Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pretzel Buns (and rolls and knots)

So, as promised in yesterday's update, here is the pretzel bun recipe that I made.  And I made it twice more today.  I will apologize in advance if this seems a little rambly, but it's late and it's been a long day and I still have dishes and a few other things to do before I can go to bed.  I may go back and edit this at a later date.

The recipe came in my King Arthur Flour Catalog, and since hubby likes pretzels in just about any form, I thought I'd give them a try.  I've made pretzels before.  I've attempted hard pretzels only once.  The taste was good, but they didn't look pretty.  They looked like something I'd pull out of my cat's litter box.  I had better luck with soft pretzels, but the other recipe I had used was a little more complicated.

So here is the recipe.  (Both through the link and written out here.)


  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast


  • coarse sea salt

Water Bath

  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 cup baking soda


1) Mix and knead the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a smooth, slightly sticky dough.
2) Allow the dough to rise in a lightly greased bowl, covered, for about 1 hour, until doubled.
3) Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface.
4) Divide the dough into 10 pieces and shape each piece into a smooth ball.
5) Place the balls on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes.
6) Preheat the oven to 400°F.
7) Prepare the water bath: Bring the water, salt, and baking soda to a boil in a large pot.
8) Drop 5 dough balls at a time into the water bath.
9) Cook for 30 seconds, flip over, and cook for 30 seconds longer. Using a slotted spoon, return the buns to the baking sheet.
10) Using scissors or a sharp knife, cut 1/2"-deep crosses into the center of each bun. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
11) Bake the buns for 20 to 24 minutes, or until they're a deep-dark brown. Remove them from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool.
Yield: 10 buns

So, that's the info on the recipe right from the website.

I put all the dry ingredients in my mixer and blended them.  I had melted the butter into the warm water so I didn't have to worry about it not incorporating it thoroughly.  Yesterday's batch mixed up perfectly as the recipe is written.  Both batches today needed a little more flour.  I can only assume it was due to an environment change (temp/humidity/etc).  After working with bread doughs, you get to know what to look for and when you need to make some adjustments.

And because I'm not big on potentially splashing boiling hot water on me (I've done it before and it hurt for quite some time), I used a spider spoon/strainer (like this) to lower the dough balls into the water bath one at a time.  I did not put them in 5 at a time because my 8qt pot was too small to work with them easily.  As soon as you put them on the baking sheet, sprinkle the salt on while they're still wet or else the salt will just fall off.

If you use two baking sheets, you must rotate them mid bake so that they brown evenly.

The three batches I made over the weekend made 10 buns, 12 hot dog rolls and 24 pretzel knots.  Pictures to follow.  The baking time seemed about the same for all the shapes.

We did burgers for dinner last night with home made french fries and pickled red onions (that I pickled a few weeks ago).

I'm still getting the hang of shaping hot dog buns.  Its why I usually make them lobster roll style.

The knots turned out to be my favorite thing.  They weren't difficult and they look great/fancy...

Until next time...

Happy Eating!

There's been a lot going on (not food related)

I know it's been a while since I've updated.  I believe my last update was in November.  I mentioned that there was stuff going on and some that I wasn't ready to share yet.

Well, that thing that I didn't want to share then was that I was pregnant again.  Elliott Cole was born May 15th after 36 hours of induced labor.  

He's now just over 3 months old and it's been a bit of an adjustment.  I just returned to work but my maternity leave was busy.  I wish I had been able to just enjoy being with the new baby, but unfortunately that wasn't the case.  At about 24 weeks pregnant, I had a spot removed from my skin for a biopsy.  The biopsy showed that the spot was the worst case scenario.  I had to face my biggest fear, and do it while pregnant.  The spot was melanoma and the shave biopsy did not get it all.

A month later I was scheduled for a surgery to remove more tissue and test the sentinel lymph node.  They removed all the primary melanoma completely, but one lymph node was positive.  We couldn't do anything else until Elliott was born.

So after he was born, the first step was to get a PET scan.  That was the most stressful thing I've ever been through.  It would tell us if and how far the cancer had spread.  The fact that it was in the lymph nodes meant that I was bumped up to stage 3.

All in all, my maternity leave allowed me to be paid for all my doctors appointments, scans, a second surgery and a few specialist consults.  The PET scan came back with just a few things to look at that turned out to be nothing.  My second surgery pulled more lymph nodes and they were all negative for melanoma. We're all pretty sure they removed all the cancer back in March. 

