Homemade Chicken Stock : Your cure for the Bleak Midwinter

Just in case you were wondering, there’s a reason my beautiful city, my Emerald City, has another nickname – Rain City. You’ve seen it in every movie/TV show/music video set in Seattle: dour Seattlites stuck under looming black umbrellas, huddling from the torrential downpour gushing forth from Pacific Skies all to a morose Death Cab for Cutie soundtrack.

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Typical.

The truth is a bit different. Our northern latitude means that the winter solstice typically results in about six hours of gloomy sunlight a day from about the time you settle into work to the time you leave the office for the day. And, while the “cats and dogs” style raining certainly happens (it delayed the 49s v Seahawks playoff game, for crying out loud) it’s much more typical to have a grey, wet, drizzly fog all day that extends into a full week, punctuated by flood inducing downpours that cause even the most stalwart Northface-sporting, coffee-swilling Seattlite to reach for the umbrella.

Basically winter in the Northwest is a lot like this, but mostly without the snow.

But hey, WE WON THE SUPERBOWL. And this is how we celebrate:

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Woah, 12th Man.

There’s absolutely no way to grasp the scale of this event. There were over 750,000 people there – that’s like the ENTIRE population of Seattle showed up – and in addition every person that fits into CenturyLink Field TWICE OVER.

So I think I’ll be telling my kids about that.

That win was definitely that high point of a tough post-Christmas blues winter. Most of my afternoons were spent nursing a sinus infection and half-heartedly listening to The Smiths, waiting for a sunbreak and popping Vitamin D like candy. And, really, nothing pairs better with headcolds, general malaise, and ennui like homemade chicken soup.

Like really homemade. I am all for time saving measures. I have a Costco sized jar of Better than Bullion in my fridge (which is, indeed, better than bouillon). However, nothing really competes with the flavor of  nutrient-rich, low-sodium chicken stock. It is also easy, if time-consuming. Make sure you have time to let your stock simmer for at least 2 hours to get all of the flavor out of your ingredients.

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PRETTY

The best part of making stock is that it is not an exact science. It’s like kitchen finger-painting. You literally cannot screw this up.

Fair warning – you arte gonna need some chicken bones. The more bones, the more stock you can make. I collect all my gruesome chicken pieces in a bag in the freezer: chicken backs from breaking down whole chickens, fully formed carcasses from store-bought rotisserie chickens, wing tips from making my famous oven fried party wings (forthcoming post, I promise), bones from chicken pieces. Freeze it in a Ziploc bag and, once it’s full, throw it in the stock pot!

Emeralds and Ampersands Homemade Chicken Stock

Discarded chicken bones (any kind will do)
Two onions, chopped
3-5 Carrots, scrubbed and chopped
3-5 Celery, chopped
Bunch parsley, or herbs of choice
Water
Salt
Pepper

Toss chicken pieces in a large stock pot. Add vegetables. Chop herbs roughly and add to pot. Cover with enough water to cover all ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, partially cover. Occasionally, skim scummy residue from the top of the water. Allow to simmer for several hour, or until chicken has imparted flavor and golden color to the stock. Season with salt and pepper as desired, keeping in mind that low sodium broths are easiest to control while cooking. Remove from heat, cool.

Strain out bones and vegetables, discard. Vegetables will become very mushy. Run through fine sieve and add back to stock, if desired.

Add stock to soups, sauces, braising liquids, curries, risottos, polentas, or a myriad of other uses.

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Golden elixer

My favorite way to store stock with also be your favorite: frozen into ½ cup portions. Once you’ve strained out the bones, let it boil down a little. I like mine super concentrated. Now grab your muffin tin.  Line the cups with cupcake liners. Do this. If you don’t, you will get to pry frozen chicken goodness out of tins for a long time.

I may have learned this the hard way.

Anyway, spray the liners with some cooking spray. Now ladle the cooled chicken stock into each tin. Any time a recipe calls for a cup of stock or broth, I will through in a little frozen puck with a ½ cup of water. Instant richness!

You can make it through the winter now, blogland. All you needed was a little chicken soup.

