Tuesday, January 24, 2012


When I lived in Germany, I loved the soft pretzels from every bakery on every corner.  I ate them so often that I was convinced that they were not the same outside of Bavaria.  When I came across this recipe, I knew I had to try them to see if I could recreate the flavors and memories of Germany in my own kitchen.

The thing that amazed me the most was how incredibly simple the recipe is and how much they taste just like the ones you can buy.  The dough is easy to roll out and isn't sticky at all like many are as you are working with them.  The hardest part is waiting to put them in the oven and then again waiting until they are baked to eat them!

You can make them in any shape or size.  You can put anything on them you can think of that would taste great with bread.Keep in mind they will puff up like any other bread.
I really like the pretzel bites because they filled you up quite quickly!

1 package instant yeast
¼ cup warm water (about 80 F)
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon salt (yes it is a lot)
5 ½ cups flour
Baking soda for boiling
1 beaten egg to spread on pretzels before baking.

Place the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water and let it sit for about 5 min or until frothy.  Then add 5 ½ cups flour, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, and 1 Tablespoon salt.  Mix together by hand.  Add about 1 2/3 cups water and knead until the dough is not sticky.  It should take about 5 minutes with a dough hook, but I like to knead by hand until everything is incorporated and not sticking to the side of the bowl.  Let rise in a warm place (about 80F) for about an hour or until about double in size.

While the dough is rising pull out sesame seeds, fennel, cheese and sea salt (or kosher) to decorate the pretzels with after their baking soda bath.

Once the bread has doubled, prepare the baking soda bath.  Pour the baking soda into the water (ratio 1 cup water to 1.5 tablespoons baking soda).  I used 9 tablespoons of baking soda for a 6 cup of water bath.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Work the dough into pretzel shapes, pretzel bites, or whatever shape you would like.  Drop into the baking soda bath and remove once the dough is floating gently on the top of the water.  This should take 30-60 seconds.

Preheat oven to 425 F.  Place pretzels from the baking soda bath onto parchment paper.  Brush with the egg wash and decorate with salt, cheese or whatever you would like.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Port Wine-Braised Short Ribs, Roasted Potatoes

I rarely need an excuse to cook, so when my fiance asked me to cook dinner for a few of his friends I wasn't going to say no.  Instead it was an excuse to try out several new recipes from Cook this Now by Melissa Clark.  I don't think cooking new recipes for a dinner party is something most people would attempt on a regular basis since you never know if what you are making will turn out the way you would like it.  However, I think of it as a challenge and since I love to experiment while I cook, I am never quite sure the result until it is all done.  For example, I made the white bean stew before even knowing if I would like it.  And, while I was cooking it, I discovered it didn't have a lot of flavor.  It turned our great however, and I continue to cook from the cuff of my sleeve. Fortunately also, I think my fiance's friends are easy to please and I have never had a meal that was a disaster.

So this evening I decided to make Port Wine-Braised Short Ribs, Whatever you've got salad, Skillet-Roasted Potatoes and Turnips and Bakes Apples with Fig and Cardamom Crumble.

I have discovered in the Port Wine Braised Short Ribs that I really love the way the meat cooks in braising.  I definitely have to do more of this in winter when you have some time to let the flavors soak into the meat as it cooks for a few hours. 
Fortunately, I had enough room in the oven to also roast the potatoes and turnips.  The dinner came together well and I don't think there was anything left over except some of the dessert, but only because we had eaten everything else up and the portion for the dessert was bigger than the rest.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I never have eaten a Mallobars before I made this recipe, but I can say they remind me of smores.  Basically, the ingredients are similar...graham cracker crust, marshmallow center and chocolate on top.  All good things come with chocolate, right?  When I saw this recipe from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark, I knew I had to try it.  I had not seen a recipe for graham crackers before and knew at least this part was something I had to make.  Besides, at the end of each recipe Melissa give additional sources for some ingredients or alternative ways you can do things.  This one had the suggestion of just making the graham cracker portion to eat as regular cookies.  When I lived in Europe I despaired at the thought of not having a graham cracker crust for the cheesecakes that I made there.  If I had only found this recipe then my world would have been complete, but alas at least I have it now.

