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Resolution Recipe 6: Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels


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I am not going to lie…this recipe killed me in so many ways. I earn my novice status with many recipes but my badge should be gold after making these. I know they may look like pretzels and they may even look good to the untrained eye, but I had so many issues with this recipe, I just want to spill my guts and get it over with…and pray they turn out better if I ever dare to try again…ugh.20140308_135337

Ingredients are minimal and you probably have everything you need in the pantry unless you’re like me and don’t keep chocolate ships in your pantry because that isn’t a healthy decision!

As grumpy as I am even typing this up, I do have some thoughts on what might have gone wrong for me….

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YEAST: I hate working with yeast sometimes. It’s so temperamental. It always feels like such an amazing victory to see your bread rise after you’ve been standing in the kitchen  biting your fingernails watching the dough like a worried mother. I guess these guys rose better then they could have but the consistency of the dough was like clay or even Play Dough and not at all soft like I would have expected to see for pretzel dough. So, while it’s possible I killed the yeast or that it was too old to be nice to me, I actually wonder if it wasn’t something else…

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MIXING: Guys this was a total disaster! The recipe says to mix it for like 10 min (I might be exaggerating, but I don’t have the recipe in front of me while I type this…) and within 2 min it was so tough that the mixer was literally skipping and hopping on the counter top. *sigh*. 20140308_141753

 

This is a picture of me holding the top down because it was not wanting to stay put. The dough hook had a terrible time working the dough and I was 100% sure I was going to have to apologize to my room mate for breaking her very expensive mixer and then some how replace it with the money I don’t even have to buy my own. Nightmare. I have no idea how I would have been able to mix it for the amount of time they suggest. But things got worse when I added…

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BUTTER: Oh geez. Imagine putting clay in your Kitchen Aid and then adding butter. Imagine with me for a second what that mess would look like. A greasy mess! That’s what it looks like. The dough was not able to absorb the butter (as you can see above) but it did start to soften it a bit out of the hard rocky ball that it had been previously. I continued to run the mixer, hoping it would improve and while it did show some signs of  improvement, but I was really discouraged by what I was seeing.

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Things seemed to shape up a bit after I added the chocolate chips. You can see below that it’s looking more like cookie dough and less like a wet buttery mess. Score!

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Back to the bad news…the dough totally didn’t rise. It looked like this after the set amount of time for raising. It was not yeasty and squishy like other doughs are. It should have been fluffy and doubled. It was not. I decided that this situation might end up a little bit like those experiences you have at the hair dresser getting a cut or style….you know that moment….about 10 min in to your new quaff you  inwardly start groaning thinking the person doesn’t know what they are doing and they didn’t listen and you’re going to look terrible!!!….and then…you just let them finish…haha. The relief ! All is right in the world. They get to keep their jobs and you’re happy….I was hoping these hopeless guys would turn out the same way with a little time and patience…soooo…ONWARD!

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Because I let my dough raise in the oven (dumb choice) the chocolate chips got nice and melted which turned the dough the chocolate color you see. These should be more like a chocolate brioche pretzels since you can’t see the chips in there but we’re going to keep the name the same for consistency sake. 20140308_181811

 

I started to work out the dough by rolling it out into long snake like strips before I started twisting it. Twisting it got easier once I figured out you need to twist the two ends together a few times before pressing them into the curve of the base and that you’ll have more twisting space in the dough the longer you make them.

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I decided to have gravity help me out since the dough was pretty thick and kind of hard to work with.  That seemed to do the trick to get them the length I needed. I believe I divided the dough into rounds based on the serving size so I know what I had to work with for each pretzel. That helped them all be about the same size and shape when all was said and done. 20140308_184001

The egg was you put on them makes them look a little more exciting then the chocolaty marbled dough. This is what they looked like before a trip into the oven…moment of truth folks! Wasn’t sure what I was about to get….


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Well I guess you kind of already saw them at the beginning of the post (sorry for the spoiler after this dramatic interpretation of my experience!) but here they are in all their pretzely glory! I am really happy to say that they actually had a bready (…making up words here, friends…) consistency and tasted very much of chocolate which seems like a good place to be at the end of making this recipe. They are far from as lovely looking as Deb’s are and are not even sort of the best pretzels I’ve ever had…but…they are mine and I am happy with them. They were pretty sweet so they make a good after dinner treat.

I would love to try these again and see what I can do about fixing that rubbery dough. Deb has not blogged this recipe but I’ve found another happy Perelmanite fan like me who has the recipe posted on her blog as well as her review of the cookbook. Check out Think Well. Love well. Dine Well.