So, sorry for the serious update... But I'm ready to get back to the business of cooking and hopefully all that I will ever have to do again regarding the melanoma is just check to make sure it hasn't returned.

And I'll leave you with a current picture of the baby and hubby ... and a promise of a pretzel bun recipe tomorrow.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I know I've been gone for a while.  There are a lot of things that have been going on and things have never really settled down after my previous pregnancy and loss.  Some things I'm not ready to share yet, but that shouldn't worry you.  If you're reading this blog, it's probably not for my personal information.

My hubby loves bananas, but he won't eat them once they start to spot and get a little softer.  We always buy them when they're still green.  So with Thanksgiving just behind us, we had a lot of food.  I cooked a whole turkey and sides for just my hubby and I.  The bananas that we bought were overlooked and three of them were allowed to get spotty and soft.

The best thing to do with soft bananas is to make banana bread.  I've never made banana bread with chocolate chips before, but it sounded like a good idea.

Banana Bread (With Dark Chocolate Morsels)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 Tbsp cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a medium mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Add mashed bananas, eggs and vanilla.  Mix well.  In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients and slowly add to banana mixture and mix well.  Fold in chocolate chips, if using.  You can substitute walnuts as well.  Pour batter into lightly greased loaf pan (9"x5"-ish).  Sprinkle the top with the cinnamon sugar.  Bake at 350 for approximately 45 minutes.  The top should spring back when lightly touched.

I pulled this out of the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes in the pan, then I turned it out over the sink (so that the loose sugar didn't make a mess) and let it cool on a wire rack for about 5 more minutes.  At that point, I couldn't wait to try it any longer.  It was delicious.  It wasn't as sweet as I thought it would be with all the sugar that was in and on it.

I should be getting more creative with food again and you should be hearing from me a little more often.

Happy Eating

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bread, Bread and More Bread

Again, it's been a while since I've posted.  About a week after I posted the update about the pregnancy, hubby and I found out the baby stopped growing.  We've processed it and we're good.  It's a sad thing, but it's also very common.  And so we're going to try again.

Getting back into a pattern after all the chaos that came with that was a little difficult.  I haven't done much creatively in regards to cooking.  I have baked though.  I tweaked the potato roll recipe from the previous recipe a little bit.  I added a 1/2 cup of milk to the heated potato mixture.  That helped to provide enough room to stir the potatoes constantly while cooking (to avoid the burning milk problem I had with the first batch).  So basically the cooking liquid is 1 1/2 cups of milk and 1/2 cup water.  The only problem I had with this was that it was harder for me to mash the potatoes at the end.  That wasn't really a problem for me though.  I just used my handy immersion blender to blend it all together.

Following the rest of the recipe posted in the previous post, I made the hot dog rolls and a batch of burger buns.  (I usually make the burger buns with wheat bran, but I was out).

The same day that I did these two batches, I also made some oatmeal bread.

This was the whole day's haul.  I really like the oatmeal bread.  That may be my new "go to" everyday bread.

I got the recipe from King Arthur Flour.  I didn't make any changes to the recipe ingredients, but I did change a little of the process.  Instead of using lukewarm milk, I heated the milk to almost boiling (with the salt, sugar and butter) and let it cool to lukewarm.  When it cooled to about 130 degrees F, I poured it over the oats and let them soak for the remainder of the cool down.  The first time I tried the recipe, I let them soak for the entire cool down period, but the oats got too soft and the bread was super soft.

I have ordered live sourdough starter from King Arthur Flour as well as stuff to make Rye Bread.

Sourdough bread has been my bread nemesis.  I have tried to make my own starter and failed.  I have requested dried starter that came with instructions on how to bring it back to life.  I failed with that too.  So I broke down and ordered live starter.  I received it and followed the instructions for feeding it.  I have since given away two sets of started to friends and have a thriving starter to use whenever I want to.

I tried making sourdough last weekend.  Sourdough is still my nemesis.  I didn't exactly fail.  The bread was good, but it wasn't what I was looking for.  It wasn't sour enough.  It was a quick rise with extra yeast.  Next weekend I will be trying a different recipe for sourdough that calls for 30 hours of feed and rise time before baking with no extra yeast added.  If that is successful, I will share that whole process.

