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My Favorite Cinnamon Bread

24 Jan

You’re thinking I said cinnamon raisin bread. But I didn’t. Raisins, as far as I’m concerned, have no business in baked goods, and especially have no business in something as perfect as this amazing, comforting, perfect loaf of yumminess.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, this was a recipe from the old standard Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book that I’ve doctored up. And the doctoring has led to a slightly sweeter, slightly crunchier cinnamon bread that’s reminiscent of a cinnamon roll. Yummy for a snack, divine for breakfast, and y’all, this stuff makes some seriously kick butt French toast.

You should go make some. Right now. Before your kids get home from school, so you can enjoy the first amazing slice all by yourself. And I’m going to stop talking just so you can. You need:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

2/3 cup milk

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp butter

1 tbsp light brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

Another 1/4 cup brown sugar

Another 1 tsp cinnamon

Measure your milk into a Pyrex cup or microwaveable bowl. Add the regular sugar and the butter and nuke it for about a minute, until it’s warmer than body temperature but not hot.

While that’s nuking up, pour your flour, yeast, egg, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon into your bread machine (or into the bowl of your mixer). Add the warm milk mixture and either set your bread machine for the dough cycle and walk away, or gently mix everything together, knead it with your hands or a dough hook for five minutes, put it into a greased bowl, cover it with a clean dishtowel, and let it rise until doubled, which will be about 45 minutes.

Once your bread machine is done and/or your dough has risen, heat your oven to 375 degrees and spray a loaf pan with your nonstick goodness of choice. Punch the dough down and set it on a floured countertop, and then spread a little flour on top of it too–it’s going to be sticky. Roll it out into a rectangle about as wide as your loaf pan and maybe 18 inches long.

In a small bowl, combine your 1/4 cup of brown sugar and your teaspoon of cinnamon.

Gently brush your dough with water and spread the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture all over the top of it. It’ll be a very thin layer–do not freak out. Starting with a narrow end, tightly roll the dough up and then lay the roll in your bread pan. Cover it with a clean dishtowel, give it a half-hour to rise, and then bake it for a half-hour, until it’s done.

Perfect Little Lemon Cookies

23 Jan

The weather this weekend was nothing short of disgusting–cold and wet and bone-shivering and nothing I wanted to be out in, especially with the head cold that attacked me in the middle of the grocery store yesterday morning. I left the house exactly three times: once for church and dinner out with my family, once to go to the market, and once to go to a birthday celebration lunch. That was it.

Bring on spring. And bring on my Kitchen Aid, because something about baking up a yummy treat lifts the spirit when the weather outside is nasty. This recipe fit both cravings quite nicely.

This started out as a recipe I tore out of Bon Appetit magazine. The original called for not much lemon in the actual cookies, and slathering them with lemon icing. We’re not much for iced cookies around here, and so I just bumped up the lemon in the batter itself to make a plain lemon icebox cookie.

They are tiny–I’m not going to lie to you. Each cookie is about a bite. But they are perfect little lunchbox treats and wonderful after-meal mouth refreshers, and I am in love with them. They would also be wonderful for lunch or a party with the girlfriends–you know those gatherings where you knock yourself out making food that nobody actually eats? Tiny is good for those occasions, and these are delicious.

Spring in my mouth in a perfect, tiny bite. Yes.

I hope these will brighten up a dreary day for you. You need:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

One lemon

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 large egg yolks

In your mixer bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until it’s light and fluffy (about 2 minutes on medium in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer; more for a hand mixer). Add in the vanilla, and then the zest from your lemon and its juice (zest it, cut it in half, and squeeze the juice in). Add the egg yolks and beat them in. Mix in the flour and salt on a low speed, and just until they’re blended in.

Divide the batter in half onto two sheets of wax paper. Use your hands to form each half into a log, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide and a foot or so long. Wrap the logs in the wax paper and stick them in the fridge for an hour or two.

Once your dough is chilled, heat your oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Unwrap one dough log and use a sharp knife to cut it into thin discs–mine were about 1/8 inch wide. The thinner you cut, the crisper your cookies will be. Lay them flat on your cookie sheet so they don’t touch (they don’t spread, but need some room to breathe in there). Bake them for 12-15 minutes, until they’re crisp and the bottoms have started to brown. Cool on the counter and smile.

 

 

Chicken Tortilla Soup

18 Jan

Hey gang!