A Norwegian Tradition – Hidden From the Internet until Now

Happy New Years, friends! It’s been an interesting year here in Emeralds and Ampersands land, what with the beginning of the blog, a new found love of soccer, and much hands-on creating that we like to do here. Hell, I even met Macklemore at the day job. Seems I have a charmed life, or, as someone told me recently, I must actually “have my shit together.” Who knew? 

Interestingly enough, it turns out that my family have taken a bit of an interest in my creative endeavours. Sister A of the Great Fudge Debacle of 2001 took some time on Christmas day to describe another family tradition – one steeped in separated eggs, cardamom, and the occasional grease fire. 

So without further ado -my  first guest post!

Krumkake – A journey

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Rolled Perfection

When I first moved out of my parents’ home, I made sure a recipe box was one of my first acquisitions. I spent way too much time copying over many of my favorite recipes from home until my hand cramped. The truth is, I didn’t use it much, except for maybe a couple specific recipes. As I look through it now, I wonder, “why he hell do I have this?” I’m pretty sure I have carpal tunnel, so why would I waste all that time to meticulously copy a recipe onto an index card?”

Whatever, that is not what this is about. This is a story about a lost recipe.

These days, I use Pinterest for recipes. I was pretty late to the bandwagon in general, but it is super handy, and I can keep everything organized with cute little pictures, and I can usually figure out what’s for dinner while searching on my phone shortly before I get home. Because I store recipes this way, I have little to no use for the recipe box in the top of my cabinet, except for TWO recipes – both of which I needed today. One is for lefse, which was not hard to miss because it is oversized and doesn’t fit just right, and it is laminated (which is a great idea, if you’ve ever made lefse).

(Editor’s note: AKA Bonnie here: Lefse is another one of those Norwegian specialties that my family and Ballardites agree are worth the EXTREME effort for. Think a very thin potato tortilla grilled on and extremely hot griddle and you’ll have the idea. That and so much flour you’ll look like a Golden Girl for the next few days.)

The other one is for krumkake (pronounced “crum-kaka”). It is a Norwegian cookie that I had promised to make and bring in to work the next day. I NEEDED it. I remembered almost exactly how to make it in my head, the ingredients, the steps, but that doesn’t cut it. I’m not the first person to say this, but cooking is an art, and baking is a science. I couldn’t wing this one.

So, I picked up my phone and searched “krumkake”.I got some hits, but they weren’t the recipes I was looking for. They were either plus or minus a few ingredients or the process was what I considered “lazy” i.e.: throw all ingredients into a bowl and mix.

Let’s get something clear right now – krumkake is no easy feat. It’s labor-intensive and totally worth it. As Bonnie says – “if you aren’t using every bowl in your house, you aren’t doing it right”. So, knowing a little about how Google works, I modified my search. I’m pretty sure that by the time I was done, I was searching “krumkake cream beat egg whites cardamom cornstarch”. NOTHING. The internet was wrong? How could this be?

The only people I could ask for the recipe were B and my mom, and they were both not at home. Then I remembered – I’ve been missing my copy of the recipe for a long time. I’ve done this before. Then I remembered my mom emailed me the recipe a couple years ago (the last time I realized it was lost). I searched my email and THERE IT WAS.

A Christmas Miracle!

This is sort of a family recipe, sort of not. My family is Norwegian, but my Grandma didn’t really make the traditional stuff. My mom learned her stuff from my great-grandma, but that isn’t where this recipe comes from. It comes from an old family friend – Mrs. T, who was a Lutheran pastor’s wife and pretty much rocked it when it came to Norwegian baking. My mom has been making this same recipe forever; it’s pretty popular at bake sales and cookie exchanges. If you live in Seattle, you probably don’t have to ask many people before you find a Norwegian and their mom/sister/grandmother/great-grandmother, etc. used to make krumkake around Christmas. It’s just what you do. Make sure to celebrate “Hug A Norwegian Day” with those people as well (It is November 22nd).