If you have tried something like this before or know what I might have wrong, would you be kind enough to tell me! I get a little nervous at the thought of doing this again, but I know there has to be redemption out there for me to find for these pretzels. It will happen :)

Coming up next…Almond Date Breakfast Bars and hopefully restaurant or dish reviews. As I type, I am on the way to Delaware to visit my best friend! I hope to do some fun food reviews of my travels around Delaware and Pennsylvania. I had some majorly good eats last time I was here and can’t wait to see what other goodies I get to try!

Weight Watchers Update: Ladies and gentleman I am 1 lb away from having lost 10% of my original body weight. I have been circling the 10% mark for the past 3 weeks and while I was hoping to hit it sometime in August, I’ve decided that with this trip, my upcoming birthday and school starting that I need to let my routine settle a bit before I beat myself too much. I’m still doing all I can to eat right and plan to keep it up but this plateau might just need a jump start with routine change to get me back in the loss. What a way to spend the summer :) I’m happy with the progress I’ve made. I’ll made these before I started weight watchers so I don’t know the points, but if I remember I’ll come back and post it.

Blessings, friends!

 

 

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The best Apple Crisp…ever…



It’s been a long time since I’ve posted because life has been so busy, but this recipe is going to allow me to come back with a bang. This recipe is awesome!

You can find this recipe at AllRecipes.com and something you should know about this site is that user reviews is what is going to make these recipes go from good to great. I’ve taken a few recipes from here over the years and learned  that if someone is going to give their input about a recipe, it’s a good idea to listen up. Especially for a novice cook like me. Let others go before me and make the mistakes that I would have made because I didn’t know any better. If you like input on recipes, this is an awesome site to help you out.

This recipe drew my attention because it meant, I didn’t have to go to the store to pick up any special pantry supplies. Low on money right now so I love that. Also, I had just been apple picking a few days before which means the fruit was taken care too. Success!

The recipe is simple and basic but some users gave some helpful tips that I took into account when I was putting mine together:

1. Replace the water with apple juice

2. Replace the full amount of white granulated sugar with half white sugar and half brown sugar

3. Don’t cream together butter and sugars, but use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter. This will allow there to be a crunchy topping without the oatmeal

4. Cook the crisp for 50 mins instead of 30-40 minutes.

Here are a few things I would recommend as well…

JA Tip 1: BUY AN APPLE CORER. I splurged and bought one for this project with a gift card from Jamie for my birthday. It’s exactly what made this whole recipe easy.

JA Tip 2: Peel your apples and rub the outsides with lemon juice so they don’t get brown before you cut them up. If you do use the corer make sure to put some lemon juice down in the core of the apple too. I didn’t think about that till I cut my apples and found the cores browning already. Some apples are better then others so you may not notice as much but since I used a variety of apples I used the lemon juice on all of them.

This recipe is set for 6 servings but I made mine for 8. The website will help you alter your ingredients for the larger serving size.

Here’s the recipe without the adjustment I indicated above:

2-2/3 cups sliced apples
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8×8 inch baking dish.
2. Place apples in prepared dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Pour water over all. In a bowl, cream together sugar and butter. Blend in flour. Sprinkle mixture evenly over apples.
3. Bake in preheated oven 30 to 40 minutes, until apples are tender and crust is golden.

I hope you try this recipe! It’s one of the easiest and tastiest desserts I have made in awhile and will definitely make again soon since it is apple season!!!

UPDATE AS OF 10.22.12: I just made this recipe again but didn’t measure my apples and I also cooked it in my mom’s smaller toaster oven. These two changes made for a less crunchy top. I’m not sure if any extra apples caused more moisture or if the toaster oven just didn’t get the topping firm enough, but I would suggest that you actually measure your apples and if you’re cooking in a smaller oven, to maybe put it down 10-25 degrees for the same amount of time or longer if needed. I had to pull mine out before the 50 mins were up because things were going from caramelized to burnt. The lower temp for longer time, might have done the trick. Let me know if you have any suggestions or if one of these causes you the same problem. Would love to get some wisdom on the soggy crust dilemma.

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Olive Garden Bread…rolls


Who doesn’t love Olive Garden bread sticks?! Those fantastic things are often times the only reason I like going…that and their salad. Yum! I think these take a close 2nd to Pat & Oscar’s delicious bread sticks. If you’ve never had a chance to try the breadsticks from Pat and Oscar’s then get yourself over there this week! You can thank me later.

This bread stick recipe was once again inspired by a Pinterest recipe for Olive Garden Breadsticks. I decided to try these yesterday since it just felt like a bread making day! (originally posted by The Misadventures of Mrs. B but referenced by the following Chef in Training blog).

