Pretzel Rolls

Homemade pretzel roll

Oktoberfest has officially passed… I actually just discovered that. For years I thought Oktoberfest was celebrated all month long, but a quick google search revealed that Munich has already moved on and begun planning Oktoberfest 2016.

IMG_7709Well, I’m not telling. Either way, it’s still October and my culinary wanderlust is craving soft pretzels, bratwurst, sauerkraut, and mustard to go with it all. Every fall, brats and sauerkraut enter the dinner rotation at White House Red Door. One year around this time, probably for Halloween, I made “witches fingers” with homemade pretzel dough. The fingers- or pretzels seemed a natural accompaniment to the brats, so I thought instead of a “finger” or traditionally shaped pretzel, why not a roll?

Have you ever had a pretzel rolls? They turn humble fillings into something special. From burgers to cold cuts to peanut butter and jelly (which my middle guy makes himself for lunch everyday), they all taste better on a pretzel rolls.  They arePretzel bun with mustard terrific for a snack on their own or with some spicy brown mustard for dipping. White flakes of crunchy sea salt contrast beautifully with the deep golden brown chewy texture.

This recipe makes pretzel dough and while I’ve made rolls, the final form is entirely up to you.  This same dough can easily be transformed into traditional pretzels, “witches fingers,” or even letters for the pre-school set.  It’s entirely up to you.  Remember, have fun and play with your food!Homemade pretzel bun

  • Servings: ”8-10
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*adapted from Alton Brown

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups warm (110°-115° F) water
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 ½ 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
coarse or flaked sea salt

Instructions:
Combine water, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook 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, 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 4-5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, rolling it around so it is lightly coated in the oil used to grease the bowl. Cover with a slightly damp dish towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot for 50-55 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.

After the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 450°F. Line 2 half sheet pans with silicone mats, or parchment paper lightly brushed with vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in a large saucepan or stockpot.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface (I did not do this, just a regular wooden cutting board worked for me- not oiled). Divide the dough into 8-10 equal pieces. Form dough into balls- by rolling and shaping with your hands. Using a very sharp knife or pair of scissors cut an X in the top of each roll. Place each roll onto a lined sheet pan.

Place the pretzel rolls into the boiling water, one by one, for 60 seconds, flipping them at the 30 second mark. Remove them from the water using a slotted spoon or similar tool. Return to the half sheet pan, 4-5 rolls per pan. Repeat until remaining rolls are done.

Brush the top of each pretzel roll with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with coarse or flaked sea salt. Bake one batch at a time until deep golden brown in color, approximately 15 minutes, or the bottom of the bun sounds hollow when rapped with your knuckles. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Yeast is foaming.
It’s alive! The yeast is working when it starts to foam.
Adding flour and melted butter to yeast mixture
Add the flour and melted butter to yeast mixture.
Using a dough hook attachment to knead the dough.
Using the dough hook attachment, knead the dough until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Pretzel dough in a well oiled bowl.
Put the dough into a well oiled bowl, turning to coat several times. Cover and place in a warm draft free spot until doubled in bulk.
Risen Pretzel Dough
After 50-55 minutes the pretzel dough has doubled in bulk.
Pretzel dough on a cutting board.
Turn the dough out onto a cutting board or parchment paper.
Pretzel dough divided into 8 equal pieces.
Divide the dough into 8-10 equal pieces.
Raw pretzel buns on silicone lined sheet pan.
Roll and shape dough into rolls and place on silicone or parchment lined sheet pan.
Use a sharp knife to cut an 'x' on the top of each bun.
Using a sharp knife or pair of scissors, cut an ‘x’ on the top of each roll.
Dropping the pretzel bun into boiling water/baking soda mixture
One by one, use a slotted spoon or similar utensil to drop each roll into boiling water/baking soda mixture for 1 minute. Flip after 30 seconds so that top and bottom are evenly cooked.  Transfer to lined sheet pan. Repeat process with each roll.
Egg washed buns sprinkled with flaked sea salt.
Brush the rolls with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse or flaked sea salt. Bake 15 minutes in a 450°F oven or until deep golden brown.
Deep golden brown homemade pretzel buns.
Rolls are done when they are a deep golden brown and sound hollow when rapped on the bottom with your knuckles. Allow to cool at least 5 minutes before digging in.

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin bread sliced on cutting board.

Fall Container The sounds and smells of fall are predictably familiar and comforting. I’ve known them all my life, hearing the chorus of geese honking to one another as they head south, smelling the smoke from a pile of leaves drifting from a backyard, and feeling the crispness in the air as a child trick or treating or walking to school. Even as an adult the pattern continues, the leaves still crunch underfoot, rustling and swirling in the breeze stirred up as I walk my own children to the bus stop each morning. We often talk about taste memories, but it is the echoes, scents, and displays of fall that bring me right back to childhood each year.

That is not to say that the tastes of autumn go by the wayside. Flavors are warmer, spicier, and richer, adding life to both sweet and savory dishes. On these cool days I crave baking- wanting to fill the kitchen with the colors, flavors, and aromas of fall.

