Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Knot" Your Ordinary Pretzel

I think I have mentioned before, I am not much of a baker, right?  One of my goals in 2010 is to try my hand at new and different things in the kitchen, especially baking breads.   I am so very lucky to have a husband that supports these goals, actually, he loves bread!  A couple of weeks ago he came home with a copy of Peter Reinhart's "Artisan Breads Every Day", I had been drooling over it the day before in the bookstore.  Of course that evening I read it cover to cover.  What a great book!  I have been trying my hand at many of the recipes.  I started a seed culture for sourdough, but it failed.  Not sure if it was due to the temperature in the house, I started it during that really cold spell we had in FL; the water, I used bottled water; or the flour, I used unbleached all-purpose.   I started another starter yesterday, this time using whole wheat flour and fresh pineapple juice, unfortunately, I have no control over the weather and it is going to be chilly all week again.  I will keep you posted as to the results.
Another recipe I could not wait try were the soft pretzels.  I love warm soft pretzels!  I also really love the pretzel rolls I have when I visit my parents in Williamsburg, VA!  So I decided to experiment with the recipe.  I shaped most of the dough the traditional way since I had promised to bring them to a party if they turned out.   I also made made two in the shape of a dinner roll.

I mixed the dough the afternoon before I planned to make them.  I do not have much experience with bread, I very carefully measured all the ingredients and made sure my water temperature was perfect.  I love my Oxo liquid measuring cups and my digital thermometer.  I used hot tap water and let it cool slightly in the cup until it was lukewarm or 95 degrees.  I then whisked in the yeast and let it hydrate for a minute. 
I combined the dry ingredients in my mixer using the paddle attachment.  I poured in the yeast mixture and the cooled melted butter and mixed at the lowest speed for about a minute.  I switched to the dough hook and mixed on the lowest speed for about 2 minutes, then let it rest for 5 minute to relax the gluten (and I guess if you are doing this by hand, it give the baker time to relax).  While the dough was resting, I  lightly floured my marble slab and oiled the bowl I was going to put the dough in.  I turned my mixer to med-low and let the dough hook work for another 3 minutes.  I did have to add a little more water as the dough seemed dry.  I transferred the dough to my floured surface and kneaded for another minute, then formed it into a ball and placed it in my oiled bowl, covered it with plastic wrap and then into the fridge it went.
I was amazed and very proud of myself; by morning the dough had doubled in size just as the recipe said it would, so far so good.  I must admit, I kept procrastinating all day to start playing with shaping the pretzels, I had never made a pretzel knot before!  I finally had to do it since the party was that evening and if they did not turn out, I would have to make some other type of appetizer.  (I work better under pressure sometimes)  I started with the easy part first, making the baking soda solution that I was to dip the pretzels in before I baked them, some warm water, baking soda and an egg white.  I then removed the dough from the fridge and using my bench cutter, I cut the dough into 16 pieces.  Using my scale, I weighed each piece to make sure they were 2 ounces as the books says, adjusting some as needed.  I figured since it was my first attempt, I should try to be as close to possible on size.  In the end, I had 17 2 ounce balls.   I wrapped two of the balls in plastic wrap and set them to the side to use as pretzels rolls and moved on to shaping the rest.  It was actually easier than I thought after I got the hang of it.  Since the directions say to roll each piece into a 17 inch rope, and I know that the marble slab I use for rolling out dough is 18 inches,  if I rolled the ropes edge to edge, I would be pretty close, especially after I learned that if the dough keeps shrinking back after I rolled it, to stop fighting with it, and let it rest for a couple of minutes.  The gluten has to relax.  The directions also said to taper the last 3 inches of each roll, so I measured my fingers and pefect, the width of my four fingers is just less than 3 inches, boy did that make it easy.  I worked with four pieces at a time, rolling one out, letting that one rest while I moved on to the next.  After I rolled all four, the first one had relaxed and shrunk back a couple of inches, so I re-rolled it, tapering the ends and shaped it. 
To my amazement, the first one turned out almost perfect.  I thought I was on a "roll" but have to admit, I got cocky and started trying to shape them too quickly and the next couple were not so easy.  I slowed down, took my time and before I knew it I had 15 mostly beautiful pretzels some not as pretty as others, but that was ok.

 Each pretzel then got dipped in the baking soda solution and placed on the silicone lined baking sheet, then sprinkled lightly with sea salt.   Into the 400 degree oven they went for 16 minutes.  I did rotate the pans halfway through for even browning.  While they were in the oven, I heated the baking soda solution on the stove.  I had read to do this while I was doing some research on pretzels and thought I would try it for the pretzel rolls.  When it reached a slight boil, I reduced the heat and shaped the 2 reserved balls, used my kitchen shears to snip a cross on the top and placed them in the simmering water for about a minute, flipping them to make sure they were coated top and bottom with the solution.  I removed them with a slotted spoon, placed them on a lined baking sheet, cut side up and lightly salted them.  By then the others were done, I removed them from the oven and popped in the "rolls".  I moved the pretzels to a wire rack and let them cool for about 10 minutes.  The rolls need about 20 minutes to turn a wonderful golden brown, they then went on the rack to cool.  I could not wait to try a roll, but I did hold off for 10 minutes as I knew they would be better after they cooled.  They were just as I remembered them in Williamsburg, crusty on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, yum!  I took the pretzels to the party and served them with a warm cheese dip, they all went!
Below is a quick summary of the recipe from the book.  I highly recommend purchasing the book as it has wonderful pictures to help with shaping the pretzels and some wonderful variations I can't wait to try.  Maybe the next Saucy video should be making pretzels, what do you think?


