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Soft warm pretzels

There’s something special about pretzels.

No, not the tiny hard ones you buy in a bag (though they do have their place!). I’m talking about the big, warm, soft, salty variety that makes you want to live in a pretzel shop. My friend Andrea and I decided that not only can soft pretzels end wars and cure world hunger, they also make the PERFECT snack. What more could you want in a food?

I found them on one of my favorite blogs, Annie’s Eats, and then my friend Tram made them and posted about it on her blog, Momma Bird’s Kitchen. I’d been wanting to make them for months, and I finally got my chance.

Mine aren’t as cute and little because (A) It was really hot outside, and I was going back and forth to Stephen and the grill outside by the pool, and (B) I was in a huge hurry and juggling corn cobs and dishes and a spastic timer. And also because I wanted to eat them and didn’t want to waste time making them look pretty. Thus, I ended up with the “rustic” look. That I intended them to have all along. Ahem..

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By the way, if you missed my previous post, I’m splitting our Memorial Day Menu into several posts:

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So, without further ado (who am I kidding? There’s always plenty of ado when I’m around), the Glorious Pretzels of Peace and Love.

Ingredients

You really don’t need any special ingredients! That’s awfully exciting for someone on a budget (though you do need a hefty amount of baking soda…).

For the dough:
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  •  4 Tbs butter, melted
  • A splash of vegetable oil for greasing the bowl
The original version calls for kosher salt or at least big chunky pretzel salt, but I didn’t have any. It didn’t really affect the flavor, but it sure would’ve been prettier with the right salt.
For finishing:
  • Cooking spray or silicone pan liners
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 Tbs water
  • More salt for sprinkling

Directions

The actual baking process is pretty quick, but you do have to let it rise. Also, I only have a hand mixer. I don’t have a stand mixer with a dough hook. If you do, use it. If not, work harder and still end up with delicious pretzels.

  1. Combine the water, sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Mix on low speed until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and butter and mix just until it starts looking like dough. At this point, either switch to the dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes, OR flour your hands, stick ’em in and moosh them around for a while until the dough becomes more solid and smooth. Move the dough to a large bowl with a little vegetable oil drizzed in it. Turn the lump of dough once to coat the top with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about 55 minutes (it should double in size). I put it in the trunk of my car. This is Texas, friends. I’m surprised it didn’t start baking in there.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Lay the silicone pan liners on 2 baking sheets, or spray both sheets lightly with cooking spray. Put the water and baking soda into a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Take one piece, roll it into a long rope, about 18-24 inches. Make a U-shape with the rope, twist it, and fold it back over to make a pretzel shape. Once you have all the dough shaped into pretzels, place one of them into the boiling water for about 30 seconds each. Fish it out of the water with a slotted skimmer and return it to the baking sheet before moving on to the next.
  4. Brush the tops of the pretzels with the egg/water mixture and follow with a light sprinkling of salt.
  5. Bake 12-14 minutes or until “dark golden brown.” Cool on a rack for about 5 minutes before serving. Or not:
Stephen sneaking a pretzel
We were going back and forth to the pool/grill, so Stephen took the golden opportunity to snatch a pretzel off the cooling rack. Please note the guilty look.

Next, I’d really like to try mini pretzels, cinnamon sugar pretzels and mustard pretzels. But not all at the same time. That would be weird.

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Homemade cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven

I really wanted to make cinnamon rolls one day, but most of the recipes I found required ingredients I didn’t have on hand. I had already told Stephen of my plans, however, so there was no turning back. After a quick search, I found a recipe (with normal ingredients!) on this adorable blog called Shoplifting in a Ghost Town. Side note: Who calls them cinnamon buns? It sounds like a hot dog bun. Mustard and ketchup for breakfast, mmm-mm!

Hers was a little hard to follow, because you have to scroll all over the place to match up the ingredients with the directions. However, it’s the cutest recipe I’ve ever seen, so at least go check it out just to make you smile!

Ingredients

Surprise, surprise – I didn’t make any drastic changes! Here’s what I used:

Dough

  • 2 1/4 tsp (or 1 package) yeast
  • 1 1/4 cup warm (not hot; she says go for “baby’s bathwater” temperature) milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbs butter, softened (I always use unsalted)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbs vanilla extract (I use Mexican vanilla… YUM)
  • 4 1/2 cups flour

Filling

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 Tbs softened butter

Icing

  • 1/2 package cream cheese, very softened (I used the “1/3 less fat” neufchatel cheese, but it ended up slightly lumpy, so it might be smoother with real cream cheese)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 Tbs vanilla extract (or less, but I love the extra flavor)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (I used a little less than a cup)

Directions

It’s pretty easy to make, but you need to block out some time to let it rise. I actually made the dough ahead of time, let it rise and then stuck it in the refrigerator for a few days. It lost some of its “pouf” because of it, but not much, and it still turned out perfect. I would definitely go the refrigerator route again, especially if I wanted to make the cinnamon rolls for breakfast without a huge wait.

  1. Warm the milk in a mixing bowl and pour on the yeast. Let it sit for a few minutes before stirring.
  2. Add the 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp salt, 2 Tbs vanilla, 2 eggs and 6 Tbs butter and mix.
  3. Stir in the 4 1/2 cups flour. I started with 2 cups, stirred in 2 more cups, and then added the last 1/2 cup. It should be thick enough to knead together.
  4. Heavily flour a flat surface (like a kitchen counter) and knead the dough for a few minutes until it’s smooth. Flour your hands too!
  5. Lightly grease another bowl and place the ball of dough inside. Make sure the bowl is big enough, because the dough should double in size after rising. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp dishtowel and let it rise in a warm place. I set the bowl on a stool near a space heater (but make sure it doesn’t get too hot!). It should take about 1 1/2-2 hours, or until it doubles in size.
  6. While it rises, you can mix together all the ingredients for the filling (except the butter) and set aside.
  7. When the dough has doubled in size, flour that flat surface again and place the dough on it. Roll it into a large rectangle. Some people use a rolling pin. I use a bottle of smoky olive oil. To each his own…
  8. Spread the 2 Tbs of softened butter on the dough rectangle. And by “spread,” I mean smear it around with your fingers. Cover it with the filling mixture.
  9. Roll it up long-ways and cut about every 1 1/2 inches. Place in a buttered dish (I ended up using 2 small dishes for 12 cinnamon rolls). Optional: let it sit in the pan for about 30 minutes to expand some more. I didn’t do this and they turned out great. Bake at 350° for about 40 minutes.
  10. Beat together the frosting ingredients and pour on top of the cinnamon rolls when they’re finished.
  11. Devour with your husband and sister-in-law (or whoever is in the vicinity). Leave no prisoners.

I didn’t get any pictures when I initially made the dough, but here’s what it looked like when I put it together:

Cinnamon roll dough with filling spread out

Rolled up cinnamon roll dough

Unbaked cinnamon rolls in the pan

Bowl of icing for the cinnamon rolls

Close-up of fresh homemade cinnamon roll

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