The rye bread was also not successful, but I'm not sure if that was the recipe or my fault.  The day I made it was the same day I made the sourdough.  I also made strawberry margarita jam and dill pickles.  The reason the rye wasn't successful may have been because I forgot to put the salt in.  We're going to try it again as written and make sure that I skipped the salt.

The round loaf is the sourdough and the rye is upside down because the top wasn't pretty.  Hubby is still eating the rye though.  So, other than being bland, I guess it's not too bad.

I'll try to do another update soon.  I have quite a few more pictures already uploaded just waiting for me to do an entry.

Until then... Thanks and Happy Eating

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Potato Rolls ...

So, yesterday I made some potato rolls (as I said I would).  They came out pretty good. I need to adjust the cooking time a little since some of them got a little darker than I wanted them to be.

Here's how they turned out:

I found a recipe that I liked the looks of and then tweaked it a little ... here's the updated version.

1 potato, peeled and diced
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 pkg active dry yeast
5-6.5 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons shortening
1 tablespoon salt


In a medium saucepan, cook potato cubes in milk and water mixture for about 12 minutes, or until tender.  Do not drain.  Let mixture cool until 110-120 degrees (to not kill the yeast).  Set aside 1/2 cup of cooking liquid.  Mash the potato and remaining liquid.  If necessary, add warm water to make 2 cups of potato mixture.

In a large mixing bowl (or in my case, the kitchen aid mixer bowl), sprinkle the yeast on reserved 1/2 cup potato water/milk.  Add mashed potatoes.  Beat with mixer until smooth.  Add 2 cups of flour, sugar, shortening and salt.  Beat with mixer on low for 1/2 minute, scraping sides of bowl constantly.  Beat 3 minutes on high. 

Switch to the dough hook and continue to add as much as the remaining flour as needed for the dough to pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Continue to knead the dough until smooth and elastic (about 6-8 minutes).

Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning to grease surface.  Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk.  I actually put mine outside to rise since it was cool in my apartment.  It worked fairly well.

Punch dough down and divide into 16 equal balls.  Pull each ball of dough into a 6" x 4" rectangle and roll into a 6" log.  Pinch seams and place in a prepared 9 x 13 cake pan.  I fit 10 rolls in the pan and placed the remaining 6 on a flat pan.  Cover and let rise again.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Bake for 20-30 minutes or until done.  Rotate pans half way through for even browning.  If necessary, cover rolls with foil during the last 10 minutes to prevent over browning.  (I did not follow my own advice and some of mine came out a little dark as you can see in the next picture.)

The important part is that they taste good, and as I posted on Facebook.... We have achieved good meat to bread ratio.  So, I'll be making these again rather than buying expensive rolls at the grocery store.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I haven't forgotten about this...

There has been something rather big going on in my life and I wanted to wait a bit before posting it online.  This thing has been time consuming and I have also been working a lot of evenings and nights, so I haven't had much time to cook.

I found out about a month ago that I am pregnant.  So far it hasn't really affected my appetite in regards to making me sick or strange cravings.  I hope it stays that way.

I have the next two days off and I have two things on the list to try.  I am going to chop some cucumbers and onions and do a cucumber salad (with a vinegar based dressing).  I'm also going to try to make potato bread in hot dog roll sizes.  One of the things that I can't seem to get down is making rolls for sausages or hot dogs.  I think this time I'm going to bake them in a cake pan so they'll be more like the lobster roll bread shape...

Like this:

My thoughts are that if I let them rise in the pan and they squish together, that they won't get too bulky and it won't feel like you have to put four hot dogs in the bun to have a nice bread to meat ratio.  We'll see if it works. 

I'm going to go get started on that now and hopefully update you all on whether it worked tomorrow.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Stuffed Pork Chops

I know.  Two entries in one day.  Aren't you all lucky?  We just won't mention that I've been slacking the rest of the month.  I meant to do some catching up while my husband was away, but that didn't happen.  I didn't do a whole lot of cooking since it was just me for a week.  Though I did take the opportunity to have a few things that I like and he won't eat.  The first night he was gone I had some southwestern style stuffed portabello mushrooms that I picked up from Sprouts.  The second night I had sauteed cremini mushrooms and spaghetti squash with some andouille sausage sausage thrown in the mix.  As you might have guessed, my husband won't eat mushrooms.  He also doesn't like any squash except pumpkin.

