17 December 2015

Red Velvet Cake

0 remarks

The cake that made me famous.  Wait a minute!  I'm not famous, but this is the cake that boosted my baking credibility among my co-workers and my overall confidence in the kitchen. 

I first made this cake in June of 2003.  I remember the date because I made it for Angela's birthday, and Valerie and I were living in an apartment at the time.  This is probably the first cake I made in that apartment, and most likely one of the only ones since we just spent a year there.  Ang wanted a red velvet cake and I found this recipe.  I didn't have 3 9 inch round cake pans, so I baked it in a 9x13 pan.  I had never made red velvet cake before, so I didn't know what to expect.  The cake was very good, even in a 9x13 pan, so I kept the recipe.

A few years passed, Valerie and I moved to a house on Main Street, and my office was throwing a party for a fellow co-worker.  I don't remember what the specific occasion was, but I offered to bring a dessert.  Since it was around Valentine's Day, I decided to make the red velvet cake.  My kitchen equipment stash had increased by this point and I was able to make the cake in 3 9 inch round cake pans.  It's was a bit intimidating for me to walk into my office holding a cake taker with a three tiered cake inside of it, but I walked into the break room, set it on the table and headed to my desk.

A few hours later, people started coming up to me to tell me how much they liked the cake.  Several people mentioned how they didn't normally like red velvet cake, but this cake was the best they ever had.  High praise for a humble cake, but if it passed with the work crowd, I knew I had a winner.

Over the years, I have made this cake for other office parties (some not even for my own office), birthdays (some that I wasn't even there for), and even holiday open houses.  The cake is always met with rave reviews.

Since I normally make this cake for someone else or take it to an event, I didn't really ever have the opportunity to take a picture of it for latent chestnut.  I normally ice the whole cake and put crushed pecans on the side, so a picture of a whole iced cake wouldn't really do justice to the beautiful red cake on the inside.  Though, I did manage to snap a picture of one before I iced the sides.

For the holiday open house at Ole Rusty Nail, I was given the freedom to make whatever I wanted.  I thought red velvet cake would be a perfect visual for the Christmas atmosphere.  Since I didn't want to make a three tiered cake for the event, I decided to make mini-muffins with the batter.  I didn't know what to expect since I had never done it before, but the results were absolutely delicious and were just was I was going for, visually.  So, I topped some with sprinkles and some with a pecan, and I finally had my photo opportunity with this cake!

So enough about how much people like the cake, is it easy to make?  The answer is, yes!  The batter really comes together very easily.  I normally have most of the ingredients on hand, except for the 1 ounce of red food coloring, which is a lot.  I also can't stress enough how important it is to chill the cream cheese frosting before icing the cake.  It is somewhat loose when it's done mixing, so it would just ooze out of the layers when icing the cake if it's not chilled.  Unfortunately, I know this from experience.  It might be a good idea to make the icing before making the cake, so it can be chilled when the cakes are cool.

This cake really is delicious.  It does have a unique flavor, that I really can't describe.  It is light, moist, and the buttermilk and vinegar add a nice subtle tang.  There is also just enough cocoa to get a hint of chocolate, without it overwhelming the other flavors.  Overall, the cake isn't too sweet and the cream cheese frosting is a smooth and rich compliment to lightness of the cake.  The garnish of the pecans take it over the top with a nice nutty crunch.  The only left to say is, make this cake!

Red Velvet Cake

For the cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
2 large eggs, (room temperature)
2 tablespoons red food coloring (1 ounce)
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Crushed pecans, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour 3 9 by 1 1/2-inch round cake pans.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed. Pour the cake batter evenly into the prepared cake pans.

Place the pans in the oven evenly spaced apart on two oven racks. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cake begins to pull away from the side of the pans, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean; rotate the pans after 15 minutes of baking. 

