake tins. We so happened to have these from my wife’s grandmother’s house and they have came in handy for the deep dish pizza. Lightly oil the bottom of the pan(s). I split have of the dough and begin to mold it into the bottom of the pans, then working it up the sides. Once you have molded the dough, begin my adding your ingredients.

Pie Ingredients:

Sauce, I made homemade (roma tomatoes, garlic, basil, onion)

  • Fresh garlic
  • Fresh, chopped basil
  • Mozzarella Cheese (I buy the squares and layer them in the bottom)
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Italian Sausage or Pepperoni
    (You can add whatever you like in the pizza)

Here is how I made mine, and highly recommend it:

The trick is to add the mozzarella cheese on the bottom. Then add the cooked sausage or pepperoni (or whatever you want), chopped basil and garlic, then the sauce. Sprinkle generously with the parmesan cheese and cook in a preheated 475 degree oven for 40 minutes. Let cool, slice, and enjoy.

Sticky Rice with Spicy Thai Dipping Sauce

If you like something that is truly spicy, tangy, and packed with flavor, you must try this sauce. It is so easy to make and is compatible with barbecue and rice. This recipe takes very little time to make, so lets get started.

Ingredients:

1-2 cups Thai Sticky Rice
1-6 Thai Peppers (depends on how hot you want it)
4 TB Sugar
1 Lime
3 cloves of garlic
3-6 TB Fish Sauce
Soak the rice overnight in a bowl of water. This softens the rice and shortens the time to steam. When the rice is ready, rinse the rice and place in a bamboo steamer. The steamer can be found at your local asian market for under eight dollars. Cover and let steam for nearly 10-15 minutes per side. I say side because you will want to remove the bamboo steamer and knock it against the counter as to loosen the rice. Then you can toss it so it flips over. Sounds difficult, it is not. Continue steaming the other side for ten minutes.

During the time the rice is cooking, chop your other ingredients and place in a serving bowl and mix well. Feel free to taste as you go along. If it is too salty, add more sugar or lime juice.

When the rice is ready. Take the ball out and place it on a cutting board as you will want to flatten it out a bit and begin to fan it, as to cool the rice. I purchased a bamboo container that I can cover the rice for four dollars.

Keep in mind that the rice should be served warm and cannot be saved for leftovers. 🙁

Our kids love rolling the rice into little balls, (we do not let them eat the sauce), making shapes, and then eating.

Enjoy.