Monday, June 8, 2009

Soft Pretzels

Whew. This recipe is a doozy. (Wonder when I last used the word doozy?)

But it is SO worth it!

I made these a couple months ago, so sadly I have no pictures. I'm planning on making them again for a picnic later this month, so I'll update with pictures. In the meantime, Smitten Kitchen has great pictures here.
If you have any questions with the directions, let me know!

Soft Pretzels (18 regular or 36 miniature pretzels, 2 1/2 - 3 hours total)
2 cups warm water (100°F to 110°F)
3 TB sugar, divided
1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons canola or other neutral oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt
Cooking spray

1. YEAST (10 min): In large bowl, stir together 2 c warm water and 1 TB sugar. Sprinkle with yeast. Let sit for 10 min until yeast is slightly foamy.

2. DOUGH (10 min): Add 1 c flour to yeast and mix until combined. Add salt and 4 c flour, mixing until combined. Beat on med-low until dough pulls away from the bowl, about 1 1/2 min. Add another 1/2 c flour and mix until flour is incorporated into the dough. If dough is still too wet and quite sticky, add another 1/2 c of flour. (A little stickiness is okay) Place dough on floured surface. Knead 10 times or until smooth.

3. RISING (1 hour): Coat sides of a large bowl with oil. Place dough in bowl and turn dough to coat it with oil. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel. Set in warm place to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

4. DIVIDING (10 min): Preheat oven to 450. Spray 3 baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Knead 1-2 times on floured surface. Divide dough into 16 equal pieces for regular sized pretzels or 32 pieces for miniature pretzels. Place dough pieces on plates and cover with plastic wrap.

5. SHAPING (20 min): On unfloured surface, roll one piece of dough at a time to make an approximately 18 inch long strip (regular pretzels) or 10 inch long strip (mini pretzels). Twist into pretzel shape and place on baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining dough pieces. 6-8 regular pretzels will fit on each baking sheet. Let pretzels rest until they rise slightly, about 15 min.

6. POACHING (20 min): Meanwhile, find the largest, shallow pot that you have. Fill with about 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Add 2 TB sugar and 1/4 c baking soda. STEP BACK! The water will foam up and probably make a mess all over your stove. It's okay. Reduce water to a simmer. Transfer 2 regular pretzels or 4 mini pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute on each side. Set a timer; the pretzels' appearance does not change much, so it is difficult to estimate the time. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels back to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached.

7. BAKING (15-45 min): Beat egg with 1 TB water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden, about 12-15 min for regular pretzels. (I'm sorry! I can't remember how long the mini ones took. I think it was about 11 min. You should be able to tell by watching them. I baked the pretzels one sheet at a time rather than all 3 sheets at once. This way I could perfect my cooking time.) Cool on wire rack or eat warm. Pretzels are best eaten the same day, but will keep up to 2 days in uncovered container at room temperature. If you cover them, they will get soggy.

*I have not tried halving this recipe. If you try it, halve the Yeast and Dough ingredients, but do NOT halve the Poaching ingredients. Make sense?
*If you want, you can do steps 1-5 at night and then steps 6-7 the next day. If doing this, after forming the pretzels, put them on a baking sheet and cover with oiled (oil side down) plastic warp. They'll rise slowly in the fridge overnight (possibly up to 24 hours). The next day, allow them to get back to room temperature before poaching and baking.
*Martha Stewart has pictures of how she twists her pretzels. However, I didn't twist mine correctly, and they still turned out.

Cost: Storemade: $4 for a box of 8? ,Homemade: $1.04 for 18

Love 'em. Couldn't stop eating 'em. I definitely prefer the miniature pretzels. They are the perfect serving size. The storemade soft pretzels are incomparable to these. Homemade ones are perfect right out of the oven. Soft, warm, and just the right amount of chewiness. They were definitely worth the time and effort! Plus, they only cost about $1!

My Inspiration: Smitten Kitchen and Martha Stewart

Friday, June 5, 2009

Maple Apple Crisp

There are some foods that always bring back childhood memories.