Remove the cakes from the oven and place on a cooling rack. When cool enough to handle, remove the cakes from the pans and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Frost the cake. Place 1 layer in the middle of a cake stand. Using an offset spatula, spread some of the cream cheese frosting over the top of the cake. Frosting layer should be 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick. Set another layer on top, and repeat. Top with the final layer and cover the entire cake with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle the top or sides with the pecans.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese, sugar, and butter on low speed until well incorporated with no lumps.  Occasionally turn the mixer off, and scrape the down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Once smooth, add the vanilla, increase the speed to high, and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Important: Place in the refrigerator until somewhat firm before using.

01 December 2015


0 remarks
Cookies.  Cookies aren't always just cookies.  Sometimes they are time machines.  These spritz cookies have been a Christmas family tradition ever since I can remember.  They are also one of my favorites.  The first bite of spritz I take every Christmas season takes me back to my childhood; my tiny hand full of Christmas tree cookies, sitting down to watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  It really does.  Every time.
Maybe the nostalgia is why it's one of my favorites, but I don't think so.  These cookies are light, buttery, simply sweet with a hint of almost extract.  Oh, the almond extract!  I love it.  Plus, I get to put sprinkles on them, and who can resist sprinkles?
I started making these cookies myself probably when I was about sixteen. Some of my first pictures with Valerie are of us making these cookies.  I used a cookie press with a twist top to extract the cookies. A couple years later I got a cookie press with a trigger mechanism that uniformly extracted the cookies with a single click. My cookie production increased dramatically with that tool in my arsenal. 
Over the years, we have branched out and started making spritz cookies for other seasons and holidays.  This year, we made them for Easter, and the results were very pretty.
It's nice because a single batch makes so many cookies.  What I have started to do is make a batch of dough and then split it up between the kids to let them pick which color to make them and which shape of the cookie press to use for their cookies.  Ahh, even more memories made with spritz.  More destinations for our sweet, buttery little time machine.
1 1/2 cups butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
5 or 6 drops of food coloring
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Beat butter and sugar until combined. Add sugar and baking powder. Beat in egg, almond extract, vanilla extract.  Add the flour and food coloring and mix until thoroughly integrated.
Place the dough into a cookie press and extract cookies into an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 8 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

19 November 2015

Peanut Butter Blossoms

0 remarks
If peanut butter and chocolate got married, this would be their baby.  That's weird.....and probably wrong.  A chocolate peanut butter cup would probably be a better baby analogy.  Then again, you can't see the peanut butter until you take a bite of the chocolate peanut butter cup, so maybe the peanut butter blossom would make a better baby.  Does it really matter?  No.  What does matter is that these cookies are soooooo goooooooooood!!!!!
I know we've all probably seen these before, especially around Christmas, so I know I'm not breaking new ground in any way whatsoever.  Not that I ever really do.  But these cookies are a cinch to make and once batch makes a lot of cookies, so they are really good for a crowd.  I have also frozen the dough after I shape it into balls so I can make as little or as many as I would like at one time.

Peanut Butter Blossoms
48 Milk Chocolate Hershey's Kisses (wrappers removed)
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup additional granulated sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the shortening and peanut butter until well blended. Add 1/3 cup of granulated sugar and brown sugar, and continue to beat until fluffy.  Then, add the egg, milk and vanilla and mix to combine.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Gradually add it to peanut butter mixture, while continuing to stir until thoroughly combined.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in granulated sugar.  Place the dough balls on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Once the cookies are out of the oven, immediately press a chocolate kiss into center of each cookie.  The cookie will crack around edges. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.

05 November 2015

Candy Bar Brownies

0 remarks

Anymore, it seems like the marketing corporations of the world want to find ways to make people buy candy for your kids.  Sure, Halloween was always the huge candy free-for-all that left you with a heaping bag of sugar and chocolate.  But then, Christmas is just around the corner, with stockings stuffed full of sugar and chocolate.  And isn't Valentine's Day just for your sweetheart?  Not anymore!  Get those kids some cardboard hearts stuffed with more sugar and chocolate!  Of course, then we have Easter, with baskets overflowing with sugar and chocolate bunnies.  We get some relief in the summer, but how long will it be before we have Independence Day fireworks exploding with sugar and chocolate for the masses?