This pumpkin bread recipe fits the bill. Many pumpkin bread recipes call for oil as the fat of choice while this recipe uses butter, which I prefer. The original calls for water or orange juice as the liquid, but I swap in cider, as it seems a better complement to the pumpkin. Another addition is nutmeg, to partner with the cinnamon and cloves. I’ve reduced the sugar, which hasn’t done any harm (and no one notices). Finally, the raisins are completely eliminated instead I occasionally add walnuts.

This makes two large loaves of pumpkin bread, one to enjoy now, one to freeze for another day down the road as we march towards winter.

Pumpkin bread slices on cutting board

Pumpkin Bread

  • Servings: 2 large loaves
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*adapted from The Martha Stewart Cookbook, Collected Recipes for Everyday

Ingredients:
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks), at room temperature
3 Tablespoons molasses
1 ½ cups sugar
4 eggs
2/3 cup cider
2 cups pumpkin puree, homemade or canned
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter two 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans.

With an electric mixer, cream butter, molasses, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat until light. Add cider and pumpkin purée and mix well.

Sift dry ingredients together into a large bowl, and add the pumpkin mixture, stirring well with a wooden spoon to thoroughly combine. If using the nuts, add them now, folding them carefully into the batter.

Divide evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool.

*This recipe is easily multiplied and freezes well.

Creaming butter, molasses, and sugar until light and fluffy.
Cream butter, molasses, and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at time to the creamed butter and sugar, beating well before adding the next.
Add the eggs one at time, beating well before adding the next.
Butter, sugar, molasses, and egg mixture is light.
Butter, sugar, molasses, and egg mixture is light and creamy.
Adding the pumpkin purée and cider to butter, sugar, and egg mixture.
Add the pumpkin purée and cider and mix well.
Curdled looking mixture... not to worry.
Don’t worry! It looks terrible, but it will be ok!
Combining the wet and dry ingredients well with a wooden spoon.
Add the sifted dry ingredients, combining well with a wooden spoon.
Batter in greased loaf pan.
Divide batter evenly into greased loaf pans.
Pumpkin bread in loaf pan
Pumpkin bread is done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

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Pumpkin Pancakes

Pumpkin pancakes served with warm maple syrup and toasted walnuts.

Pumpkin PancakeI was going to post about Pumpkin Bread, and tie it together with the Roasted Pumpkin Puree (and I will) but I was seriously sidetracked by some Pumpkin Pancakes. And it was all quite by chance.

My husband is a wonderful cook. Weekend mornings he can be found whipping up the fluffiest pancakes; his chicken parmigiana is unbelievable and he can smoke a Boston butt or deep fry a turkey with the best of them.

This weekend the kids requested pancakes. While dear husband gathered the ingredients, I made the coffee. As I poked my head in the fridge for some half and half, my eyes landed on the last of the pumpkin purée. Eureka moment. “Hey, why don’t you throw this pumpkin in the batter?” Silence. Dead silence. I could hear crickets. Not one to give up I asked, “What do you think?” Long long pause. (Translation- don’t mess with my pancakes.) Finally a reply, “Let’s leave it up to B. Whatever she thinks.” I have to admit, at this point the deal was sealed because I knew exactly what B would say, “Pumpkin pancakes? Yum!”

The regular weekend pancakes were already top notch, but the addition of pumpkin, cider, and the classic spice combination of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and cloves turned already stellar pancakes into something very special for fall and winter breakfasts (and dinners!).  Gently warmed maple syrup with butter added a touch of sweetness, while the toasted walnuts sprinkled on top provided a satisfying crunch to contrast with the fluffiness of the pancakes.

Needless to say, pumpkin pancakes have been officially added to the rotation at White House Red Door.

Have you ever had that moment of spontaneity in the kitchen? A eureka moment that led to something delicious?

Pumpkin Pancakes with Maple Syrup and Toasted Walnuts

Pumpkin Pancakes

  • Servings: 15-20 pancakes
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Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup apple cider
1 cup pumpkin purée
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For serving:
warm maple syrup with butter
toasted walnuts or pecans

Instructions:
Preheat griddle to 350°-375°.

Mix dry ingredients. In a separate container, whisk eggs, then add vanilla, cider, and milk stirring well.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk until just combined.

Stir in pumpkin, then add melted butter.

When griddle is ready, spoon 1/3 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake. Cook until the top of each pancake is dotted with bubbles and some have popped open. Carefully flip and cook until the other side is golden brown. Serve immediately with maple syrup and toasted walnuts. Though best enjoyed right away, the pancakes can also be kept warm in a 200° oven until ready to serve.

Pumpkin pancakes dry ingredients whisked together.
Whisk the dry ingredients together.
3 eggs ready for whisking.
Whisk the eggs together.
Whisking vanilla into eggs.
Whisk vanilla into eggs.
Whisk cider and milk into egg/vanilla mixture.
Whisk cider and milk into egg/vanilla mixture.
Pumpkin Pancakes- gently combine liquid and dry ingredients
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently combine.
Stir the pumpkin purée into the batter.
Stir the pumpkin purée to the batter.
Stir melted butter into the batter.
Stir melted butter into the batter.
Pancakes on the griddle are dotted with popped and unpopped bubbles.
When the tops of the pancakes are dotted with popped and unpopped bubbles, it is time to flip.

