Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pretzel test

Ok, I've gotten caught up in an exploration of pretzel bath methods for my pretzel recipe, and now I've got to find out which is best.  Here are the methods I have identified: 
  1. Cold lye bath method: 1 oz. food-grade lye, dissolved in 1 quart of water. 30 second dip, sprinkle with salt, then bake. Please follow the link, and follow their safety instructions. This is the most desirable, authentic method.
  2. Cold sodium carbonate bath method: 100 g sodium carbonate dissolved in 2 cups of water. Immerse raw, shaped pretzels in the bath for three to four minutes, rinse off the excess dipping solution in a large bowl of plain water, sprinkle with salt, and bake.
  3. Sodium carbonate boil method: Boil 6 cups of water. Add 2 to 6 tablespoons sodium carbonate . Boil pretzels for 1 minute, sprinkle with salt, then bake. 
  4. Baking soda boil method: Boil 6 cups of water. Add 2 to 6 tablespoons baking soda. Boil pretzels for 1 minute, sprinkle with salt, then bake.
  5. Water boil method: Boil pretzels in water for 1 minute, sprinkle with salt, then bake.
  6. Egg wash method: Beat an egg with 1 Tbsp water. Brush over the top of the pretzels, sprinkle with salt, and bake. But this is really just a bread twist with egg wash, not a pretzel.

And here they are! I drafted my husband to help keep track of which pretzel was done by which method. He wrote what they are on the parchment in red Sharpie. Here's the layout:

5     2   4a
3a  4b  3b

Pretzels: What goes in the bath?

8 oz Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda)
I've been looking deeper into pretzels to develop my recipe, and learned a few things. I'm feeling a bit like a chemist now. Here's the deal: First, a Bavarian would say we're making pretzel-shaped brezels. Where I live, we say we're making soft pretzels, and can shape them various ways, including the traditional pretzel twist. Second, a Bavarian/German would say they must be dipped in a cold lye bath, then baked, to get that lovely deep pretzel color and taste.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Pancake Update

We made the "Good Old-Fashioned Pancakes" again (see first posting here), doubling the recipe and adding vanilla. A double recipe makes about 18 pancakes. Three per person is plenty; four worked for my pre-teen son, two for my youngest daughter. We're going to freeze the extras, and pop them in the toaster, or maybe microwave, on a school morning. I plan to make these when we want waffles, but we're out of buttermilk.

Update: The kids put frozen pancakes in the toaster on "defrost", and ate them for breakfast on school mornings. I didn't get any because they ate them all. I take that as an endorsement.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Something Unusual

I've been trying to think of a "bread" that would go well with chili. I usually use Fritos, which I think are great in chili, but it seemed some sort of bread should work. But what? Crackers? Bread sticks? It would be best if it was quick to make, so you don't have to plan ahead too much.

The other evening in the shower, an idea just emerged from nowhere, simply appearing in my head. Scoop out some sourdough starter from the fridge, mix in self-rising cornmeal mix and water, and cook it kinda like a pancake.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Engilsh Toffee Success

I tried the toffee again (refer to previous post), this time cooking it to 300°. Oh, what a great move! The butter flavor was so great, very "browned". The texture was also better. A nice crushy crunch. This time I used milk chocolate, which usually isn't my favorite, but I think it's the right thing here. I had the full amount of almonds this time. After toasting them all, I chopped  a few, maybe 1/4 cup. I put the whole slivers on the bottom, poured the toffee over them, spread the chocolate on top, and sprinkled with chopped almonds while still soft. I don't know if the chocolate bloomed this time, it wasn't around long enough to find out. :)

Update: I made it again with Nestle's semi-sweet chips, and preferred that to the milk chocolate. It's so good, though, the chocolate is really more of a personal preference. White chocolate would probably work too.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Apple Strudel today

I made an apple strudel again today, and couldn't resist changing it. I used softened rather than melted butter, and dark brown sugar for white sugar, in the filling. This is more like the cinnamon roll recipe. For the apples, I used all Honey Crisp. The apples alone weren't that outstanding, but the flavor was great in the strudel. However, I should have warmed them first.

I also should have wrapped up the sides and ends better, to hold in the filling...
When I checked on the strudel in the oven, the filling was oozing out badly, and was almost onto the stone. I pulled it out, put it on a baking sheet, and put it back in. This, on top of using cold apples, disrupted the baking time, and I ended up calling it done too soon. The filling didn't set up all the way, and there were undercooked places in the dough.

Sounds like a real disaster, but, my family still loved the gooey, cinnamon-apple-bread-mapley-icing result. Success! :) And room for improvement. ;)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Chili Today

We play with our chili recipe, when we have new ideas, or when we're missing an ingredient. 

This is a full-bodied chili, thickened with tortillas. It also has: chili powders, beef, bacon, tomatoes, beans, and a few surprise ingredients that you probably won't guess. We love it with Fritos, cheese, and sour cream. Tastes even better the next day, after the ingredients have time to blend.