(this recipe is adapted from Artisan Bread Every Day by Peter Reinhart)

1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water -- 95 degrees
4 1/2  cups unbleached bread flour
2 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoon melted butter
8 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups warm water
1 large egg white-- beaten
coarse sea salt

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Blend dry ingredients in bowl.  Pour in yeast mixture and butter.Combine with paddle attachment for 1 minute, switch to dough hook and knead dough until slightly smoother, about 2 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes.  Continue to knead with dough hook on medium low for 3 minutes, adjust water or flour as needed.  Turn out on lightly floured surface and knead by hand 1 minute.  Cover and let dough rise in fridge overnight or up to 4 days.

Cut dough into small pieces and roll into ropes. Twist ropes into pretzel shapes and place on silcone lined baking sheets. When all dough is shaped, combine water, baking soda and egg white in deep pan.  Dip pretzels in solutions then place back and baking sheets and sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake at 400 degrees F. for about 16 minutes or until browned.  Cool on wire racks before serving.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

January is National Hot Tea Month, Let's Celebrate With an Afternoon Tea!

A beautiful January day in Florida was the perfect day to celebrate National Hot Tea Month, I mean we did start the day in the mid 40's and by the time the tea started, it was in the 60's, a little chilly for our standards, great for a hot cup of tea!

We started our day with Wonderful Raisin Scones.  I decided, with the agreement of the students, to do a little experiment.  Instead of cutting in the butter with a pastry blender, I used a technique I learned from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day.  I froze the butter for 30 minutes and then used the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter into the dry ingredients, tossing the "butter threads" often to evenly distribute them.   It worked wonderfully and was so much easier then using a pastry blender since I had doubled the recipe.  I also mentioned to our students, that by tossing the raisins in the dry ingredients, this helps them from clumping together or sinking to the bottom.  While the scones were in the oven I made the custard for our Fruit Tarts.  I combined the sugar, flour, and salt in a small mixing bowl, whisked it gently to break up any lumps, and set it aside. I prepared an ice water bath by filling a bowl halfway with ice and water  and set that aside. I combined the buttermilk and egg yolks in a small saucepan and whisked until smooth. I continued to whisk as I stirred in the dry ingredients and placed the pan over medium heat. I cooked, whisking constantly, until mixture was thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 4 minutes.  I removed the custard from the heat, and stirred in the vanilla bean paste. I then transferred custard to a small bowl nestled in the ice water bath and let cool, stirring to help it cool faster.  Since I was not using the custard immediately, I pressed plastic wrap on the surface of the custard to keep a skin from forming and chilled the custard in the refrigerator. 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Julia Child's French Onion Soup

The weather has gotten a lot warmer in Florida, but a bowl of French Onion Soup still sounded wonderful!  Julia Child's French Onion Soup to be exact.  But first, I have to brag on my kids and their PERFECT Christmas presents.  Our daughter, the artsy one of the family, and her husband, the techno guy, gave me a 9-disc set of Julia Child's cooking shows.  I love it and have so enjoyed watching them EVERY chance I get.   Our son, the practical law student, gave me something I really needed.....2 'Ove' Gloves.  They are wonderful and I have not burned my hands since Christmas, it used to be at least a weekly occurence!  With Julia's video "Your Own French Onion Soup' playing and my "Ove" gloves at the ready, it was time to cook.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How to Make a Wonderful Rich Stock

I had every intention of posting this yesterday, but got sidetracked......I was in a cleaning out mood.  Most people do a Spring Cleaning, not me, I do a New Year's Winter Cleaning.  After all the Christmas decorations are back up in the attic, it is time to clean house.  I have been especially motivated this year because it has been too darn cold to go outside.  I can not believe the harsh weather we have been having in Florida, we have lost a lot of our tropical plants, but I know I cannot complain after all the damage I have seen to the citrus farms around here.  I even read that a tropical fish farm suffered almost complete losses due to their ponds freezing.  Forecasters say that the weather is going back to normal today.  I (and the puppies) am looking forward to it!

OK, enough complaining about our weather.....on to Cornish Game Hen stock.   There is nothing like homemade stock, it adds SO much more flavor to your foods.  While my wonderful hubby was deboning all those Cornish Hens for us over the weekend, I reminded him to please save all the bones he removed so I could make stock.  When he was all done, I put them in my large stock pot with some celery, carrots, sliced onions, and parsley.  This was perfect timing as I had purchased too much celery and I had a bag of baby carrots that were starting to dry out.  I covered it all with cold water, added a couple black peppercorns and a heavy dash of salt and brought it all to a boil.  I reduced the heat and simmered uncovered for about 4 hours.  I occasionally skimmed the foam and fat that came to the surface and gave it a quick stir.

