Posts Tagged ‘Yeast’

Soft Pretzels

I’ve had this post in draft form for more than a week, waiting for inspiration to strike.  I have come up with nothing profound to say about these soft, chewy, salty knots of pleasure, except they are delicious, remarkably easy, and were a huge hit at Morgan’s class Halloween party.  That’s all I got.  Hope you’ll try them.

Soft Pretzels

Adapted from Alton Brown


1½ cups warm water (110-115° F)
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
22 oz. all-purpose flour (about 4½ cups)
4 Tbsp. melted butter*


Cooking spray
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. water*
Pretzel (or kosher) salt

Combine 1 1/2 cups warm water, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Mix on low speed (or just use a spoon) to dissolve the yeast.  Add in the flour and melted butter and mix just until the dough comes together. Knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly sprayed with Pam or other cooking spray, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap or a damp clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place, about 50-55 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 450° F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray. Bring the water and baking soda to a boil in a large wide saucepan or skillet.  In the meantime, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces for large pretzels, or 16 pieces for smaller pretzels (perfect for kids).  I found that the large pretzels weighed about 4 oz. each, the small ones, half of that. Working with one piece at a time, roll a segment out into a 24-inch long rope (12 inches for the small ones).  Make a U-shape with the rope and holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and onto the bottom of the U-shape in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment lined baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 or 2 at a time, for 30 seconds.  Remove from the water with a slotted skimmer, drain well before returning to the baking sheet.  Once all the pretzels have been boiled, brush the tops with the egg wash (if using) and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Bake in the preheated oven until dark golden brown, about 12-14 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

* I made these pretzels in vegan form, due to some extreme allergies among Morgan’s classmates.  I substituted Earth Balance vegan spread for butter, and omitted the egg wash.  The results were very good, and the vegan dairy-free version was nearly as delicious and beautiful as the original recipe.

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Sunshine Breakfast Rolls

We had houseguests over the long Memorial Day weekend. Having good friends visit is so much fun, and I enjoy the excuse to put on a good spread. At the same time, though, I want to be spending my time visiting, not by myself in the kitchen. I’ve learned a few tricks to help me serve some nice meals while also enjoying myself. I emphasize good food that’s not fussy and keep the number of dishes that require last-minute attention to a minimum. I try to make side dishes and dessert ahead of time, and I’ve come to appreciate main dishes that bubble away on the stove or roast in the oven while we all enjoy appetizers and drinks. Of course, it’s always great if Larry grills a nice piece of meat out on the deck for dinner, which can be dressed up with a sauce I’ve put together that afternoon.

The same idea works for a special breakfast.  I like guests to wake up to something special, but I don’t want to have to get up at o’dark hundred to cook it for them! On Sunday, I served these scrumptious sweet rolls, along with fruit salad, scrambled eggs and bacon. I actually made these rolls weeks before, and froze them for occasions like this.  On Saturday night, I pulled out a pan of rolls, and let them thaw on the counter overnight. I also threw together a quick fruit salad and stuck it in the fridge, along with the orange glaze for the rolls.  Sunday morning, all I had to do was set out the fruit salad, scramble up the eggs and bacon, warm the rolls in the microwave for a quick minute, drizzle on the glaze, and sit down to enjoy a great breakfast with good friends.

These rolls are a delightful alternative to the traditional cinnamon roll, made with orange marmalade and studded with diced apricot.  I was inspired by Ree Drummond of the great blog, The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  If you haven’t checked her out, you should.  She’s a superstar in the food blogging world, yet very down-to-earth and endearing.

Sunshine Breakfast Rolls

Makes 20-24 rolls, which can be divided into three 9″ cake or pie pans.

Basic Sweet Dough Ingredients:

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup butter or margarine

2 packages active dry yeast

1/3 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)

3 eggs, room temperature

5 cups all-purpose flour

grated fresh nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

Filling ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, melted (You might not use all of this, and that’s okay.  There’s always something to do with leftover butter.)

1/2 cup Sweet Orange Marmalade, warmed enough to spread

1 cup brown sugar (I used dark, but you could use light)

1 cup dried apricots, diced


Place milk, sugar, salt, and butter in small saucepan.  Heat and stir gently until butter melts and sugar dissolves.  Cool to lukewarm.

dissolve yeast in warm water.  Add lukewarm milk mixture, eggs, spices, and 4 1/2 cups flour.  Attach bowl and dough hook to mixer.  Turn to Speed 2 and mix about 2 minutes.  Continuing on Speed 2, add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing after each addition until dough clings to hook and cleans sides of bowl.  Knead in the mixer for two more minutes.

You must use your senses and your good judgement here.  Flour varies in its moisture content, and measuring it is surprisingly inexact.  Watch the dough and add only enough flour until the dough forms into a cohesive ball and (mostly) cleans the sides of the bowl.  You are looking for a smooth elasticity.  It should not be very sticky, but you should be able to knead it easily.  I find that I use about 5 1/2 cups of flour, total, in this recipe, but you might need more.  Or less. There is no substitute for careful observation and your own good judgement.

Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top.  Cover with plastic wrap or damp clean kitchen towel.  Let rise in a warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour, or until dough is doubled in bulk.

After dough has risen, punch down and roll out on lightly floured surface, in a long rectangle (more or less 10″ x 24″), to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Brush with melted butter and warmed sweet marmalade.  Spread brown sugar evenly, but not too thick.  Sprinkle diced apricots over the brown sugar.

Starting along the top (long) edge, roll the dough towards you, stretching it to keep it tight.  Cut the long roll into 20-24 pieces (depending on how thick you like them).  Place them in greased pans.  This recipe will fill two 13″ x 9″ pans (with about 12 rolls apiece), or three 9″ cake pans, with about 7 rolls each.  Alternatively, you can bake them on cookie sheets, separated so that they don’t mush together.  This will give you more crust and less fluffy sides, but this has it’s charms, too.

Cover lightly and let rise in warm place, free from drafts, 30-45 minutes.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes.  After 10 minutes, remove from pans.  Spoon Orange Glaze over the rolls immediately prior to serving.

Orange Glaze


3 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

1/8 tsp salt

Zest of one orange

Freshly squeezed juice of same orange


Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add sugar and salt, gradually, beating until smooth.  Add zest and 4 Tbsp juice, dribbling in extra juice until glaze is the consistency you want. (Thicker, if you want to spread it, thinner if you want to drizzle it.)  If you overdo it, and add too much juice, just add a little extra powdered sugar to thicken the glaze up again.

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