Did I mention you are going to need a special iron to make these? Oh yeah. I have a pretty snazzy electric one that can apparently be purchased at Bed Bath and Beyond, or you can go the super archaic route and get a cast-iron one that goes on the stove – but I used to have one and it is super messy (hence the grease fires.)

The right way to make krumkake:

If you don’t have a Kitchenaid Mixer, I hope you are an Olympic lifter, because you are going to need forearms of steel for the type of mixing necessary to do this right. (You can also rock a hand mixer if  the cooking gods have not granted your Kitchenaid wishes.)

1 c. sugar
½ c. melted butter
1 t. vanilla
3 eggs, separated
1½ c. flour
½ c. whipping cream, whipped stiff
1 t. cardamom
2 T. corn starch

First, beat the egg whites stiff. Just put the egg whites in the bow (very clean)l with the whisk attachment and crank that baby on high. It should look like a foam party in your bowl by the time you are done.Transfer the egg whites to another bowl (See where this is going? Gather a ton of extra small to medium bowls).

Wash your mixing bowl , and then do the same thing to the heavy cream – whip the crap out of it until it is thick. Remove it to still another bowl. Wash main bowl again. Beat egg yolks (you can use the plain mixing attachment at this point) and then add sugar, melted butter, and vanilla and mix well.

In still another bowl, mix together the flour, corn starch, and cardamom. Add the whipped cream and the egg whites to the sugar mixture and mix. Add in the flour mixture and mix. Make sure to scrape the sides and (especially) the bottom of the bowl. If the egg whites and whipped cream are not mixed in pretty well, there can be separation at the bottom of the bowl and it ruins the last few krumkake. (The egg white sort of burns off, leaving holes and a brittle texture.)

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Golden Brown Goodness

So anyways, bake on a preheated krumkake iron. Even Teflon-coated irons need some oil starting out, but then you can just coat them every 10 or so. Non-coated ones need to be regularly oiled to prevent sticking.

Krumkake can be left flat or rolled into cone shapes on the wooden mandrel that comes with the iron. Keeping them flat means they are easier to store, eat and transport, but if you roll them, it has to be done immediately (but then you could add an optional filling [kind of like a cannoli]). Personally, I think they go great to eat with coffee. (Personally, I think they are great to eat with anything. And booze. Always that.)

<3/ A

Pumpkin Buttered Rum – Just Like Mom’s Pumpkin Pie (but with Booze)

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Christmas at Chez Emeralds and Ampersands

Tis the season for warm drinks. Tis the season for spices and mulling. Tis the season for presents and shopping and family and parties and maybe just a little bit of stress and drama.

So tis the season for booze. Duh.

It might just be my family, but ever since the kids reached adulthood, boozy traditions have flourished into some of my favorite parts of the holiday. Nothing like light inebriation to smooth over any little interpersonal bumps.  There’s nothing like a hot mug of mulled wine or peppermint schnapps hot chocolate while you bunker down with “It’s a Wonderful Life.” My oldest sister makes sure we’re all ready to go with Blueberry Teas or Irish Coffee before we break into the gift exchange.

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These are cuddle drinks

C’s family has perfected this into a beer tasting – we each bring a few microbrews we’ve never had before, line them up light to dark and full on taste those suckers. We write tasting notes and everything. The microbrews get a bit crazy. I’ve had a bacon maple bar beer. It was weird.

Somehow the combination of booze, family, and evergreen has become integral to holiday festivities. When I found some online mixology recipes for holiday cocktails, I was more that excited to try some variation on hot buttered rum. If you’ve never tried it, hot buttered rum is pretty much what it sounds like – sugared butter melted into rum and hot water, traditionally served with a whole cinnamon stick. A pumpkin-y twist on the classic adds just the right touch of fun to the old standard: Pumpkin Buttered Rum!

The key ingredient here is a bit of a challenge to find. It’s is definitely a specialty item. I’ve sometimes seen jars of it pulled out into an end-cap holiday display around Thanksgiving. If you get lucky, go ahead and grab it. However, take it from someone who has helplessly wandered the aisles of QFC for half an hour or so – the easiest thing to do is head to Trader Joes. TJ’s faithfully stocks the product all year, so all you have to do is walk in, avoid all the delicious TJ’s snacks and chocolate-covered miscellany and grab the butter. No substitutions – you’ll need it to hit the right pumpkin note.