The Mallobars turned out good, but since they are rather time consuming in that you have to make each layer and wait until you can make the next one, I don't think they will become a frequent creation in the kitchen.  I do however want to experiment with more homemade marshmallows as they are fabulous made at home, but I feel I need more practice with them.  At any rate, even is just one piece is made (like the graham cracker crust or just the marshmallows) I think there won't be a problem with anyone eating them up!

Stuffed Peppers

Sausage, Potato and Onion Stuffed Peppers

I have to admit I am a little bit crazy when it comes to collecting recipes.  If I find something that looks or sounds like it would be good, I have to get the recipe or keep the recipe.  More often than not, I find that cooking is not difficult and I can't understand people who don't like to cook or have never learned to cook.  Personally, I think about half of any type of cooking, is preparing the ingredients which anyone can do.  The more difficult part is actually cooking the ingredients in a way that showcases the flavors of the dish.  This takes some practice and skills, but there are so many great dishes that anyone can prepare without much time or effort.  Home cooking is the only way to go in my opinion and if I had sufficient time every day, I would cook every day.

Sausage, Potato and Onion Stuffed Peppers

1 14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Kosher salt and pepper
4 large bell peppers
1 small onion, chopped
1 small potato, diced
1 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 pound spicy Italian sausage

In the bottom of a casserole dish, combine the tomatoes, oregano and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and pepper.  (I used the tomato mixture to help the pepper remain upright.)  If the peppers do not stand up, slice a little off their bottoms to make it even.  If you chopped off any of the pepper, finely chop it and place it into a medium sized bowl.  Add the onion, potato, parsley and crushed red pepper.  Mix together, and then add the sausage and mix again.  Cut off the tops of the peppers.  At this point you can choose to chop them up and add them to the sausage mixture or leave them to cover the peppers during baking.  Discard the seeds from the peppers.  Spoon the sausage mixture into the peppers.  Arrange the peppers into the baking dish.  Bake at 350 F for about 50 minutes or until the sausage stuffing is sizzling and cooked throughout the pepper.

New Year, New Food - White Bean Stew with Rosemary, Garlic and Farro

The New Year brings new things to do and try for the upcoming year.  Plans are made, and fresh starts are started.  In December I came across a cookbook that I decided I could not live without, and so I have purchased Cook This Now by Melissa Clark.  Not only have I fallen in love with the recipes in this cookbook, but I have decided like many others, to try and cook every recipe in the cookbook.  I love how it is divided into months.  Each month has a focus on foods which are available at that time of the year.  Not only will this widen my horizons with foods I would not have tried before now, but it is a challenge to see if I can attain the delicious flavors which come together in ways I have not tried.  So in reference to this so far wonderful cookbook, I will not be posting the recipes in this cookbook.  If you like what you see, I encourage you to also get the cookbook.  Happy New Year!  Happy Cooking!

Cook This Now 
White Bean Stew with Rosemary, Garlic and Farro
This recipe is a simple stew with tremendous flavors, which you might not think when you read the recipe or even if you taste it while it is cooking.  The key to this is not the stew itself, but the finishing pieces of olive oil, flaky salt, red pepper and parsley.  These finishing ingredients make the stew what it is.

This recipe does take a while to cook, so prepare for it when you have a lot of time at home.  However, it does not require a lot of attention, so you do not have to be in the kitchen the entire time.  Plus, as it is simmering away it send delicious smells of garlic, onion, rosemary and thyme through the kitchen.  I let the stew simmer through the day as I intended to eat it for dinner instead of lunch, though it would have been ready earlier.  The only consequence was that the rosemary and thyme cooked off of their stems, but did not diminish from the flavor.  Also, note make sure if you are going to simmer all day that you will need to remove the onion, celery and garlic before they disappear into a mush that used to resemble what you put in the pot.