I am drowning in deadlines this week. This is a good thing (we who are self employed much prefer drowning in deadlines to twiddling our thumbs), but it is presenting an extra challenge for my health eating lifestyle (day 18!). Lunch, especially, is hard. These are the days I used to grab peanut butter and white bread or a frozen entree, just to make life easy.

No more. In between editing things on Monday, I whipped up a batch of Mango & Tomato’s Chicken Tortilla Soup, and I’ve been eating it for lunch every day. It is delicious–creamy without the cream, satisfying without fat and salt, and wonderfully comforting when the cold wind blows outside my window.

I’m not going to repost her recipe–it’s hers, after all–but I’ll tell you a few things I did differently, just because my pantry didn’t cooperate on Monday. I didn’t have fire-roasted tomatoes, so I used regular diced tomatoes and added about a tablespoon of smoked chipotle Tabasco, which is one of my top 3 condiments–not hot, but deliciously smoky. I also didn’t have fresh corn, so I added a can of rinsed salt-free kernels, and I used a can of rinsed black beans as well.

I did make the chicken the way she suggests, plain in a cast-iron skillet until it got delicously brown and crunchy, and I have a new favorite way to make chicken for soups and salads now. It is so very simple and absolutely delicious, and it added a ton of flavor to my pot of soup. I also used my immersion blender as she suggests; they are cheap and a nice investment if you don’t have one. You could, of course, use a regular blender or food processor, but blending it in the pot is so much easier that I recommend it if you can make it happen.

I am having more of this for lunch today, and I can’t wait. Thank you, Mango & Tomato!

Rockfish with Spanish-Style Tomato Sauce and Olives

3 Jan

Happy January!

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday! Did you get any fun kitchen toys? I received a beautiful Cuisinart waffle iron and a very pretty antique wood mortar and pestle, both of which I love. Share in the comments what you received–I can’t wait to hear!

So. A new year. And like a lot of families, we’re trying hard to eat healthier. I pulled some rockfish out of the freezer yesterday morning and pondered how to make it for a few hours, and came up with this–a Spanish-style tomato sauce with black olives and sweet roasted peppers that was delicious. It would work over any kind of white fish, and would also be delicious over chicken, I think (or by using it as a simmer sauce for chunks of fish or chicken, and then serving that over rice). We enjoyed our fish over Spanish rice and everyone seemed to really like it.

I started pulling spices out of my drawer for this and remembered that I had a bottle of Mexican Seasoning from The Spice Hunter, so I used that instead. It was delicious. If you don’t want to invest in another spice mix, use chili powder and oregano and maybe a little paprika.

I also used a pinch of saffron in this sauce. Before you freak out–because who’s not heard that saffron is the world’s most expensive spice–I got a little jar of it for a few dollars at Trader Joe’s, and I quite literally used just a pinch. Saffron adds a lot of depth to tomato-based sauces and that tiny bit does make a difference, but you won’t ever pick the flavor out from tasting the sauce. I recommend buying some and keeping it in your freezer for pinches here and there, but you can certainly leave it out if you’d rather.

Roasted red peppers make an appearance in this dish–I used about half of a small jar and chopped them up before stirring them into the sauce. My family all thought they were tomatoes until I filled them in. The dish would be delicious without them, too, so go either way on that.

This fed all four of us and I have a little bit left over that I’m waffling between having for lunch today and sharing with DH tonight. Either way, I am going to make a double batch of this sauce and keep it in the freezer for those crazy hurricane days, when I can pull some chicken or fish out of the cold box along with some sauce and simmer them together for a quick, easy dinner. (Too busy for this for a weeknight meal? Make the sauce one day and refrigerate it for another, when you can just start with the lay the protein in the pan step. Easy peasy.)

This is absolutely being added to our regular meal rotation, and I hope you’ll give it a try as part of your own healthier new year. You need:

1 tbsp olive oil

About a pound of fish or chicken, cut into about 3-inch strips

1/4 cup finely diced onion

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 1/2 tsp Mexican seasoning (or the substitute above)

A pinch of salt

A pinch of saffron

14 oz can of tomato sauce

4 oz can of sliced black olives (or about a quarter-cup of fresh sliced olives)

About 2 tbsp roasted red peppers, sliced

Salt and pepper

In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium burner. Add the onions with a pinch of salt  and cook until they’re soft and translucent. Stir in the garlic and Mexican seasoning and keep it moving for about 30 seconds, until that garlic starts to smell good. Then stir in the sauce and saffron, lower your burner to medium-low, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir in the olives and red peppers, remove the sauce from the heat, and either refrigerate for another day or keep going to make the whole meal.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a small baking dish with olive oil or nonstick spray (I used an 11 x 7 inch Pyrex dish). Lay your fish or chicken in the dish so the pieces don’t overlap:

Sparingly salt and pepper your protein, and then pour the sauce over the pieces evenly.