Top with whipped cream and don’t count any calories – it’s the holidays after all.

Pumpkin Butter Glory

Pumpkin Buttered Rum
(adapted from The Kitchn)

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup pumpkin butter
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch kosher salt
Dark rum
Hot water
Whipped cream
Cinnamon (to garnish)

Cream together butter and sugar. Stir in pumpkin butter until combined. Add spices and salt, mix until creamy. This mixture will make a few drinks, so put it in an airtight container and pop it in the fridge. It should stay fresh for 1-2 weeks. (Can you say “make in advance?”)

When you’re ready to make drinks, set some water on to boil. Add a couple tablespoons to the bottom of a mug – you can add more or less to taste. Add 2 oz. of dark rum of your choice. Fill cup with hot water and stir to combine. Top with whipped cream. Garnish with a dash more cinnamon or a whole cinnamon stick

That’s all there is to it! All that’s left now is the roaring fireplace.

Happy Christmas, blogland!

Candy Land: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Thermometer

I love to make candy.

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Why yes, I did make the toffee.

This love stems from a couple of things, but I’ll have to admit that the main reason is plain ol’ ego massage. It is easier in my opinion than baking, but much, much more impressive. I invite you to test this theory out. You’ll be fair drowning in compliments, you candy-wizard, you.

But first! The obligatory tie-in:

When I was a kid, my oldest sister and I were staying together for the night by ourselves. I honestly can’t remember why, but she was 16 and cool, while I was 11 and desperately seeking approval. Turns out this time around she was willing to deign to my request, because my cool teenage sister drove me to  Blockbuster (so dated) to rent Happy Gilmore. Naturally, we decided to make fudge. We scoured my mom’s recipes until we found the one that seemed the easiest.

This was our first mistake. While making candy isn’t’t actually hard, the recipe should be complicated enough to make you cringe at first glance. Which leads me to my first rule:

When making candy, always follow the recipe exactly.

Candy making is a science- it’s all about creating crystal structures.

It's complicated, okay?

It’s complicated, okay?

If the recipe says use a clean bowl, use a clean bowl. If the recipe says do not stir, do not stir. If you have a  itchy creative trigger finger, try adding flavorings or spices to the candy, swap out packaging, use different nuts, etc. Just leave the directions alone.

Now, my sister and I learned to have our mise en place from our mother, who is a very organized lady. We quickly rounded up our powdered sugar, cocoa powder and the like and got cracking. We dumped everything in a bowl and got to the next step of the recipe – “MW for 2 min.” MW? Eleven year old me was mystified. My sister didn’didn’t fare better. Google wasn’t really a thing, nor texting mom to get an answer, so we went with our gut. “’Mix Well’?” I ventured. So we beat the crap out of it for two minutes in my mom’s Kitchenaid mixer.

See, we had never made candy before, so we didn’t know that MW stood for “microwave.” I would not really recommend making candy in the microwave because it’s too hard to control the temperature. Even so, if my sister and I had microwaved our concoction it would have at least had some semblance of fudge. What we ended up making resembled a dense chocolate frosting. Not horrible, but not fudge.

This brings me to my second rule:

Buy a good thermometer.

Martha knows all.

Martha knows all.

As I mentioned before, candy is more about science than cooking. Using a thermometer is easier and much more idiot-proof that using the old “soft ball” and “hard crack” methods.

I use a Martha Stewart-brand digital probe. It is nice because I can set it to alarm when it reaches the appropriate temperature. Buy any candy thermometer that makes you happy, but I would not recommend trying any of my candy recipes without an actuate thermometer. Not unless you are an absolute master of candy testing.

If you follow those two rules, the whole world of candy awaits you! Don’t worry, Blogland, I will walk you through your first go:

This is the goal.

This is the goal.