My mom's apple crisp is one of them.

I remember it sitting on the kitchen table while Mom finished making supper. We would crowd around waiting for supper, staring at the apple crisp, and waiting for one of us to be brave enough to sneak a taste of the topping. Eventually Mom would move it to the kitchen counter out of our reach.

Her apple crisp was always served slightly warm, occasionally warm enough to make the Cool Whip start melting on top.

This isn't my mom's exact apple crisp, but it's a neat twist with a lot of versatility. (Mom's apple crisp will be coming soon!)

Maple Apple Crisp (6 servings, 45 min)

5-6 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/3 c maple syrup
1/2 c flour
1/2 c rolled oats
1/2 c brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 c butter, softenend

1. Preheat oven to 375. Place apples in 8x8 baking dish. Drizzle maple syrup on top.

2. In separate bowl, mix together flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over apples.

3. Bake for 35 minutes. Serve warm.

*Whole wheat flour can be substituted without anyone noticing.
*This recipe calls for 1/4 c butter (or margarine). Using 1/4 c butter results in a crumbly topping. If you prefer a more buttery, moist topping, add 2 more TB of butter.
*This recipe is best when made with real maple syrup, but it will work with imitation.
*Can be microwaved 8-11 min or until heated through (great alternative to the oven on a hot summer day!)

Cost: about $2.00
Part of the beauty of this recipe is its versatility. I have made it many times with varying amounts of butter, maple syrup, and types of oats (old fashioned or quick). Each time it's been delicious. It definitely is best warm. The topping is crisp and the maple syrup keeps the apples sweet and soft. This dessert is a great way to use up bruised apples!

My inspiration: My mom's recipe and allrecipes

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Whole Wheat Pitas

(I promise this will be the last pita post this week. Try them. You'll get addicted, too.)

I secretly prefer the taste of white bread, even though I always make wheat.

Pitas are the exception. While white pitas are good, I definitely prefer whole wheat pitas.

This whole wheat pita recipe uses 1 part whole wheat flour to 2 parts all purpose flour. If you want a fully whole wheat pita, you would need to add gluten to the ingredients. (I haven't figured out exactly what gluten is...let alone found it in the store yet)

Whole Wheat Pitas (8 whole pitas, 3 hours)

1 1/4 c warm water
1 tsp honey
1/4 c oil (extra virgin olive oil adds the most flavor)
2 c bread flour (all-purpose can be used)
1 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt

**If you have a bread machine, put all ingredients into bread machine in order listed. Use the dough cycle. Then skip to Step 3.**

1. In large bowl, combine yeast, honey, and 1/2 c warm water. Let sit for 5 min until foamy. Stir in oil, salt, and remaining water. Gradually mix in flour until a dough forms. Knead 8-10 min until you have a smooth, elastic ball.
2. Place dough in bowl, lightly oil the top, and cover with a kitchen towel. Set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, until almost doubled.
3. Punch down dough and divide into 8 balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a 6-7 inch circle. As you roll out dough, place rounds on lightly floured surface and cover with a towel. Let rise for about 30 minutes, until slightly puffy. (They will still be thin) While rising, preheat oven to 500.

4. Place 2-3 rounds at a time, side-by-side, on a cooling wire rack. Bake for 5 minutes or until puffy.
5. Remove from oven and wrap breads in a damp kitchen towel to keep them soft. Allow breads to completely cool.

*Pitas can be refrigerated in a ziploc bag for 2-3 days.
*I have only done this recipe with a bread machine - if you try it by hand, let me know!
*This recipe can be halved with great results.
There's some indescribable innate satisfaction in making your own pitas...makes me feel like a pioneer or something like that.


Cost: Storemade: $2.98 for 6, Homemade: $0.50 for 8

I will now be making whole wheat pitas instead of white pitas. These were delightfully soft and chewy, yet wholesome. As with the white pitas, they are much cheaper and higher quality than storemade pitas. There really is no comparison when it comes to taste. Of course, storemade pitas are convenient and I'm sure I'll still buy them occasionally. Now I just need to try freezing these!

