Monday, January 14, 2008

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Making Homemade Soft Pretzels seemed too daunting of a task for me. The worst part seemed to be placing the raw dough in boiling water with baking soda. That's until I saw on TV. It didn't seem that bad. It takes about 30 seconds for each one... it's works almost like making gnocchi but in a much larger scale since the pretzels are huge which translates in a lot less work. Anyway, I gave it a try and was very pleased with the results. They tasted great with just salt. During Football season it's the perfect snack to go with beer.

Homemade Soft Pretzels (by Alton Brown, Food Network)

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water

1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving

Double Chocolate Soufflé with Warm Fudge Sauce

No need for any endorsements or disclaimers. With a name like this, it had to be out of this world. And indeed, it was decadent. I found a special on Souffles on a Cooking Light Magazine and picked this one to start 2008 on the right foot.

Sinfully rich and low in calories (yes, it tasted as good or better than souffles with a million calories per serving), this souffle got five-star ratings in my house. My husband declared himself full after our meal and not really up for dessert. I insisted he tried one, which he did and asked for more.

I refrigerated what was left and ate the following day. They deflated a little and didn't taste extraordinary like the ones out of the oven but they were still pretty good.

Double Chocolate Soufflé with Warm Fudge Sauce (adapted from Cooking Light Magazine)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups fat-free milk
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
6 large egg whites

1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fat-free milk
1/2 ounce semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Position oven rack to the lowest setting, and remove middle rack. Preheat oven to 425°.
To prepare the soufflés, lightly coat 6 (8-ounce) soufflé dishes with butter. Sprinkle evenly with 2 tablespoons sugar. Set aside.
Combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, 3 tablespoons cocoa, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add 1 1/4 cups milk, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring constantly with a whisk; remove from heat. Add 3 ounces chocolate; stir until smooth. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; cool to room temperature. Stir in vanilla and egg yolk.
Place egg whites in a large mixing bowl; beat at high speed with a mixer until stiff peaks form (do not overbeat). Gently fold one-fourth of egg whites into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remaining egg white mixture. Gently spoon mixture into prepared dishes. Sharply tap dishes 2 or 3 times on counter to level. Place dishes on a baking sheet; place baking sheet on the bottom rack of 425° oven. Immediately reduce oven temperature to 350° (do not remove soufflés from oven). Bake 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the side of soufflé comes out clean.

To prepare sauce, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1/3 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa, and 1 tablespoon flour; stir well with a whisk. Gradually add 1/2 cup milk, stirring well with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat; add 1/2 ounce chocolate, stirring until smooth. Serve warm with soufflés.

Yield 6 servings (serving size: 1 soufflé and about 2 tablespoons sauce). Calories 315

I'm Back!

I am [almost] all unpacked and settled into the new house. A month after we moved we had to pack again and travel to Brazil for my brother's wedding. BTW, the wedding was beautiful and the reception amazing. Nothing like being served amazing food with champagne flowing freely.Then we flew back home and the holiday season was upon us. It brought joy but also a lot of shopping trips, wrapping, and cooking.

I cooked up a storm for Christmas. Cookies, Trimmings, Dessert, Turkey - starting by brining, then roasting with a delicious cornbread stuffing, basting every 30 minutes - the whole nine yards. For New Year's, we chose a low-key option: very simple and quick dishes but decadent dessert and great champagne. Definitely much more relaxing and enjoyable.