I decided that instead of making breadsticks I would make the recipe into little rolls. They make up quite a bit and I’m guessing if you use the dough for breadsticks you’re not going to get the 2 1/2 dozen I made up.

Another major plus to this recipe is how quick you’ll have fresh bread! I couldn’t believe that I only had  to knead once and then let it rise for an hour before baking them for 20ish minutes. Easy. If you’ve never made bread before, this is a great recipe to get started with.

I’ve made a bunch of different recipes for bread and I still have so much learning to do when making bread dough and working with active ingredients like yeast. One thing I would encourage you to have on hand is a thermometer. I know the quickest way to ruin your bread dough is not getting your water at the right temperature to activate the yeast or getting it too hot to kill the yeast. I’m sure someone out there could speak more science and purpose into that statement and also give you suggestions for assuring a good rise. Share your knowledge with me if you want, because bread is one of those things I would love to be really, really good at. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about different kinds of doughs and I’m still not turning out amazing bread. But, I’ve not given up just yet! I’ll keep passing on my wisdom as I learn and master the techniques.

Another reason I love making bread is that it doesn’t require too many ingredients to guarantee an awesome outcome. I think I get it in my head that you need oodles of ingredients on hand at all times if you want to be a skilled cook or baker. I don’t always have it in the budget to get the best ingredients so it’s comforting to know that some recipes just call for the basic pantry items we all have on hand! This novice cooks appreciates the simplicity of bread sometimes, especially when I’m in the mood to cook.

You only need a few ingredients to get going…AP flour (4.5 cups so make sure you’re not almost out) butter, salt, yeast, and sugar. The first thing you’ll want to do is get your yeast started. Each recipe I’ve made, gives different instructions for yeast, but here are three things I would suggest:

1. Read the yeast packet for instructions and then read your recipe and see what it suggests or requires. Sometimes it’s better to get the jar of yeast, but I like having the packets because 1 packet is usually all you need for one recipe.

2. Sugar is used to proof your yeast which takes about 10 min. Follow the packet or recipe to know how much sugar to add. You’ll know your yeast is doing it’s thing if your kitchen start smelling like yeasty bread! Proofing the yeast makes it foamy on top which is a good thing. The yeast is fueled by the sugar and that’s why it get’s like that….again, I don’t know all the science, but I’m sure Alton Brown has an episode of Good Eats that can fill in the blanks for me!

3. I mentioned it above, but have a thermometer, on hand to get the temperature of your water right before adding your yeast (read packet of yeast and recipe for tips on the right temperature range). I’ve made both mistakes with the water..too hot and killing it and too cool which does nothing to get it started. Proofing helps with the mystery of knowing whether the yeast is active so you don’t get an hour into your rising and realize it’s not doing anything. But to save some money on yeast, the thermometer is a nice thing to have on hand so you don’t have to throw anything out.

Now to make your dough, you’ll need to put your flour and salt in a bowl and make sure to melt your butter. Once your 10 minutes are up, your yeast should be ready to go. You can see in my picture that the once watery mixture has a foamy top to it now which is exactly what you’re looking for.

All ingredients can be dumped in with the flour and salt and the mixing can begin. They recipe suggests that you use a wooden spoon or paddles attachment on your mixer (what novice cook actually has a nice mixer?!…Well maybe it’s just me :0).

Here’s where my mistakes started…the recipe says not to over mix, which is what I was focused on preventing. However, I had bad luck getting the flour and salt mixture  incorporated into the dough which meant more mixing then was probably needed. The dough (sorry I don’t have a picture) was not soft but was already dense and tougher then I knew it needed to be. So, next time, I might do the combination process in reverse. Put the yeast and butter together and then gradually add the flour/salt mixture. I think that would have brought it all together better. My bread still turned out well, but it was not the fluffy texture I was hoping for. This is one of the reasons why bread can be so tough to make.

I went to lunch and came back so they had the chance to rise for a little more then an hour. They had not doubled like I was hoping, however, I’m sure if I had left them for another hour, that would have changed. If you have the extra 30 min or so to let them keep going, maybe give it a try and allow them more time to grow.

Our house is not the warmest place so I always use the oven to let the bread rise. I put it on warm or 170 degrees while I’m rolling out the dough and then turn it off before I put them in and cover them up. That gives bread a nice warm place to get started. If you do this, make sure to not leave the oven on. If the temperature gets too hot then the bread will go from raising to cooking. I’m always afraid that I’ll kill the yeast with a hot oven so I’m usually pretty careful on this step. Bread is easier to make in the summer since our house is a lot warmer, but you can get creative with how you let your bread rise  in a warm space.

