Saturday, February 27, 2010

Kitchen Adventure on a Snow Day

It looked like this outside again yesterday.
Nothing new, right? Ho hum. Snow on snow. This time it snowed sideways most of the time, so we have over a foot in some places, while in others you can see the grass. We did play outside for a while, as it was great packing snow. Mathboy rolled a snowball around the entire house. When it was up to his chest and wouldn't move anymore, it became the cornerstone for his new snow fort. Catgirl's snowball is becoming a comfy chair. What does this say about my kids? Fort vs. comfy chair?

After we all had enough snow yesterday, it was time for indoor stuff. I won't tell you the story of my personal worst Scrabble game ever. Instead, let's talk about my grand idea to make homemade soft pretzels, as documented in a photo essay by Mathboy.

Kim gave me an awesome cookbook for Christmas: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I love this cookbook. In fact, I love it so much that I was shocked yesterday to see that I have gone through an entire 5 lb bag of flour since New Year's, and I don't know how much whole wheat flour in addition to that. That's a lot of flour, folks. Most of the time I have been making the basic white bread recipe, but I also have made pizza dough and long rolls for meatballs subs. May I just say how AWEsome it is to have meatball subs on rolls fresh and crackling from the oven? Oh. My. Goodness.

Anyway. Today I thought it would be fun to try the recipe for soft pretzels--which are a favorite for all of us. I made the dough and then left it to rise while we were outside. Now, I do have to admit that I had to use whole wheat flour for about 1/6 of the total amount, and for dusting while we formed the shapes, because I had exhausted (!!!) my regular flour supply. So this recipe is not faithful to the book, and I probably should not blame the book for our results.

Here is Catgirl forming a pretzel shape.
She actually turned out to be the best pretzel shaper in the house. She's the most artistic, so maybe we should have expected that.

This recipe had us drop the pretzels in simmering water for a few minutes, like bagels. Here are some waiting to go into the water.
...and here are some in the pot.

Then, after they dried a bit on a floury towel, we brushed them with an egg wash and dusted with some chunky salt. Then it was into the oven on a preheated pizza stone for baking.

Ours were a little big, I guess, and they took a while to bake. But here they are, in all their toasty golden glory:
Am I the only one who thinks they look something like what an animal leaves behind? Well, I won't say it again, because I'm trying not to think about that. Just get that thought out of your head.

Needless to say, we will not be opening our own Philadelphia Pretzel Factory anytime soon. And I have new respect for the Amish at the Reading Terminal market who do the handmade pretzels. It was so hard to shape these things! The dough was very sticky, so we had to use a lot of flour to keep it from sticking to our hands or the counter. Also--or maybe because of all the whole wheat flour we were using--it wouldn't stretch well. Once we finally were able to wrestle the dough into something approximating a pretzel, it wouldn't hold the shape. The dough rose and obscured the pretzel loops, or the joins came apart in the pot of water. They just look malformed.

After all that, the taste really reminds you of a... a salty roll. Not that we really mind salty rolls. Not that this is keeping us from eating them, mind you. They taste good. But they don't really taste like pretzels.

And the cleanup? Oy.

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