And yes, the whole wheat ones puff up in the oven just like white ones.

My inspiration: recipe significantly modified directions

Today's Lesson: Always remember to put the blade back on the bread machine. It doesn't work without it. (Yup, had the dough cycle running and randomly noticed the blade sitting on the counter)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Taco Pitas

I'm not very photogenic.

Neither are ground beef and cheese.

I tried my hardest to display the true tastiness of this meal.

These were so good that they made me break my cardinal rule: Do not make the same thing for supper twice in one week.

(As soon as Andy reads this, he's going to think we can have pizza 2-3 times a week again...not happening.)

Here's my new favorite way to stuff pitas:

Taco Pitas (4 servings, 40 min)

1 lb ground beef
1 package taco seasoning (or 3 TB homemade)
1/2 can diced tomatoes, undrained (a standard can is about 10 oz, so you need about 5 oz)
1/3 c water
1 c shredded Mexican cheese
1 green pepper, chopped
8 pita halves

1. Brown ground beef in skillet over med-high heat. Drain. In skillet, add taco seasoning, tomatoes, and water to ground beef. Mix well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 15 min or until thickened. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350.

2. Fill pita halves with ground beef mixture. Top beef mixture with cheese and green peppers. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 10 min or until cheese is melted.

*This recipe is extrememly versatile. You can add onions or any toppings you'd like. You can also substitute diced tomatoes with green chilis or even salsa in place of the tomatoes.
*I usually halve or even quarter this recipe. I also cut the amount of ground beef in half and it still tastes great and provides plenty of filling for the pitas.
*I prefer whole wheat pitas with this recipe. Of course, I'm biased toward homemade ones.

Cost: $4.10

I have to thank my mom for this recipe. It's staying in our rotation! These pitas are full of flavor and so easy to eat! I loved how the ground beef didn't make a mess all over my plate. This recipe's staple ingredients make it an easy meal to pull together at the last minute, especially when I have frozen pitas on hand.

My inspiration: Mom
For my recipe ideas, visit Tempt My Tummy Tuesday

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Apple Chips

Healthy it really a snack if it's healthy?

It doesn't seem like it. Snacking is my downfall.

Pretzels, candy, cookies, pretty much anything on the counter can end up in my stomach during the afternoon.

I've been trying to find healthy snacks. I like dried fruit, but it is so expensive!

Here are my apple chips - a tasty snack - and a good way to use up some of the 10 lbs of apples I bought on sale a couple weeks ago.

I'm such a sucker for sales.

Apple Chips a la Martha Stewart (1 serving (about 20 chips), 3 hours)

1 apple, unpeeled (preferably Granny Smith or Ida Red)
1 c sugar
1 c water
1/2 TB oil

1. Preheat oven to 175. Combine sugar and water in medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat, until sugar is dissolved. Meanwhile, core and halve apple. Slice into almost paper-thin pieces using knife or mandolin.

2. Place 5-6 apple slices in sugar water. Simmer for 20 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon and place on wire rack to drain. Repeat with remaining apple slices.

3. Lightly brush 1 baking sheet with oil. Arrange apples in single layer. Bake apples until crisp, about 2 1/2 - 3 hours.

*Store chips in airtight container for up to 2 days.
*You can double this recipe by using two apples. You do not need to increase the sugar water solution when doubling the recipe.

Cost: Storemade: $2.98 for a bag (3 servings), Homemade: $0.10 for 1 serving

Homemade apple chips are a satisfying snack. These chips are sweet, yet retain some of the tartness of Granny Smith apples. I was impressed with how the chips did not curl or discolor. In the future, I would make more apples at the same time to make the process more worthwhile. Plus, these are definitely cheaper than storemade chips!

My inspiration: Martha Stewart's Healthy Quick Cook Book (but mine don't look quite as nice as hers)

Today's Lesson: Always cook with contacts in or glasses on. Otherwise you might end up putting in only 1/3 the amount of flour needed for chocolate chip muffins and 3 times the amount of lemon juice needed for an apple pie. The muffins turn into buttery, sugary blobs. The pie tastes more like lemons than apples.

