Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bretzl madness

I have been a woman on a mission. That mission is really frickin' good pretzels, since the stuff they sell on the street here tastes a bit like cab exhaust, pigeon body odor, and frustration.
But I'm not being a trendoid. My desires preceded this NYTimes article on WednesdayI've had my eye on them since Deb reposted her mini pretzel recipe back in February. But I never did get around to it. Plus, I wanted a 1/2 whole wheat recipe (you saw that coming, right?) I found these recipes, and drew on them, plus the Smitten Kitchen and NYTimes one, to hopefully create an amazing, soft, 1/2 whole wheat pretzel.
However, prior to the Times article, I had not idea about the the lye bath, as the other recipes I've read have only mentioned a baking soda bath. Evidently, lye is the key to slightly bitter, dark crust of an authentic German pretzel. Ich will Laugenbrezeln machen. Ich muss! (My Deutsch is rusty, so many apologies if this made you laugh).
I mentioned to Blokey that I wanted to make German-style pretzels, he seemed dubious about the safety and necessity of this all. I found a heated discussion on Chowhound, and I decided to go for it. Next time. For yesterday's dinner, I went with what I had on hand.

Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels (based loosely on this recipe from StephChows)
2 teaspoons of active dry yeast, proofed in about 1/2 c. of warm water
1/4-1/2 c. water
1 c. of all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. of whole wheat flour
2 Tbs of brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tbs olive oil

Mix the proofed yeast and liquid with the other ingredients. I went with just under a half cup of water. Knead about 5 minutes. Cover with a damp tea towel and let it rise for about an hour or until doubled.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees, F.
Cut the dough into 12 roughly equivalent pieces. The roll them out into longish strands. I floured my cutting board, but others say you don't have to. Let them rest, and then roll out again, until the are between 12-15 inches long.

Then twist the rolls into pretzel shapes. I tried following my Peter Reinhart but but I ended up just doing whatevs. See here for a tutorial.

Next prepare the soda bath. I boiled about 2 cups of water in a pan (about 2 inches) and then lowered it to simmer, dumped about 4 Tablespoons of baking soda, and used a slotted spoon to get them into the bath. Let the pretzel parboil for about 1 minute, then remove and place on lightly greased/floured/parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
Sprinkle coarse sea salt over the still wet pretzels, and then stick them in the oven for 8-10 minutes. When they are a satisfactory shade of golden brown, they are good to go.
Serve warm, with mustard and some kind of wurst. We ate Tofurky Beer Brats. Mistake. Evidently, I am supposed to go with the Boca ones.

The verdict? They were pretty good. Better than that dusty one I had on 59th St. a few weeks ago. But nothing really to write home about. Blokey didn't really eat much of them, and the Brats were uber disappointing. But I'm not quitter. Sometime this week, as I'm done grading (almost), I am venturing over to the Brooklyn Kitchen to get some food grade lye. Bitter, dark and beautiful pretzels will be mine!!!

I prepared this by throwing some oil in the pan, sauteeing up 1/2 a sliced onion, and after that became brown, adding the veggie brats. And a wee bit of beer.

Blokey hates sauerkraut, or sauer-anything. It's sad, since kimchi is practically in my blood, and it's just sauerkraut minus caraway, plus loads of garlic, hot peppers, and sometime some really stinky, briny baby shrimp. Sautéed thin sliced Brussels sprouts to the rescue:
I had these in a posh tapas place in Fort Greene. So simple. Chop the ends of washed Brussels sprouts. Thinly sliced them in one direction, and then julienne. Chop up 2 cloves of garlic, and warm up 2 glugs of olive oil in the pan. Over quite high heat, add the garlic for about a minute, and then add all the sliced sprouts. Stir and enjoy the smells. Remove from heat when they are slightly carmelized.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cooking again

I am a bad food blogger. Mostly because I have been cooking the same meals over and over again, and thus nothing new to post. But now with school almost over, I plan to have more adventures. The Crown Heights CSA starts again in a few weeks, and I am super excited.
Before I left on a nice trip to Delaware this weekend, I did make bread for Blokey, and then a quick dinner. This dinner was inspired by Smitten Kitchen's smashed chickpea salad, but I didn't read the recipe, just went off the mental image. I actually think of this as a vegan egg salad more than anything else.
I served this on homemade bread, which I haven't had luck with recently. This loaf turned out pretty frickin' yummy though (I added a little extra yeast). Whole thing (not including the bread) took about 8 minutes.

Vegan "egg" salad sandwiches
Good bread (not the pre sliced kind) or crackers
1 tomato, thinly sliced
some kind of green (we used about a handful of argula)
1 green onion, chopped finely
2 1/2 cups of well cooked chickpeas, or 2 14 oz. cans of chickpeas, drained
Kosher deli style mustard (anything that's not French's)
salt, pepper
lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
various dried spices (we used oregano and basil)
Anything else on hand (shredded carrots, peanut butter or tahini, etc.)

1. Mash up the beans with a potato masher. Don't worry about making it too fine.

2. Mix it all up in medium sized bowl (except the tomatoes) to taste. I liked a lot of mustard but you can go for less. Yo could also forgo mustard and use mayo or just olive oil. We are fans of whole grain mustard (I bought 3 different kinds of mustard today from Fairway. It's like caviar for flexitarians like me).

3. Spread on pieces of bread. Top with tomatoes, thin slices of cheese (if you're not vegan), more greens, paprika, etc.. Eat. Still hungry? Spend 6 minutes make a few more