Emeralds and Ampersands’ Old Fashioned Fudge

2 cups white sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
1 cup milk
4 Tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract, or substitute desired flavor

Grease an 8×8 pan with butter or shortening. Fudge tastes better when it is in your mouth and not stuck to the pan =]

Combine sugar, cocoa powder and milk in a medium saucepan. Ere on the larger size, as this mixture will expand as it cooks. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil stirring constantly. Once mixture comes to a medium boil, reduce heat to simmer, remove the spoon and add the thermometer. DO NOT STIR. Let that bad boy bubble away until it reaches 238 degrees F (the soft ball stage).  This will take some time, so be patient.
Remove from heat and allow to cool to 110 degrees F.

As mixture cools, wet a pastry brush or paper towel with water and wipe out any residual sugar crystals hanging out on the side of the sauce pan. These little crystals can fall into your finished fudge and create that grainy texture sometimes found in homemade fudge.

Once mixture has cooled, add butter and vanilla. Using a clean spoon (because we don’t want any stray sugar crystal sneaking in), beat mixture until butter is well integrated and fudge has lost its sheen. Give it what-for, because under-beating results in runny fudge, which is not delicious (as a sidenote, don’t give yourself a beating blister like I did, because it is both painful and embarassing. Double ouch).  Legend has it that this is where you would put nuts if you wanted to, but I’m not into nutty fudge.

Fudge in all it glory

Fudge in all it glory

Pour it into your greased pan and cool. Cut into squares with a sharp knife. You can now wrap them individually in plastic wrap or waxed paper to keep them fresh – or just eat it all. I don’t judge.

I know that sounds scary but in actuality it’s really just a lot of standing around. Scout’s honor.

If you’ve mastered fudge, give toffee a try. It’s just a simple and there’s no beating. When I made it I substituted hazelnuts for almonds because hazelnuts are God’s gift to the world. When the pecans on the counter were crying out to become chocolate turtles, I used this caramel recipe. I like this one in particular because the blogger gives you a lot of customization ideas.

Not a grainy piece in site

Alright, friends, it’s just in time for Christmas! Who’ll be giving out homemade candy this year?

Thai Basil Chicken – Why Order Takeout?

Note: So, sometimes, when you work a ton and then get the HEADCOLD THAT WOULD END YOU, it’s really hard to write witty and illuminating blog posts. Sorry for the lapse, but I’m back on the wagon. Or off the wagon. Whichever one is the good one, I’m that.

To write this post, I’m going to have to admit a couple of things.

Number one: I love the internet like a fat kid loves cake (read: fat kid = me).

I love the internet. It’s one of the most entertaining things I can do relatively cheaply in my own time. I have an addiction to StumbleUpon, which is similar to Pinterest, I guess, but without all the broken links. When I am in need of a good ol’ fashioned time-waster, I click through StumbleUpon, liking things to save them for later perusal. This is where I get a lot of my best ideas, recipes, tutorials, and such.

I have close to 1200 likes. That is too many for a reasonable person to have. Witness my time-wasted shame.

Number two: I love Thai food beyond any reasonable normal human amount.

I think my love of Thai food came about in college from a very strange rule – the SPU cafeteria didn’t serve any sort of meal in the evenings on Sundays. It was sort of a nice way to give the food workers the night off. It seemed pretty inconvenient at the time, but as I look back on it now I think of all the wonderful times I had eating out with then-boyfriend C and our best friend Cynthia. I think of how much of the city we saw riding around on buses and eating in little hole-in-the-wall Mom and Pops  and fancy-ish downtown haunts (we definitely had ourselves some Cheesecake Factory on occasion). I know that some of the best college memories I have come from Sunday night dinners.

Anyway, once upon a time we walked from campus to Thai food in Fremont, and my world was opened. One Massaman curry later, Thai food became king in my heart.

So (here comes the tie-in. I know you were waiting for it), I was clicking around on StumbleUpon, and I found this post: Basically, this article explains that Thai Basil Stir fry, pad kra pao gai in Thai, is the Thai equivalent of a cheeseburger and fries. It’s the homegrown comfort food that any restaurant in Thailand should be able to make passably.

