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.

Popcorn

PopcornI believe the first thing my parents allowed me to cook on the stove was popcorn, at least that is what I recall. My parents stove at the time was gas, so as you can imagine, me, being in middle school and cooking on a gas stove was pretty cool. Popcorn has always been a favorite snack of mine. Whether it be in the day, night, or heck, even for breakfast, it is something that I will always enjoy. There are countless memories with my grandparents, and now with my own kids, where popcorn has been present. I believe that my parents allowing me to cook on the stove at a young age, and in particular, cooking popcorn, has allowed me to master the snack. I find it funny that my wife was brought up the same way, doing the same on the stove, so it is always funny to compete with one another when making popcorn. After all, she does make great popcorn.

Please note that microwave popcorn is for the weak, and only the weak.

Ingredients:

  • Good popcorn (heck, I use Orville Redenbacher)
  • Canola Oil
  • Butter
  • Salt

PopcornIn a large, deep pan, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil. Let sit for nearly one minute on medium to high heat. Add two seeds to the oil and cover with a lid. Within a couple of minutes the corn should pop. Add seeds to cover the bottom of the pan, and place the lid back on. Shake the pan to coat the seeds. Reduce the heat to medium. Get ready to shake it baby as the seeds are getting ready to pop. As the corn is popping, begin to shake the pan so not to burn the corn. Within minutes your corn will be ready, and most, if not all seeds should pop.

Please note that during the popping stage, I heat a pan with 2-3 tablespoons of butter and let that melt down. Once the corn is ready, empty it into a large bowl, salt, and add butter. Toss the corn as to coat with butter and salt. You might add more butter or salt depending on your mood. 🙂

My kids absolutely love the popcorn. In due time, they will begin the cooking process as my wife and I once did, and continue to do.

Please note that you can also use other toppings such as parmesan cheese, chili powder, and tabasco sauce. Are there toppings that you have used that are not listed? If so, let me know.

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.