We never seem to recover from Halloween, as soon as we put a small dent in the candy stockpile, Christmas strikes, and we just add fuel to the fire.  The process continues over and over as each candy holiday barrels through.  We have taken to just buying our kids a few fun specialty candy trinkets because we know they'll get more than enough from the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and school friends.

I know this may sound like I'm complaining, but I'm not.  I am so grateful that I have family and friends around to shower my kids with love and candy, I really am.  I honestly don't want to see it end.  So when life throws you buckets of candy, make candy bar brownies!!  Better yet, make candy bar brownies and take them to a party, so other people can help eat your stash.

I ran into this situation a couple years ago when we were invited to a friends house and I offered to make dessert.  I looked at my mammoth Tupperware thatsa mega bowl filled to the brim with candy and thought maybe I should just take some fun sized candy treats to share.  That's not really my style, so I tried to think of a vessel to use to pawn my candy off on my unsuspecting friends, and then it hit me....BROWNIES!

I killed two birds with one stone with these deliciously rich chocolaty treats, and I have made them the past couple years from out Halloween hoard.  The recipe calls for just chocolate-coated caramel-peanut nougat bars, aka Snickers, and plain old milk chocolate bars, but I have been known to throw in some M&M's, Milky Way, 3 Musketeers, Mr. Goodbar, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and Baby Ruth.  I think it's fun to add variety because then you can guess which bars are in the brownie piece you eat.  I stay away from Twix and Kit-Kats because those don't really translate well to being crushed and baked.  I would also suggest not using Skittles.

These brownies are a lot of fun.  They are a kind of whimsical way to enjoy Halloween candy, and they are so much fun to share with friends.  Just make sure you have a glass of milk nearby. 

Candy Bar Brownies

4 large eggs, lightly beaten 
2 cups sugar 
3/4 cup butter, melted 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/3 cup cocoa
8.5 ounces chocolate-coated caramel-peanut nougat bars, chopped
4.4 ounces milk chocolate bars, chopped

Add the eggs, sugar, butter, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

Add the flour, baking powder and salt into the egg mixture and stir until just combined. Then, fold in the chopped nougat bars and chopped milk chocolate bars.

Spoon mixture into a greased and floured 13 x 9inch baking dish.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.

26 October 2015

Snickerdoodle Pie

0 remarks

Snickerdoodles.  I have posted about them here on latent chestnut and on Family Tree-Eats.  They are one of my favorite cookies, and Emilie's personal favorite.  The other day, Em and I were making fresh pasta, and she kept talking about wanting to make a pie with the pasta dough.  I told her that the dough was completely different and that we would make a pie another time.  Though, I must say that the rolled pasta sheets do look similar to pie crust.

She wouldn't let it go and kept talking about making a pie.  I kept telling her we would do it another day.  Out of the blue, she said, "Can we make a snickerdoodle pie?"  That question perked my ears up in a hurry.  I had never heard of a snickerdoodle pie, and this sounded like to perfect time to dream one up.  We had a few errands to run, so she sat in the backseat with a pen and paper and I started listing off some ingredients for her to write down.  Before we knew it, we had the makings of a snickerdoodle pie.

As soon as we got home, we made a pie crust and put it in the refrigerator to cool before rolling it out.  Then we got to work on making the filling. I must have channeled my grandma's buttermilk pie recipe when Emilie and I were thinking of ingredients, because these pies are very similar.  Perhaps because I thought buttermilk would be the perfect component to a snickerdoodle inspired pie, because of it's tang.  But what gives snickerdoodles that bit of tang, I wondered?

When I think of snickerdoodles, I think of a cookie that is soft and chewy on the inside, delightfully crispy on the edges.  I think of the warm spiciness of the cinnamon and the use of cream of tartar in the recipe.  Dare I add cream of tartar to the pie?  What does it even do?  Does it even have it's own flavor?  I needed answers!

I went straight to the source and popped open my jar of cream of tartar and tasted it all by itself.  It was quite tangy and acidic.  Which makes sense because my snickerdoodles have a bit of tang that is balanced out by the sugar and cinnamon.  Cream of tartar also acts as a stabilizer, so I thought that it couldn't hurt to add some to our new pie creation.  I think it is just as much a part of snickerdoodles as the cinnamon and sugar coating.

