Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Soft Pretzels

1 T. yeast
1 c. warm water
2 1/2 to 3 c. flour*
2 T. oil
1 T. sugar
6 T. baking soda in 6 cups water

*I use about 1/4-1/3 amount of whole wheat flour.
I always double this recipe. We can eat 12 pretzels really fast, so I make two batches and put some in a Ziploc in the freezer once cooled. The one time I only made one batch it was very disappointing and hardly worth the effort. I use 9 T. baking soda in 9 c. water when I make two batches.
This is a fair amount of work, but worth it if you love soft pretzels. They don't have the fake aftertaste of the store-bought ones and the cost works out to be less than 6 cents per pretzel!

In a bowl, dissolve yeast in water. add 1 1/2 c. flour, the oil, and the sugar. Beat for about 3 minutes to make a smooth batter. Gradually stir in enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and satiny (about 5 minutes) adding flour as needed to prevent sticking. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease top, and cover and let rise until double (1 hour).
Punch down dough, turn out onto a floured board, and divide into 12 pieces. Shape each into a smooth ball by gently kneading. Then roll each into a smooth rope about 18 inches long, and twist into a pretzel shape. Place slightly apart on a greased baking sheet, turning loose ends underneath. Let rise, uncovered, until puffy (about 25 minutes).
Meanwhile, in a 3-qt stainless steel or enameled pan (not aluminum) bring soda water to a boil, adjust water to keep water boiling gently. With a slotted spatula, lower 1 pretzel at a time into pan. Let simmer for 10 seconds on each side, then lift from water, drain briefly on spatula, and return to baking sheet. Let dry briefly, then sprinkle with coarse salt and let stand uncovered.

Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes (I cooked mine for 9 1/2, so watch them) or until golden brown. Transfer to racks, serve warm with butter, mustard or cream cheese. Or let cool completely, wrap airtight, and freeze. Microwave frozen pretzel for about 30 seconds to reheat.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tomato Wild Rice Soup

3 T. butter
3 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can chicken broth
1/2 c. wild rice
pinch of sugar
1/2 t. basil (or 3 T. chopped fresh)
1/2 c. heavy cream

Melt butter with olive oil in a soup pot. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook. Add tomatoes, chicken broth and rice and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 hour until rice opens and fluffs. Stir frequently. Add water if it boils down too much (I didn't because I like thick soup). Add salt, pepper, sugar and cream and heat through.

Tomatoes: I thought it was too chunky the first time so I dumped mine in a bowl and blended them with my immersion blender.
Rice: Wild rice is quite expensive. I substituted half brown rice and it was just as delicious and saved about 50 cents.