Friday, February 12, 2010

Pretzel Bites

My parents are coming today to visit for the weekend, and I wanted to make a bunch of snack-y little things to put out while we're catching up. I've used this recipe to make full-sized pretzels back when I was just getting into bread baking, and had great (if not very pretty) results. With the Superbowl last weekend, I had seen a few blogs that had these little pretzel bites, some stuffed and some not. I experimented with this batch and stuffed some of them with little cubes of smoked mozzarella, but between the boiling and baking, the stuffed ones didn't hold their shape and the cheese leaked out...not pretty. So, I stuck with the plain ones for what I will serve my parents. Along with replacing the butter with olive oil, I also cut this recipe in half, and ended up with over 2 dozen little bites. Actually, I ended up with about 30 little bites, but they looked so wonderful I couldn't resist snacking on a few!

Pretzel Bites

Adapated from Alton Brown

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

In a small bowl, combine the water, sugar yeast, and allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. To the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, salt 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 spray with olive oil spray. Return the dough to the bowl, toss to cover with the oil, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately one hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. 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.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dutch Oven Herb Bread

I've seen a few recipes for this on blogs lately, and thanks to the amazing Dutch oven that I got from my in-laws for Christmas, I knew it was something I wanted to make! I looked through a few of the recipes, and decided on this one from Homemade by Holman, since after browsing through other recipes on her blog there wasn't one that didn't make my mouth water! She adapted her version a little from the Pioneer Woman's blog, and after looking at that version too, I decided on a combination of the two, with a little change of my own - olive oil instead of melted butter. Also, I only had fresh thyme, so that was the only herb I used and I added a little fresh cracked black pepper too, since I love the way it looks in white bread. This was so easy to make, and the end result is gorgeous! I haven't dug into it yet, since I want my husband to see how beautiful the finished product is, but it smells so good, I can't wait!

Dutch Oven Herb Bread
Adapted slightly from Homemade by Holman
and Pioneer Woman

4 cups bread flour
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
4-5 springs fresh thyme
1 tsp. olive oil
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp. active yeast
1 cup lukewarm water (my dough required more like 1 1/4 cups)

Combine yeast and water let sit while you measure the remaining ingredients. Chop herbs and garlic. Add flour, olive oil, salt, pepper, herbs and water/yeast mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix together, adding additional water 1 tablespoon at a time until all of the flour has been picked up and forms a ball. Knead about 10 minutes, or until dough passes the "windowpane test" (tear off a small piece of dough and stretch it, it should be somewhat translucent instead of tearing).

Spray a large bowl with olive oil spray, form the dough into a ball and place in bowl, tossing around to coat the bread. Cover with plastic and let rise for 1-4 hours until doubled in size. Mine was good to go after about 2 hours.

Spray a 6-8 quart dutch oven with more olive oil spray, and place it in the oven while it preheats to 450 degrees. Punch down dough and form into a smooth ball. Transfer the dough to the hot dutch oven (carefully)! Cut a large, deep "X" into the top of the dough. Cover and bake about 20 minutes. Remove lid and continue baking for about 15-25 more minutes until the top is crusty and light golden brown.