You will not be getting either of those recipes

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pita Pockets

Stuffing pita pockets is tough.

The fillings won't fit.
Everything looks smashed in.

Sometimes the whole thing busts open.

I quit buying them to avoid feeling like a failure. So when I saw this recipe at Tammy's Recipes, I was excited to try it out.

It was everything she claimed!

Homemade Pita Pockets (8 pockets/16 halves, 2 hours)
1 c warm water
1 TB oil
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
3 c flour
1 1/2 tsp yeast

**If you have a bread machine, put all ingredients into bread machine in order listed. Use the dough cycle. Then skip to Step 3.**

1. Combine water, oil, salt, and sugar. Mix in 1 cup of flour and yeast. Add remaining flour and knead to make a soft dough. (Add additional flour if necessary.)

2. Place dough in bowl, lightly oil the top, and cover. Set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, until almost doubled.

3. Punch down dough and place on lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 8 balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a 6-7 inch circle. As you roll out dough, place rounds on lightly floured surface and cover with a towel. Let rise for about 30 minutes, until slightly puffy. (They will still be thin) While rising, preheat oven to 500.

4. Place 2-3 rounds at a time, side-by-side, on a cooling wire rack. Bake for 4-5 minutes until puffy. Remove from oven as soon as any brown appears on the top.

5. Remove from oven and wrap breads in a damp kitchen towel to keep them soft. Allow breads to completely cool.

*Pitas can be refrigerated in a ziploc bag for 2-3 days.
*This recipe can be halved with great results.

(You do not want your pitas to have dark brown spots on the bottom like in this picture. They will be stiff. If this happens, lessen the time in the oven.)


Cost: Storemade: $2.98 for 6, Homemade: $0.55 for 8!
These homemade pitas were surprisingly simple to make, especially with the bread machine. I will definitely continue making them. They were also delicious! They were so soft and pliable. I was able to fill the pitas easily without any cracking or breaking. The hole was plenty big! There was no comparison to storemade pitas.

Plus, it was fun to watch them puff up in the oven.

My inspiration: Tammy's Recipes' Homemade Pita Pockets

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Peanut Butter Brownie Cups

Gooey peanut butter and chocolate with a warm brownie?


So wonderful that I wish I had a tupperware container with a lock and key. Then I'd give Andy the key to take to work so that I don't eat 4 of them tomorrow.

They are much better than anything at the store. Plus there's an innate satisfaction derived from making them yourself rather than sticking refrigerated dough on a cookie sheet.

Peanut Butter Brownie Cups (12 cups, 1 hour)
3/4 c sugar
1/4 c unsalted butter, softenend
1 TB water
1 3/4 c chocolate chips, divided
1 c peanut butter chips, divided
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 c flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 c creamy peanut butter

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease or spray 12 muffin cups.
2. In large bowl, microwave sugar, water, and butter for 1 minute or until butter melts. Stir in 3/4 c of chocolate chips until melted. Stir in vanilla and egg. Blend in flour and baking soda. Allow to cool to room temperature.
3. Stir in 1/2 c of chocolate chips and 1/2 c of peanut butter chips. Spoon batter by heaping tablespoonfuls into muffin cups.
4. Bake for 13-15 minutes. The middles will still look soft. Place tin on wire rack. Centers of brownies will fall while cooling. If not, tap center with teaspoon to make a hole.
5. While brownies are still warm, microwave peanut butter in small bowl for 45 seconds. Stir. Spoon a heaping teaspoonful into each brownie center. Top with desired amount of remaining chocolate and peanut butter chips. Allow to cool in pan. Eat warm from pan!

*All mixing can be done by hand


Cost: Homemade: $2.60

These were definitely best eaten warm. The brownie is moist and rich. The peanut butter middle just melts into the brownie. I loved the look of the chips on top. Since I had extra melted peanut butter, next time I will drizzle it over the brownie cups to add a fancy touch These would be perfect to take to a party. Clearly there are no health benefits and not much of a cost savings, but the taste makes me forget about that stuff anyways!