Now, the article had some guidelines for how the dish should be put together, but no real recipe. Pretty disappointing, right? Never fear,dear reader, Bonnie comes to the rescue! Combining what I learned about the dish and a couple similar recipes, I have created a great, simple, quick weeknight meal that is literally ready in ten minutes or less (plus however long it takes for your rice to cook).

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Oh Basil. Get in my mouth.

The only trick here is to add the signature basil after removing the pan from the heat. The residual heat from the pan should be enough to release the flavor without wilting the leaves and losing the basil deliciousness. It will look like a ton of leaves, but use a free hand – girl can never have too much basil in her life.

Thai basil can be a little hard to find but here is my Seattle shopping guide: Safeway is a no-go, Fred Meyer sometimes does. QFC always stocks it, but if they run out you can run over to Ballard Market on 15th and just north of Market. I would be downright shocked if you couldn’t  buy Thai basil at Met Market or Whole foods, but I haven’t looked yet. It’s worth the run around, because in the end you will have this:

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This is what is for dinner. Right now.

THAI BASIL CHICKEN (serves 2)

2 tbsp sesame oil or olive oil
2 boneless chicken breasts, sliced thinly
1 onion, diced
a few Thai ghost peppers, or a pinch red pepper flakes
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce (low sodium if available)
1 or 2 packages of thai basil, or reg basil if need be, trimmed from stems
1 egg per serving

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, sauté until tender, about three min. Add chicken and heat until cooked through. Season with salt, pepper, and Thai peppers or red pepper flakes.
Add garlic, sugar, fish sauce, and soy. Allow to boil and reduce until thickened and sauce-like. Remove pan from heat. Add basil leaves.
Meanwhile, add 1 tsp oil to a small fry pan over medium heat. Fry egg until white is set and yolk is runny.
Serve over rice (jasmine tastes best, I think), topped with egg.

Bavarian-style Soft Pretzels – Nostalgia Food

Because sometimes ya just gotta snarf a pile of pretzels and shotgun Harry Potter movies.

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It’s basically magic. So that’s make me a wizard, right?

When I was a kid, I used to take violin lessons about 30 minutes away from my sleepy Seattle suburb in a neighboring town. Lessons were at 11am, so there was generally a post-music stop at Auntie Anne’s for lunchtime goodness. Nine-year-old me was itching to try out making the perfect things at home. (As an aside, I really wish I had a picture of nine-year-old me to accompany this post. I was gangly, awkward, had a perm growing out; it was truly a thing of beauty. Sheer, unadulterated, pre-pubescent, awkward, beauty. You’ll have to use your imagination.)

I remember trying out pretzels with my mom. A modified basic bread dough, stretched and shaped, covered in butter and popped in the oven. Yum. Except…

The recipe we had left out a crucially important step. The step that transforms butter-coated, weird-shaped rolls into gorgeous soft pretzels. We ended up with what I have come to find out are considered “knots,” soft, twisted rolls.  Not bad, mind you, but certainly not Auntie Anne. Based on this pseudo-disappointing gastronomic childhood adventure, I securely placed pretzels in the “advanced” section of cooking and never looked back.

But then there was the internet. Numerous sources told me that pretzels were fun AND attainable, so I said “Shoot, I got this.” This is definitely still a labor of love and a tad time consuming. Bread dough needs to rise at least one hour and still requires shaping into that signature pretzel heart twist. I would place this firmly in the “intermediate” category.

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Fancy scale not required (but it helps).

The secret ingredient is baking soda. And water. It is vitally important to boil each pretzel in baking soda infused water until the pretzel rises gently to the surface of its own volition before baking. Through some wizard magic, the boiling causes the dough to develop a crust that limits the rising and forces the dough to maintain the signature twisted heart shape.

Of course, you could shape this anyway you want. Makes pretzels sticks, pretzel bites, pretzel candy canes for Christmas! Or you could spell out “PROM???” in pretzels and give it to your unsuspecting crush. You’re welcome for the idea, high schoolers who read my blog.

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Bavaria would be proud.