The pie filling came together like nothing, especially since Emilie did it all by herself while I was rolling out the pie crust.  I just gave it a final whisking at the end to make sure all the ingredients were thoroughly integrated.  To replicate the cinnamon sugar coating on the traditional cookie, we mixed some cinnamon and sugar together and rubbed it in to the empty pie shell.  Then, with about 20 left in the cooking process, we dusted the top of the pie with more cinnamon and sugar.

The pie had the look of a snickerdoodle, but it was now time for the moment of truth...tasting and judgment!  Upon removing the first slice of pie, I breathed a sigh of relief because the filling had set up beautifully.  It was nice and creamy, and just looked delicious.  After taking the first bite, my eyes lit up and I knew we had something special.

This pie is creamy, tangy, sweet and cinnamon-ny.  The pie crust and the cinnamon and sugar topping add a nice texture, that is ever so reminiscent of a snickerdoodle.  The tang from the buttermilk and cream of tartar are balanced by the sugar to create a truly unique pie.  This one is a keeper!

Just out of curiosity, I did an internet search for snickerdoodle pie and found the options very limited. So, not only is this pie incredibly satisfying and delicious, I think it is pretty unique, too.  To think, it probably wouldn't have happened if Emilie didn't want to make a pie with pasta dough...

Snickerdoodle Pie
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 stick melted butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup buttermilk

1 9 inch pie crust (preferably homemade)

1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1 1/4 cups of sugar, melted butter, flour, cream of tartar, and buttermilk until thoroughly combined.

In a small bowl or cup, mix together the cinnamon and 3 tablespoons of sugar.

Take half of the cinnamon sugar mixture and rub onto the top of the empty pie crust.  Then, pour the filling into the pie crust and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.   Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes. 

Then, pull out the oven rack or take the pie out of the oven and top with the remaining cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Return the pie to the 300 degree oven and continue to bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the filling barely jiggles when moved. Cool completely before serving.

22 October 2015

Chai Latte Bars

0 remarks

Cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.  Comforting, warm spices that find perfect harmony in this delightful recipe that is perfect for autumn. 

This is another recipe that does not call for any leavening agent, so the bars are dense and packed with flavor.  The oats add just the right amount of texture and the white chocolate adds just the right amount of sweetness to balance the spice of the bars. 

Speaking of the white chocolate.  Please buy the real stuff in bar form.  Do not buy white morsels.  First of all, the Premier White Morsels do not say chocolate anywhere on them.  Secondly, they do not melt, or at least they do not melt for me.  I have even tried heating them over a water bath, in the microwave, you name it, and the morsels just end up a congealed mess.  I don't understand it. 

I do know that the actual white chocolate it bar form, melts like a dream, and spreads so nicely over the warm bars.  So, the extra expense is worth it for such drastic results.

Chai Latte Bars
Recipe inspired by Food Network Kitchens

2 sticks room temperature unsalted butter
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons malted milk powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
9 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, malted milk powder, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.  Using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. To the butter and sugar mixture, add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Reduce the mixer to low and beat in the flour mixture until just incorporated.

Place the batter in the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle the top with the white chocolate, then return the pan to the oven until the chocolate softens, about 45 seconds.  Remove from the oven again and spread the chocolate into a smooth layer with a spatula.

Transfer to a rack and let cool completely, then cut into squares.

07 October 2015

Pumpkin Puree

0 remarks

Simplicity.  Food doesn't have to be complicated.  This application can be done with two ingredients, pumpkins and salt.  The result will leave you never wanting to reach for a can again.

I always get a little rush of excitement when I see the pie pumpkins hit the store shelves.  I have been making my own pumpkin puree for several years now, and let me tell you, it will elevate your pumpkin pies and pumpkins breads to levels you could only imagine with the canned stuff.  I even added some pumpkin puree to my last batch of beef and noodles, and I couldn't believe how good it was, but that's another post.

