Friday, August 24, 2012

Pretzels, pretzels!

Avoiding shopping malls at all costs is such a good idea. Not because of the temptation to buy every cute little something in every store window. Not even because of the hordes of stinky teenagers who lurk around all day. It's because of the pretzels. Dripping in butter, piled on salt, big as your head, chewy pretzels. They smell so good, yet are much too much as a "simple snack for one." (I've obviously committed this crime more than once.) Plus, sometimes they cost as much as a salad or a sandwich. And it's just bread.

I've had this on the list to make for over a year now, so now's the time. Break out the flour, water, salt, yeast. Let's make these thangs. Honestly, these taste like the REAL DEAL (okay, the real mall deal). They are salty, a little 'buttery' and super chewy. However, they are homemade (think: the mall pretzel smell, in your home), more manageable in size and have no butter whatsoever. Plus, the salt content is lessened so you won't choke.

Homemade Pretzels
Chewy, pull-apart pretzels. Great plain, with a little salt and butter, or even cinnamon-sugar. Easier than you'd think.
Adapted from here

Makes 16 palm-sized pretzels
1  1/2 C warm water
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 Packet of Yeast (2 1/4 t.)
1 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Oil or Butter
4  1/2 C Flour
1/2 C Baking Soda
Course Salt

1 Prepare the dough: 
  •  Mix water, sugar and yeast in a large mixing bowl and let sit 10 minutes.
  •  Stir in the salt, oil, and 2 cups of flour. (Use your mixer for this, if you have one.) Then, stir in a much additional flour as you can. Knead for 7-8 minutes, adding flour as necessary.
2 Rest the dough:
  • Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest in a warm place for 1 hour.
  • After 45 minutes or so, bring 8 cups of water and 1/2 cup baking soda to a boil. Preheat the oven to 450.
3 Form the pretzels
  • Punch down the dough and divide into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope 12-16 inches long. To form pretzel shape, fold rope in half, twist twice and fold over. Press lightly to stick everything together and place directly into boiling water. (See photo above.)
4 Boil the pretzels
  • Boil each pretzel for 1-2 minutes, turning once. With tongs or a slotted spoon gently transfer to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with course salt. 
5 Bake the pretzels
  • Bake the pretzels on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Immediately transfer to a cooling rack. Try to let them cool enough as to not burn your mouth! Eat and enjoy.
The Cinnamon Version
These were way easier to make than I thought. Keeping them in the pretzel shape in the boiling water was the trickiest, but it just meant that I didn't press the dough down enough when forming them. No biggie. I hope you try making these...they are super yummy!
Happy eating!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Portland and such

I didn't know a lot about our new city before we arrived here.

-smaller than Seattle (turns out not much smaller)
-really far from Texas (but swest flies here)
-lots of Liberals (a mixture)
-rain, rain (only 1 hr of rain in the last 2 weeks)

Portland (so far) is different than my preconceived notions. I mean, we sort of jumped into this cross-country move head first. (I knew lots more about other cities like San Diego, Denver, NYC, Miami, but Portland seemed like the right place.) And-truth be told-settling in has been a process. We will retire the lovely air mattress for our own bed and furniture in a few days, & I'm thrilled. But here are the top 5 things that have surprised me about Portland so far:
1. It is gorgeous!! Trees, shrubs, bushes and enough flowers to meet Ladybird Johnson's standards.
2. People are friendly and many are not from here. In TX, most non-native borns are from Oklahoma or Louisiana but not here. I've met Brits, Alaskans and many Canadians. Accents are fun.
3. The weather thus far is gorgeous. A 70-degree August day is unheard of in many places, but not here.
4. Coffee shops almost everywhere...this might have to be a line item in our family budget.
5. Lots to explore...many memorials, gardens, trails, parks, rivers/lakes and all sorts of outdoorsy stuff I've never done before. Exciting!

I'll show you more as we experience it in the coming months. Happy Monday to ya. So far, so good here in the City of Roses! (more on that tomorrow)

And a little strawberry apricot oats with apricots from our neighborhood farmers market!