I removed the pot from the heat to allow everything to cool slightly and then used my spider to remove most of the bones and large pieces of veggies.

When the stock was cool, I placed a large bowl in my sink with my strainer on top and poured the stock through.  I then placed the bowl in an ice bath to bring the stock temperature down so I could cover the bowl and put it in the fridge until morning. Using an ice bath helps ensure the temperature is quickly reduced to a safe storage temperature of 40º F or less, therefore there is less chance of food spoilage.  In the morning, the fat had risen to the top and solidified, I used a large spoon to skim it off. 
Then I used a 2 cup measuring cup and poured the stock into resealable sandwich bags.  I discovered this method from my mom.  It saves room in the freezer.  I made sure all the bags were sealed tight and placed them in the freezer for a couple of hours. 

After the stock had frozen I placed 3 of the sandwich bags into a labeled freezer bag.  Back in the freezer they went all ready to be used whenever I need them.  Just some quick notes:  I try to keep 3 freezer bags in my freezer.  One label, chicken scraps, one beef scraps and one veggie scraps.  When deboning chicken breast or thighs, if you do not have enough to make a stock, just pop them in the freezer bag and put it back in the freezer.  When your bag is full, it is time to make stock, you don't even have to defrost them.  In your veggie bag, you can put in celery and carrot ends, carrots and celery getting past their prime or carrot peeling.  When it is time to make stock, use what veggies are in the bag and supplement with fresh if there are not enough. 

Also, if your stock seems a little weak even though you have simmered it all day, you can add a little chicken base, I have had great sucess with Better Than Bouillon.  I do not recommend using chicken boullion cubes as they tend to be too salty.

Monday, January 11, 2010

How to Debone A Cornish Game Hen

Last Thursday night, Gordy and I did a dinner class at Rolling Pin, Boneless Cornish Game Hens. I love when I can convince him to do a class with me, we have so much fun cooking together and always have such a great time at Rolling Pin. The students love him, and why shouldn't they, he is a great guy!

Friday, January 08, 2010

A Wonderful Guest Post from Chow and Chatter!

What great fun I have had sharing guest post with Rebecca at Chow and Chatter! I have learned so much from her and always enjoy visiting her site! She is a Brit living in America, food and travel are her passions. When she asked me to do a guest blog yesterday about our tea, I jumped at the chance. But I did make her promise she would do a guest post for The Saucy Gourmet that was healthy (we all know I cook with too much butter and cream) and different from anything I have ever done. She came through as promised!

I am honored to guest post on Shari's wonderful blog, I am a writer, food blogger and registered dietitian and have the pleasure to be able to stay home with my adorable 15 month old daughter Jasmine, often featured in my blog! I am married to a South Indian so dal is big in our house, well food from all countries in fact.
Dal is basically a spicy lentil soup high in protein and very nutritious mostly eaten with rice and other vegetable dishes.


3 cloves garlic
little salt
toor dal 1 cup
1 cup spinach
little tumeric
sambar powder (can be found in Indian grocery store- famous in South India)
curry leaves
mustard seeds
green chili
1/2 onion
1/2 tomato.

1. add dal, green beans, tomato, little onion, little tumeric 1 clove garlic to pressure cooker and cook till you hear two whistles. (if you don't have a pressure cooker simple boil for 30-45 minutes until very soft.)
2. fry mustard seeds (let pop), onion, curry leaves, garlic, green chili in canola oil, then add some sambar powder- more if you want it to be spicy
3. mix fried onions and spices with dal and boil 5 - 10 min add coriander/cilantro to garnish.

Thank you so much for sharing Rebecca! I have very little experience with Indian cuisine, so I had to do a little research to familiarize myself with some of your ingredients. Here is what I found on Cook's Thesaurus:
Whole toor lentils are yellow with tan jackets, but they're usually sold skinned and split. They have a mild, nutty flavor, and they're often cooked as a side dish or ground into flour. They're sometimes sold with an oily coating, which you should rinse off. Look for them at Indian markets. Substitutes: channa dal OR yellow split peas OR pigeon peas

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Guest Blog

PhotobucketMy first guest blog.

Thank you Rebecca at Chow and Chowder for asking me to guest blog on your wonderful site. Kind of fitting to do a post on my tea at Rolling Pin since Rebecca is a Brit who loves tea!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Time For Tea, A Great Way to Thaw Out!

Wow, the weather outside is frightful, but inside Rolling Pin it was so delightful! I know I should not be complaining about the cold snap that has hit Florida, especially looking at some of the other temperatures from around the country, but it is darn cold out there! We had a frost last night, and they are calling for another tonight, and if conditions are just right this weekend.....snow! I thought we moved to Florida to escape all that!