The flavor added to the pumpkin from the roasting and salt, make it delicious enough to eat by the spoonful.  So, when you start with a product that tastes so good on it's own, you can't go wrong when making your favorite pumpkin recipe.

Pumpkin Puree
Recipe inspired by Alton Brown

1 (4 to 6-pound) baking pumpkin, rinsed and dried
Kosher salt


Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove the stem from the pumpkin and split the pumpkin in half from top to bottom, using a large knife.  Scoop out the seeds and fiber. Sprinkle the inside pumpkin flesh with kosher salt and lay the halves, flesh side down, on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

Roast the pumpkin until a paring knife can be easily inserted and removed from the flush, about 30 to 45 minutes. Test in several places to ensure doneness. Remove the half sheet pan from the oven to a cooling rack and cool for 1 hour.

Remove the roasted pumpkin flesh from the skin and place in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the flesh is smooth, about 3 to 4 minutes. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.

17 September 2015

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

0 remarks

My great-grandmother made pineapple upside-down cake all the time when I was a kid, and I absolutely loved it. I loved it so much, it is one of the first recipes I tried when I was first learning how to bake. It was not an easy one to start out with, though. I remember countless times flipping the cake only to find that some of the cake stuck to the pan, or the brown sugar/butter mixture didn't absorb into the cake and ran all over the counter top. I still ate it, and I'm sure I gained a few pounds in the process.

Thinking back on it now, I'm not sure my great-grandmother turned the whole cake upside-down before serving it. I remember the cake staying in the pan, with her flipping the individual pieces over as they were served. I was always anxious to see how much pineapple I got, or if I was lucky to get a cherry. I did a write-up on my great-grandmother's recipe over on Family Tree-Eats if you'd like to check it out, but this is the Alton Brown version I went to after failing on hers so many times.

The recipes are pretty similar, except this one uses cornmeal and is baked in a cast iron skillet.  Baking a cake in a cast iron skillet!?  That's what I'm talking about! The finished product is perfectly crispy around the edges and moist and fluffy on the inside.  The cake is sweet, but the pineapple helps cut the sweetness considerably.  The original calls for nuts, but I omitted them because my great-grandmother never used nuts in hers.  The cake is very rich, so a little bit goes a long way, but it is absolutely delicious!

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Printable Recipe

3/4 cup whole milk
1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
4 ounces unsalted butter
8 ounces dark brown sugar, approximately 1 cup
6 slices canned pineapple in heavy syrup
6 maraschino cherries
3 tablespoons juice from canned pineapple
3 whole eggs
4 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 1 cup
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 3/4 ounces sugar, approximately 3/4 cup
1/2 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil, turn off the heat, and immediately add the cornmeal. Stir and let stand for 30 minutes. 

Melt the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar to the butter and stir until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Turn off the heat.  Place one slice of pineapple in the center of the pan and arrange the other 5 slices around it. Put the cherries in the centers of the pineapple.  Pour pineapple juice over top.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine. In another mixing bowl, add the sugar to the eggs and whisk to combine; then add the canola oil and whisk. Add the cornmeal and milk mixture to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Add the wet mixture to the flour and gently stir until just combined.

Pour the batter into the skillet and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. After removing it from oven, let the cake cool for 30 minutes before inverting. Set a plate on top of the skillet and carefully flip the cake.

Slice and devour. 