The recipe I use uses an egg wash instead of butter, which is an easy and lower calorie way to achieve that glossy pretzel finish. Conversely, skip the egg wash and top with butter after making for optimum sticking power. Try topping with grated parmesan and garlic or cinnamon sugar if you like.

I use the LORD OF COOKING (aka Alton Brown)’s recipe for pretzels, because he knows all and I am but a humble plebeian in awe of his might.  I prefer to pair them with my own recipe for spicy cheese sauce, because you basically can’t do nostalgia without processed cheese, am I right?

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Oh, the cheesy.

Alton Brown’s Soft Pretzels

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt

Directions
Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Jalapeno Cheese Dip
From the Kitchen of Emeralds and Ampersands

1 Tbsp Oil
1 small or ½ large onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
16oz of an easy melting cheese, such as Velveeta, American, or Monterrey Jack, shredded or sliced thinly
¼-2/3 cup milk
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Red pepper flakes (opt)

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and jalapeno, heat until softened. Reduce heat to low. Add cheese. Stir until melted. Add milk to loosen sauce to desired consistency. Remove from heat. Stir in fresh cilantro. If jalapeno fails to provide desired kick, add a few red pepper flakes to desired spice level. Serve warm with chips or pretzels. Dip reheats well in the microwave (but it likely won’t stick around that long!).

 

EDIT:

Mom came through with some awkward photos. For your viewing pleasure:

Bonnie5

Observe: American Girl doll, frizzy perm hair, Violin that I was WAAAAAY into. This is perfection.

Enjoy!

Doughnuts for the Not-so-Sweet Tooth

(Can you even believe it? My First “Real Girl” post!)

Recently, I found myself with a week of vacation from coffee land. With no discernible plan, C and I took to the road, namely I-90 and 1-84, to visit our dearest friend deep in Washington’s wine country.

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This is us.

It’s a long drive, guys.

About the time we reached the “Palm Springs of Washington,” which is, I shit you not, what the tourism board of Yakima decided to put on their signs, I had seen quite a few local fruit stands. My hands were fair itching to get ahold of a flat of fresh, local peaches, if only to pare and freeze them to make a peach cobbler in December. Because peaches. Yum.

I never did get my flat of roadside peaches, but by the end of the vacation I had a much-coveted Costco membership. So, alongside half-priced gallons of gin and oil drums of mayonnaise, a flat of peaches was suddenly in my reach. And it was a thing of glory.

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Oh, the juicy sweetness

I then remembered a recipe I had saved several years ago –  Doughnut Peach Doughnuts (find the original post here ). I am not much a doughnut fan myself; my taste buds tend to swing sour or salty instead of sugary sweet, so if you’re about to skip this outright because doughnuts don’t rock your world, think again.

The peach is the doughnut.

Clearly, these are not doughnut peaches. This is my substitute for plain ol’ peaches.

Your peaches will take a delicious batter-clad journey from this:

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Peachy rings!

To the ultimate in peach heaven – crispy, juicy, sweet heaven.

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Oh. Good. Lord.

I wish I had a picture of C’s face as he ate these. I was too busy double-fisting these bad boys to grab the camera.

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I want to go to there.

In conclusion – try these. Substitute gluten-free beer and almond flour if that’s your thing. Just eat them.
Doughnut Peach Doughnuts

Adapted from Lunch at Sixpoint

3 peaches
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup beer
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
about 3 cups canola oil ( for frying)

For the Topping:

1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Use a sharp knife to slice each peach in thirds around the pit, using care to keep the peach intact. Gently remove pit and discard. Stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the egg and the beer, and whisk until just combined. Dunk the peaches in the batter, coating each fruit. Heat the oil until it reaches 375 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer (batter should sizzle and brown in a few seconds when dropped in oil). Transfer three peach rings into the oil, taking care to avoid oil splatters. In just a few seconds (5-10), the peaches should be golden brown. Flip peaches and allow them to brown to the opposite side. Remove them from the oil and transfer to paper towel lined plates to drain off excess oil. Repeat with the remaining peaches.
For the topping, mix together the cinnamon and sugar, and sprinkle some over each side of the doughnuts. Let the doughnuts stand until they are cool enough to eat, and then enjoy!