Flipped pancakes on the griddle.

Pumpkin pancakes served with warm maple syrup and toasted walnuts.
Serve with warm maple syrup and toasted walnuts.

 

 

Roasted Pumpkin Purée

Sugar PumpkinBeing part of a CSA has so many benefits… supporting and connecting with local farmers while picking up my weekly share under a tent in a field is far more interesting than maneuvering the aisles of the grocery store, and enjoying veggies that were literally just picked earlier that day, they don’t get any fresher and more delicious! Because the nature of a CSA promotes a “you get what you get, and you don’t get upset” mentality, another benefit is that I’m challenged to finds ways to use vegetables that I normally would pass by, as well as the ones that I don’t care for (I’m talking to you zucchini).

Each fall, sugar or pie pumpkin make appearances in our CSA pick up. At first I was intimidated, my hands on experience with pumpkin was limited to a once a year carving for Halloween, followed by roasting the seeds. The only other pumpkin I had ever used in the kitchen came from a can. But stretched to do something with this new addition to the weekly pick up, I found myself roasting pumpkins. It couldn’t be any easier. Lately, more and more sugar and pie pumpkins are showing up at the grocery store, so I can’t be the only one using them. And while definitely not necessary because canned pumpkin is so good (though it may not be all “pumpkin”), roasting your own pumpkin is fun to try.

***Important note- Do NOT use jack-o-lantern pumpkins, they are far too watery! Instead, look for small sugar or pie pumpkins, usually in the 3-6lb range.***

Pumpkin Purée

Roasted Pumpkin Purée

  • Servings: approximately 3 cups
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Ingredients:
1 sugar or pie pumpkin, 3-6lbs

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil.

Remove stem and cut pumpkin in half. Scoop out seeds (save and roast later) and using a spoon, scrape out stringy pulp. Cut each half in half, so that you have 4 quarters.

Transfer pumpkin quarters to lined baking sheet. Roast until fork tender, about 45 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and purée in a food processor or simply mash it.

Use in any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin or pumpkin purée. This purée also freezes well.

Sugar pumpkin halved and seeded.
Using a large chef’s knife, cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Remember to save the seeds for roasting.
Scrape away any stringy pulp and discard. Place the pumpkin pieces on a parchment lined sheet pan.
Scrape away any stringy pulp and discard. Place the pumpkin pieces on a parchment lined sheet pan.
Roasted pumpkin quarters on sheet pan.
Pumpkin is done when it is easily pierced with a fork.
Roasted pumpkin being scooped out.
When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh.
Pumpkin Purée
Either purée in a food processor or mash. Use as you would in any recipe calling for canned pumpkin or pumpkin purée.

Mulling Spices

Mulling spices- orange peel, cinnamon sticks, star anise, whole cloves and cardamon

A jar of homemade mulling spices.

Happy National Mulled Cider Day!

Leaves are changing; mornings are crisp as temperatures start dipping closer to freezing; in the market, the last few berries are being pushed out by apples. Walking around the neighborhood, even playing in the yard, is noisier these days. The slightest breeze triggers a barrage of falling acorns, rapid fire pop-pop-pops as they bounce off branches and leaves on their way down. The other night I came home to the smell of woodsmoke- not from a backyard grill, but drifting from a neighbor’s chimney, the first fire of the season. The sights, sounds, and aromas triggered something in me, almost a reflex to everything my senses were taking in.  Heading into the kitchen, opening up the spice drawer, instinctually I knew what I was looking for- a little of this and a little of that to complement the growing signs of fall.

IMG_7410

Even the colors of mulling spices remind us of autumn, orange, green, varying shades of brown. The fragrance is warm, comforting, and exotic all at the same time.  In no time, apple cider was gently simmering on the stove while an infuser filled with cinnamon, cardamon, star anise, whole cloves, and orange peel bobbed along in time.  The scent filled the room, naturally welcoming everyone in the house to gather- no easy feat these days with two teens and a tween in our midst.

Pre-mixed mulling spices can be found in just about any shop these days- from high end kitchen stores to your local grocery.  But don’t be tempted to buy the pre-made blend.  You probably have everything you need to make your own at home. You will have control, adding a little bit more of this, or a little less of that according to your taste.  Homemade mulling spices also make terrific gifts.  Save your old glass spice jars, remove the label, give them a good scrubbing, and fill with your custom blend.  Add an infuser and you’ve got a gift that keeps on giving!

IMG_7417

Below is my general blend, but it is just a guideline- for example, if I’d had allspice berries I would have thrown those in as well.  Please play around (and let me know what you discover).

Mulling Spices

  • Servings: enough for one 1.5oz spice jar
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Ingredients:
3 sticks cinnamon, broken into small pieces
peel from 1 orange, sliced, dried and broken into small pieces
5 star anise
10-12 cardamon pods
1 teaspoon whole cloves

Instructions:
In a small bowl combine the spices. Transfer to spice jar or similar container. Will keep indefinitely.