The directions say to bake them for about 6/7 min and then take them out to brush the melted butter, garlic, and salt mixture on top. You’ll put them back in for 5/8 min before you take them out and top them with the rest of the buttery mixture.

Here they are cooling and ready to be eaten! They don’t look fluffy do they….hmmm. I will for sure to do this recipe again and try to get a fluffier version of the final product. I loved it because it was easy, if nothing else.

Tell me how it goes if you give it a try. I would love to hear from you bread making experts out there. Like I said, I have a lot to learn. I won’t even tell you about my potato roll experiment for a Valentine’s Day dinner. Again, they tasted pretty good, but they were too dense! One of these days I’ll figure it out…but I feel encouraged in moments like these that I didn’t name my blog…The Know-It-All Cook.

Enjoy, my small audience of readers, and happy cooking friends! 

Here is the recipe from the website.

HOMEMADE OLIVE GARDEN BREADSTICKS
recipe from: Full Bellies. Happy Kids.

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (between 110 – 120 degrees F)
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt

In a large bowl, dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water and allow to sit for 10 minutes, covered. Mixture should be frothy.In separate bowl, combine flour and salt.
Add to yeast mixture. Add melted butter. Mix with paddle attachment of stand mixer or wooden spoon until fully combined.
Knead dough for a few minutes just until dough is smooth. Do not overknead!
Grease a cookie sheet. Pull off pieces of dough and roll out into strips.
Cover the dough and let sit in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and once heated, pop in the bread sticks. In microwave, combine the following:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter (or 1/2 cup margarine)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoons salt

After bread sticks have cooked for 6 or 7 minutes, brush the bread sticks with half the butter mixture.
Then continue to bake. Bake for 5-8 more minutes.
Immediately upon removal from the oven brush the other half of the butter on the sticks.
Allow to cool for a few minutes before eating.

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Italian Sausage and Squash Soup


Silky, chunky, sweet, and spicy – this autumnal soup with an Italian accent is full of texture and flavor contrasts, yet is surprisingly simple to make. It’s a spectacular tribute to the season’s abundance of golden butternut squash.” 

Definitely their words…not mine! But it draws you in to the recipe doesn’t it?! My mom made this soup last year from a Cuisine at Home Magazine (It’s a really fun cooking magazine with lots of pictures and tips/tricks and NO ADs! Got to love that. I have not yet bought a subscription but it’s on my magazine bucket list). This is by far my FAVORITE soup I’ve ever had. I get cravings for this soup and have yet to make it for myself. That’s going to change this week :)

My mom gave me the recipe but with all the moving I’ve done in the last few years, I have no idea where it is. So, I decided I would type it here so I can grab it when I need it. The first time she made it she also did a yummy bread. I’ll do a second post for the Cheesy Garlic Bread that goes awesome with this soup and any others that you make this winter soup season.

To begin, this recipe has a tip about working with squash from the magazine….

The size, shape, and density of hard winter squash, like butternut, requires careful knife work. Buy small squash if possible (easier to handle), then peel with a vegetable peeler and cut (carefully) with a sharp, heavy chef’s knife.” 

I also asked my mom if she had any tips or tricks when making this recipe. She suggested that if you don’t have a hand blender and need to use a regular blender  that you should take their suggestion about doing the blending in batches seriously! Only fill the blender half full for each batch or you are likely to decorate your kitchen ceiling and counter top with a beautiful butternut squash color. She also recommended that you put a towel over the top of the blender in case any soup seeps out of the top. The heat of the soup causes funny things to happen in that blender so less is more when blending your batches.

Enjoy!!!

Italian Sausage & Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 lb bulk Italian sausage
  • 1 1/2 cups onion, diced
  • 2 T garlic minced
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1 inch chunks (about 1.5 lbs)
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp ground dried sage
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 cups baby spinach, packed
  • 3 T. Brandy
  • salt and pepper to taste

Brown sausage in 1 T of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate; set aside

Sweat onion and garlic in 1 T. oil in a large pot over medium heat until soft, 5 min. Increase heat to medium-high, add squash and pepper flakes, and saute 5 min.

Stir in broth and water, bring to a boil and simmer until squash is very soft, about 10 min. Puree soup with a hand blender (or in batches in a standard blender), then add bell pepper, cream, sage, and sugar; simmer until bell pepper is tender, about 5 min. Stir in spinach, brandy, and sausage, and simmer until spinach wilts and sausage is heated through, about 2 min; season with salt and pepper.