Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hot Buttered Pretzels!

On a cold, winter day, what could be better than hot, buttery bread? Hot Buttered Pretzels, of course! Follow the recipe to a T and you'll have pretzels to die for! If you have unsalted butter, it really does make the difference. We used salted, and with the gourmet/coarse salt, it was too salty.

This recipe comes from the King Arthur Flour website. Better than Aunt Annies by a MILE!

Pretzels are available crisp and hard from your grocery or, if you're lucky and in the right place, soft and chewy from street vendors. Our recipe is for the soft, chewy kind.
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons regular instant yeast
7/8 to 1 cup warm water*

1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
coarse, kosher or pretzel salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
*Use the greater amount in the winter, the lesser amount in the summer, and somewhere in between in the spring and fall. Your goal is a soft dough.

Food Processor Method: Place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the work bowl of a food processor equipped with the steel blade. Process for 5 seconds. Add the water, and process for 7 to 10 seconds, until the dough starts to clear the sides of the bowl. Process a further 45 seconds. Place a handful of flour in a bowl, scoop the slack dough into the bowl, and shape the dough into a ball, coating it with the flour. Transfer the dough to a plastic bag, close the bag loosely, leaving room for the dough to expand, and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Bread Machine Method: Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine, program the machine for Dough or Manual, and press Start. Allow the dough to proceed through its two kneading cycles, then cancel the machine, flour the dough, and give it a rest in a plastic bag, as instructed above.

Manual/Mixer Method: Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat till well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, till it's soft, smooth, and quite slack. Flour the dough and place it in a bag, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 500°F. Prepare two baking sheets by spraying them with vegetable oil spray, or lining them with parchment paper.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces (about 70g, or 2 1/2 ounces, each). Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the 1/2 cup warm water and the baking soda, and place it in a shallow bowl. Make sure the baking soda is thoroughly dissolved; if it isn't, it'll make your pretzels splotchy.

Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 28 to 30 inches long), and twist each rope into a pretzel, as illustrated. Dip each pretzel in the baking soda wash (this will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color), and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they're golden brown, reversing the baking sheets halfway through.

Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you've used it all up; it may seem like a lot, but that's what gives these pretzels their ethereal taste. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave. Yield: 8 pretzels.

Chicken Potpie

It's a Level Three out there, which means that the heavy snow and cold weather has forced me to stay inside my midwestern home, spend time with my family and make some delicious comfort foods.

Fortunately for me, yesterday was shopping day, so I was blessed to have a reasonably full pantry and well-stocked refrigerator, including several pounds of fresh chicken breasts. After thinking it over for a while, I decided that today was most definitely a chicken potpie day. A quick check of the recipe confirmed that I had all that I needed to make the meal, and I had, of course, plenty of time, so by dinnertime, the potpie was served, steaming hot and gratefully received.

Whether you find yourself blessed with a snow day or not, I think you'll enjoy this delicious all-in-one meal, featuring an herbed variation of Pate Brise, adapted from the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook.


Chicken Potpie

Chicken and Broth:

Three chicken breasts or one 4 lb chicken
1 quart of homemade broth or low-sodium broth
1 large yellow onion, cut in half
2 dried bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 small bunch of fresh time, or a teaspoon of dried
1 celery stalk, cut into thirds

Combine in a stock pot and add enough water just to cover the chicken. Cover and bring the stock to a boil, rudce heat and simmer, uncovered for an hour.

Pate Brise for Chicken Potpie

1 cup of flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
10 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons ice water
1 large egg yolk

Combine the flour, salt and thyme in the bowl of a food processor, fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to mix.

Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, not longer than about fifteen seconds.

With the processor running, add the ice water and the egg yolk, processing until the dough holds together.

Turn the dough onto a flat surface, pat into a disc, wrap well and refrigerate for at least one hour.


5 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cups red or russett potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
12 pearl onions or two small cooking onions, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces (if pearl onions are large)
1 medium leek, white and pale-green parts, sliced int 1/4 inch-thick rounds, well-washed (I omitted this in this batch because leeks are out-of-season and expensive right now)
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into thick rounds
6 ounces white button mushrooms, if you like them, cut into quarters, if large
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of flour
1 cup of milk
2 tablespoons fresh or two teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Drain the chicken and reserve the stock. Remove the skin from the chicken, if using a whole chicken, and remove all chicken from the carcass. Shred the meat into bite-sized pieces (good job for little fingers) and set aside.

Strain the stock, keeping two cups of liquid aside. Save the rest for another use, like rice or potatoes or a noodle soup.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees farenheit. Melt five tablespoons of butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and onions and cook,stirring occasionally, for about five minutes, until potatoes begin to turn golden.

Add leek, carrots, and mushrooms; cook five minutes more.

Add flour and cook, stirring, for one minute. Stir in the reserved chicken broth and the milk, bringing to a simmer. Cook until thick and bubbly, 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chicken pieces, parsley, 2 teaspoons of salt, thyme, lemon zest, and pepper. Transfer to an ovenproof casserole. Set aside.

Roll out the dough until it's 1/4 inch thick and transfer to a baking sheet. Transfer to the refrigerator and allow the dough to chill for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and cream. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and, working quickly, place the dough over the chicken mixture, tucking the extras under arond the edges. Cut slits in the crust to allow steam to escape. Brush with the egg wash, place on a baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve hot.