Cover with foil and bake until it’s cooked (140 degrees for fish, 165 degrees for chicken–use a meat thermometer and spare yourself food poisoning).  My fish pieces were about two inches thick and took about 35 minutes to cook. Carefully remove the foil (watch the steam!) and enjoy.

Garlic In the Bread

28 Nov

We’ve talked about my family’s love of all things bread, and my own personal addition to really good garlic bread. Garlic and butter and carbs–I mean, really. What’s not to like?

I started thinking, though, that it’s kind of a pain to have to get bread and slice it and butter it and put seasoning on it and broil it, especially on nights you’re in a hurry or eating leftover pasta. You can zap last night’s dinner in, what, a minute? But making the garlic bread for night 2 of a meal kind of takes the quick-and-easy out of leftover night.

And so, I came up with this–it’s a basic Mark Bittman bread recipe that couldn’t be simpler, doctored up with garlic bread spice baked right into it. You make the bread, wrap it in plastic, and give it a few days (or eat it right away–whatever works). And then, when you get your leftover Italian food out to give it a spin in the food nuker, you just slice off the appropriate amount of this bread and pop it into your toaster. A little bit of butter at the end, and voila. Garlic bread.

Nice, no?

We ate this for two nights and the kids devoured it. Don’t skip the toasting part, though–it’s not nearly as good in its plain-bread state as it is with a little crunch to it. This will freeze nicely, so it’s totally fine to wrap up whatever part you don’t eat right away and save it for your next go-round of spaghetti or whatever. I’m thinking this would also be a great bread to toast, slather with tomato sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan, and lay a poached egg on top of for breakfast. In fact, I may have to try that tomorrow.

Bread with the garlic baked in–it just doesn’t get a whole lot easier. You need:

3 cups of bread flour

2 tsp yeast

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup warm water

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tbsp garlic bread spice (either the recipe I shared a few weeks back or whatever you like)

Combine all of the ingredients in your bread machine and run it through the dough cycle.

If you don’t have a bread machine, combine all the ingredients with your mixer and knead it by hand for about five minutes, and then let it rest and rise for about 45 minutes or so.

Heat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray it with cooking spray.

Punch the dough down. Lay it on your baking sheet and roll and convince it into a log–mine was about 14 inches long by 4 inches wide or so:

Cover that with a clean dish towel and let it rise about a half-hour. Brush it with water and put it into the oven for 15 minutes. Then, lower your temperature to 350 and let it bake about another half-hour, until it’s golden brown and baked through.

Remove it from the oven, let it cool, and slice and toast.

Pumpkin Waffles

21 Nov

“Mom,” said my daughter from the kitchen table. “These are better than in a restaurant.”

Now, to fully appreciate that, you need to know that this child–love of my life, keeper of my heart, fruit of my soul–has complained loudly and with great abandon about every single thing I’ve put on that table for about two weeks now. She went to bed two nights in a row last week having eaten one bite of dinner because rice was so offensive (and she did not starve to death nor become malnourished so stop shaking your heads at me–I’m over the short-order cook thing). Nothing, and I mean nothing, has met with the approval of her rapidly-narrowing palate.

Until Saturday morning. When she declared this breakfast worthy of a “real cook,” and devoured it. I swear, I waited for the earth to open up beneath me right then and there, because surely this was my entrance to everlasting nirvana.

This is the result of my messing around with a few recipes I found online, all of which were either too heavily spiced for our liking (it’s an early morning dish for the love of all that’s holy) or soggy or didn’t crisp up on the outside and get fluffy on the inside like any good waffle is supposed to do. It takes a few steps and a few ingredients, but I promise you–the mess and the extra few minutes are totally worth it, because these pumpkin waffles are crunchy and fluffy and just pumpkiny enough to make them out of this world good with a drizzle of real maple syrup.