Anyway.  I picked him up from the airport late yesterday afternoon, and we just picked something up on the way home for dinner.  So, for his birthday dinner (his birthday was this past Thursday), I made stuffed pork chops followed by the Ginger Nutella Brownies from a previous post.

I was using things that we already had on hand since we're also fairly strapped for cash until Friday.  Vacations are expensive, though he did really well keeping the costs down.

On to the pictures!

I started out by preparing the stuff that was going to go inside the pork chops.  You should also preheat your oven at this point.  I had mine set to 425 degrees F.  Tonight I was stuffing them with some prosciutto, some cheese, sage and garlic.  I also threw a little fresh ground pepper in the garlic-sage mix.  Since prosciutto comes in slices, like this:

... my first step was to slice this into ribbons.  I found that the smaller pieces could be more evenly distributed in the pork chop pocket.  To make this a little easier (since prosciutto is also tissue paper thin), I rolled each slice at an angle before slicing.

I kept each set of ribbons in separate piles and once all four were sliced, I portioned out the cheese to go with it.  I used a half slice of provolone and a little bit of shredded mozzarella for each pork chop. 

Next, I eyeballed the dry sage.  You could definitely use fresh sage leaves in this as well.  One to two leaves per chop would be good.  If using fresh, you should slice those in ribbons as well.  I probably used about 1 tablespoon of dried sage.

That was a tiny little bowl.  Next I took 3 small cloves of garlic and grated them into the sage.  I have a little hand held grater that grates in both directions.  I love that thing.  It makes using garlic so much better.  Makes it small enough that it spreads evenly throughout your dish.

I mixed the sage and garlic with some fresh ground pepper and set that aside. 

Now that all the filling stuff was ready, it was time to deal with the pork chops.  When we were originally shopping for groceries, my husband suggested that we get chops that were already butterflied.  I chose not to for two reasons.  The first was that it was cheaper and the second was because I didn't want the chops fully butterflied.  I just wanted a pocket.

So, I took our chops and very carefully cut a slit in them with a sharp knife, being careful not to cut all the way through to the other side.  I also left both top and bottom in tact as well.

Once I had all four cut, I took the sage-garlic mixture and rubbed it in the pockets

There's just no really good way to get a shot of that step.

Next I stuffed the pockets with the prosciutto, followed by the provolone, and finally the mozzarella.

At this point, you can secure the openings with toothpicks to try and keep everything inside.  I did not because I like a bit of crispy cheese.  I did stretch the meat almost closed though. 

Season one side with salt and pepper, and place seasoned side down in a preheated, oven safe skillet with a little olive oil. 

Season the other side of the chops and wait for a few minutes.  You want to sear the outside of the chops, so you don't want to move them too much.  You want to allow them to get some color to them before flipping them.

Turn them over when it's time and transfer the skillet to the preheated oven.  The cooking time for these will really depend on how thick the chops are.  If you go with thinner one's like mine, they only needed another 8-10 minutes.  Long enough for me to saute the asparagus and heat the water for the potatoes (more on this in a minute).  If you go with ones about 2" thick, you should probably allow closer to 20 minutes.  Use a meat thermometer to check that they're done. 

According to the USDA, you need to cook pork chops to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees F.  Ground pork is a different matter, but you can see that on the link above too.

Now, as you may have guessed, I did use instant mashed potatoes.  Again, I was using things that I had on hand.  Some of you who know me, know that I love mashed potatoes.  My parents used to give me a hard time because I was very specific about how I ate my mashed potatoes when I was younger.  I used to build a well, put butter in it and mold potatoes over the well to seal that in.  Essentially, I was making a potato volcano.  I also did not like "fake"/instant mashed potatoes.  To date, the only instant mashed potatoes that I like are the Idahoan Mashed Potatoes.  They are quick, easy and pretty close in taste to normal mashed potatoes.  They are acceptable to me.  If I had potatoes and the time, I'd make mashed potatoes from scratch.

Anyway.  That was dinner.  I just sauteed the asparagus with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

We followed up with the ginger nutella brownies for my husband's birthday "cake."  He turned 30 on Thursday, so I put 3 candles on one and none on the other.  There was no way I could fit 30 candles on there.  We'd probably set off the fire alarm.

Thanks for reading and happy eating!