03 September 2015

Alton Brown's Homemade Soft Pretzels

0 remarks
There is nothing like a warm soft pretzel.  There is also no time I realize this more than when I get one at a sporting event that's rock hard and dry.  They always look good, golden brown and salty, slowly rotating in a glass walled metal box.  But, the execution is sorely lacking, at least at the venue's I've been to.  Definitely not good eats. 
Thankfully, Alton Brown and Good Eats is here to save the day.  Sure, it's not very practical to make and take these to the stadium, but you could save that pretzel craving for when you get home and get a hot dog or nachos at the game.  Don't get me wrong, ballpark food has come a long way, maybe they'll work on a better pretzel next, but for now, we have our ovens at home!
These pretzels have it all.  Crispy and salty on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside.  They come together very quickly, too, much like a pizza dough, needing only one rising.  The most time consuming part, is rolling out each pretzel individually, but that's when the fun begins.
I don't know why, but I think there is something whimsical about making the pretzel shape out of ropes of dough.  Maybe because it's such a familiar shape that I've seen my whole life.  Watching each pretzel take shape, each one a little different, is just so much fun.
Then you get to boil them! In baking soda water, no less.  Why baking soda water?  Two reasons.  First, dropping each pretzel into boiling water for about one minute makes the interior of the pretzel quickly puff and begins the crust formation. If the pretzel isn't boiled, it wouldn't have the chewiness we all know and love from a soft pretzel.  Second, the baking soda is what gives the pretzels their brown and shiny crust and distinctive flavor.  The baking soda moves the water from neutral over to the alkaline or basic side of the scale. When this happens, the browning reactions that happen more rapidly. Without this step, the pretzel would lose out on the texture, flavor and appearance of the pretzel.  So it is very important.  Plus, if some of the baking soda water spill onto the cooktop, it cleans off any caked on grease rather nicely.
After boiling, brush the pretzel tops with some egg wash and top them to your hearts content.  Pictured above are pretzels with Hawaiian black lava salt and fleur de sel.  You could also top with regular pretzel salt, jalapeno and cheddar, or go sweet with cinnamon and sugar.  The possibilities are endless.
There you have it.  Homemade soft pretzels.  Worth it?  Yes!!
Alton Brown's Homemade Soft Pretzels

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

Stir together the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let the yeast sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture starts to foam.

Using the dough hook attachment and the mixture on low speed. add the flour and butter; mix until well combined. Increase the mixer to medium speed and knead the dough until it is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, then coat the bowl with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Bring water and the baking soda to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

Then, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll 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.

Gently drop the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds each. 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.

20 August 2015

Alton Brown's Baked Meatballs

0 remarks
If I want meat in my pasta sauce, I usually just go for the ground beef.  It's so easy to just plop a hunk of ground beef in a pan and start browning it and breaking it up.  Add a few seasonings and some marinara and, BAM!, dinner is ready in 30 minutes.  Sometimes, though, it's fun to get fancy.  And when I think fancy, I think meatballs.
For a while it seemed that every time a new Good Eats episode aired, I rushed out and got whatever I needed to make the featured recipes at home.  I think it's because, at least it seems to me, those first few seasons focused on the basics, and the classic no frills way to make a lot of dishes we all know and love.  I learned to make a lot of things that I still make to this day, these baked meatballs being one of them.
The recipe is very straight-forward.  I adapted it a little, though.  The original calls for ground lamb, and I do love lamb.  It's just that it is so expensive here.  If I do get ground lamb, I usually end up making gyros, but that's another post.  I usually just go for beef and pork when making these meatballs and it turns out just fine.
As far as assembly goes, it's just a matter of putting all the ingredients together and mixing them up.  Simple.  Then, I get to use my digital scale.  The 1.5 ounce portions make for just the right size meatballs that fit perfectly in mini muffin cups; thus, allowing the meatballs to retail the shape of a ball.  Brilliant!
They taste amazing, too.  The meatballs have a firm, but not tough texture.  I also like that fact that I can use dried herbs, too, as they give the meatballs the right amount of Italian flavor.  The spinach is also a nice tough for cleverly hiding a vegetable for the picky eaters in your group.  And juicy, these meatballs are delightfully juicy.
Pile them on top of a nest of noodles or even use them for meatball subs, these meatballs are sure to please.

Baked Meatballs

1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
5 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained thoroughly
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 whole egg
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs, divided

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine the pork, beef, spinach, cheese, egg, basil, parsley, garlic powder, salt, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs in a mixing bowl. Gently mix all of the ingredients until they are well incorporated.

Place the remaining 1/2 cup of bread crumbs in a smaller bowl. Using a scale, weigh meatball mixture into 1.5-ounce portions, and shape into rounds, roll the meatballs in the bread crumbs, and place in a miniature muffin cup.

Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown and delicious.


Related Posts with Thumbnails