The key to the crunchy/fluffy quality of these lies in three tiny things: bread flour, which is high in protein and does crispy/chewy beautifully; a little veggie oil in the batter; and baking powder. There is a lot of baking powder in this–it is going to foam up when you put it on the griddle. Go easy, or you’re going to have a mess on your countertop.

All of that said, these don’t stay crispy/chewy for long–get your family around the table as you put the first one on your waffle iron, and let them eat as they come off (you, as chef, get the last one, which means first that the waffle iron is deadly hot and yours will be extra delicious, and second, that your family will likely be finished eating when you start, giving you perfectly perfect peace and quiet as you enjoy your waffle, not that you don’t love them and savor mealtime with them, blah, blah, blah). They do crisp up nicely in the toaster, though, so you can save a few and toast them up later. Just watch that they don’t burn.

I whipped this batter up in my KitchenAid mixer, using the whisk attachment, which incorporated lots of air in there. Air is good in waffles. You can absolutely use a hand mixer or your arm and a whisk. Whatever you have is fantastic.

Enough chit-chat, gang. Gather your ingredients (Thanksgiving morning would be a fantastic time for this breakfast–just saying–and it’s a great recipe to use the night-before tricks from my morning muffin post, too) and give these a shot. You’ll need:

4 tbsp butter, melted

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup bread flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

a pinch of salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger (ground)

1/4 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed

2 eggs

1 cup (1/2 a can) pumpkin puree

1 2/3 cup milk

1 tbsp veggie or canola oil

Heat your waffle iron.

In your mixer bowl, beat together your eggs, butter (cool it for a few minutes first or you’ll scramble the eggs), pumpkin, oil, milk, and brown sugar.

Stir in all of your dry ingredients and beat it for a minute to get some air in there.

Pour a half-cup at a time (on a Belgian waffle maker–less on a regular one) into your waffle iron and cook to manufacturer’s directions. Eat immediately or freeze and toast later.

Barbecue Turkey Meatloaf

27 Oct

(pssst! Lookie up there in the upper right-hand corner of the screen–see the shiny new badge? I’m so excited that Playing With My Dinner was named one of 2011’s top 50 blogs written by women! What an honor! Thank you, Work At Home Woman!)

I shared a tiny tip about this with you yesterday. Today, though, I’m going to break down the whole recipe, starting with a single pound of ground turkey. That should be a relief from the original recipe, which started with three pounds (or the original-original Barefoot deal that started with five!).

Here’s the thing that sparked this recipe: I love barbecue sauce. I love it more than ketchup, more than mustard, and more than any other condiment I can think of. Barbecued chicken is among my favorite meals of all time, and nothing makes me happier than getting all sticky and sloppy-full at Red Hot & Blue, which I happen to think has the best barbecue sauce of all time.

I also love meatloaf but rarely make it because I am the only person in my house who feels that way.

You heard me. The same people who don’t like roasted chicken also don’t like meatloaf. Who doesn’t like meatloaf? Right? Un-American. It’s just not right.

So because DH was away this week, I made myself a meatloaf and converted it to barbecue-style at the same time I simplified the original recipe to get rid of a dirty pan and about four steps. And this delivered such joy to my meatloaf-deprived palate that I made it again a second night. I DIDN’T EAT BOTH. Sheesh. I made the second so I could measure what I was doing to tell you guys about it, and then I sliced it up and froze it for future lunches and dinners. Just for the record.

This is yummy and a fun new twist on an old dish that marries comfort food with a little southern lovin.’ Tell me that doesn’t sound good. You need:

1 pound ground turkcy (beef would work too)

1 egg

1/2 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs (or 1/2 cup plain crumbs with a tsp of Italian seasoning)

1/4 cup chopped onion or dried onion flakes

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp barbecue sauce, plus more to top the loaf

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Cover a rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil and spray it with oil or cooking spray.

In a large bowl, blend all of the above ingredients together with your hands. Don’t squeeze! Just mix lightly with your fingers until you don’t see any identifiable lumps of breadcrumbs.

Put the meat mixture onto the sheet pan and form it into a loaf, about the size of a regular loaf pan (9″ x 5″ if you need a measurement–I eyeballed it). Spread extra barbecue sauce on the top and sides with the back of a spoon. Bake it until the internal temperature registers 160 degrees–it took about 25 minutes in my oven. Let it sit 10 minutes and slice and enjoy. Yee-ha.

Two Treats that are Excellent Tricks

26 Oct

Warp speed, gang. That’s the only way I can describe life in my house this week. Sports try-outs and field trips and dance class and Taekwondo and tons of work and a sick kid, oh my! So I don’t have a new recipe to share with you quite yet, but I do have two tricks that make some I’ve already posted more fun.

Are you on Pinterest yet? Holy addiction, Batman. If you are (and you really should be), you’ve seen all the pins to recipes that incorporate Halloween candy. Excellent idea, especially for the candy corn (any Lewis Black fans? Corn…that tastes like candy! Son of a …!). But if you’ve already tried to bake candy corn onto cookies or other sweet goodies, you’ve learned the lesson I figured out last year.

Candy corn melts in the oven. Into nothingness. You wind up with a sad orange dent where you thought the candy was going to be.

Fear not–there is a solution.

Yesterday, I made a pan of the most amazing brownies on the planet. I chucked in a handful of Ghiradelli chocolate chips that were wasting away in the pantry and baked them up. And then the second (the second!) they came out of the oven, I gently pressed candy corn onto the top of their yumminess. This works for brownies, cookies, or cake, all of which are soft and pliable in those first minutes out of the oven. You get a candy-studded goodie and the corn survives intact. Excellent.

Second trick:

DH was traveling this week. I miss him when he’s gone, but it’s a great opportunity to enjoy some recipes he’s not very fond of. One of those is the amazing turkey meatloaf I shared with you a few months back. I Texas-ed it up a bit, and it was amazing. To do that, add a tablespoon or two or Worcestershire to the meat mixture before you mix it up (I also used dried onion flakes instead of sauteeing onion in a pan, and that worked fine–so there’s a third tip for today!). Mold it into a loaf and put it on a lined cookie sheet, just like before. Only this time, instead of ketchup, use barbecue sauce on top.

Barbecue meatloaf. Yum, yes? YES! I had it for two nights with sweet potato fries on the side, and I was a happy single-mom camper.

Recipe tomorrow. I promise. Until then, happy tricking!

Autumn Veggie and Sausage Soup

4 Oct

We’re a month or so into the school year and the whole lunch thing is dragging me down.

Not the kids’ lunches. We’re set there. It’s my lunch that’s the issue. I am sandwiched and salad-ed out, completely over frozen entrees, and too busy (and cheap) to run out to eat every day or cook myself something new at 11 each morning.

Yesterday was rainy and cold and generally disgusting around here (again! paging Noah…), and it felt like a great day to break out the soup pot for a simple recipe that would last all week.

I started thinking I’d make a bean and sausage soup recipe I found online, but reviews of it said it needed more ingredients and was pretty blah as written. I went to the grocery store and started picking out things that looked good, and before I knew it, the original recipe was right out the window and a new one was born, filled with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Which is really the ideal way to cook and eat, saving yourself from older produce that’s been hauled cross-country, maximizing flavor, and keeping a little cash in your pocket.

This calls for a parmesan rind. I always keep a hunk of fresh parmesan in the house for grating over pasta and veggies. It seems expensive, I know, but you only use a little bit at a time and it’ll last almost forever wrapped tightly in plastic and stored in the fridge. For this recipe, you cut off the (inedible) rind and toss it into the pot, and then fish it out at the end. It adds a wonderful, subtle nutty flavor to the soup and is well worth the step. If you don’t have one, no worries. Go ahead without it.

I used smoked turkey sausage in this because that’s what I like. You can use whatever you enjoy, or substitute ham or bacon for a similar smoky flavor in the soup. Non-meat eaters can add extra beans to beef up the soup and toss in a little liquid smoke (a LITTLE–that stuff is potent) or smoked chipotle Tabasco for a similar effect.

This was warm and creamy (from the beans–neat trick, eh?) and smoky and comforting, and perfectly perfect for yet another cold, rainy day. I’m looking forward to my second bowl today and would love to hear what you think if you try it. You need:

Olive oil

4 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 a sweet onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 a butternut squash, peeled and diced (about a cup and a half of diced squash)

7 oz smoked sausage (I used turkey; mine comes in 14 oz packages, so I used half and froze the other half for another time), chopped into bites

1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well

1 zucchini, diced

The rind of a hunk of Parmesan cheese (I always have a hunk around. Add a little salt if you don’t have this)

A dried bay leaf

About 2 cups of chopped fresh kale (use spinach if you can’t find kale)

Salt

Pepper

About 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

Half a lemon

Heat your soup pot over medium heat. Coat the bottom of the pot with olive oil. Saute the onion and sausage until the sausage just starts to brown a bit. Stir in the garlic and keep it moving for about a minute.

Pour in the chicken broth and add all of the rest of the ingredients except the kale and lemon. Stir, cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the butternut squash softens, stirring every so often.

Stir in the kale, cook 10 more minutes, and fish out the Parmesan rind and the bay leaf. Squeeze the lemon over the pot, stir in the juice, and enjoy. Makes about four servings.

Big Honkin’ Soft Pretzels

24 Jun

DH drives a lot and frequently stops at Wawa for afternoon pick-me-ups. (Side note: the man has an uncanny amount of radar  for locating Wawa stores wherever he goes, despite the fact that there are none anywhere close to where we live. It’s creepy, if you ask me.) And he frequently brings home plastic-wrapped soft pretzels for the kids, who go nuts for them.

I tried one the other week. Yeah, they’re good. But I figured I could do that and for less than a buck or two a pretzel.

The first try was a pretty big failure. The dough–which was my regular pizza dough–didn’t want to twist into pretzel shapes, and then it didn’t want to bake all the way through, and then its egg wash did something bizarre that we won’t discuss, just in case you figure out I’m a tremendous fraud and stop reading the blog. Everybody tried a pretzel and nodded politely, and then I threw them away.

It happens, gang. You are going to throw food in the trash from time to time, just because a recipe didn’t turn out. Accept it as an offering to the kitchen gods, and try again!

Yesterday, I tried again, using a copycat recipe I found online that’s supposed to turn out just like those mall pretzels. Only I screwed it up, because I was trying to do real work in between tossing ingredients together, and added in some topping ingredients right in with the dough mixture. I flipped the bread machine to the dough setting, hit the start button, realized what happened, stared through the little glass window and cussed a bit, and then decided to let it go and see what happened.

The dough did its thing, I struggled through twisting and dipping and rising again (I am not a pretzel twister, just so you know), they baked up and cooled, and then the kids tried them.

“Mom,” said the 7-year-old, “These are better than the ones at the ballpark.”

Mistakes rule sometimes. Just keep going. Taste and adjust as necessary, but keep moving forward–you never know when a family favorite will be born.

I made this dough in my bread machine, using its pizza dough setting. Use the regular dough setting on your machine if it has one, or you can do this by stirring the dough ingredients together with a mixer, kneading it for 5 minutes or so on a flour-sprinkled counter, and letting it rise in a covered bowl for an hour.

This recipe made about 8 pretzels for us. We devoured a few (*blush*) and I wrapped the leftovers up in plastic wrap, just like Wawa. They’re still yummy this morning. I’m betting these would freeze really well, too, and then defrost and warm up really nicely in the microwave. We’ll find out soon–the short people already want to know when we’re making more. Next time, I’m skipping the twisting bit and either cutting the dough into chunks for pretzel bites (adjusting the baking time accordingly), or making simple twisted pretzel sticks.

Give it a shot. You need:

1 1/2 cup warm water

1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

2 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup bread flour (this gives that crispy crunch on the outside. You can use AP flour if you don’t keep bread flour around, but you’ll lose a bit of texture)

2 cups all-purpose flour

4 tbsp butter, melted

2 cups warm water

2 tbsp baking soda

Sprinkle the yeast over the 1 1/12 cup of warm water and let it sit a few minutes.

In your bread machine or the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flours, brown sugar, salt, and butter. Add in the yeast mixture, and either run a dough cycle or mix and knead as described above, and then let rise for an hour.

When the dough is ready, heat your oven to 450 degrees, cover a baking sheet with foil, and spray that with butter or nonstick spray. In a large bowl, stir together the 2 cups of warm water and the baking soda.

Punch your dough down and divide it into 8 chunks. Roll each chunk into a long rope (it should be about 1/2 inch thick), rolling in more flour if you need to. Carefully dunk each raw pretzel in the water/baking soda mix (stir that up between pretzels), and lay them on the foil-covered baking sheet. When they’re all done, lay a clean dishtowel over them and let them rise a half-hour or so. Then, bake them about 10 minutes or until golden brown on the outside.

Enjoy warm or at room temperature, either plain or brushed with melted butter and cinnamon sugar or Kosher salt.

 

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