Month: September 2015

Rosemary-Mozzarella Pretzels

pretzels

 

I am the biggest fan of huge, soft pretzels that ever existed. I know that is a hefty statement to make, but it’s true! These massive, buttery pretzels outrank their crunchy, baked cousins in every possible way… except maybe standards of healthiness. No, these are not clean-eating pretzels that you got in your lunchbox as an alternative to chips. These are big, fluffy, cheesy, salty pretzels- the kind you salivate over at ballparks and stadium events.

Truth be told, the existence of soft pretzels is really my only motivation for ever attending stadium sporting events or visiting overcrowded malls. These soft pretzels are a fabulously souped-up version of their ballpark counterparts. We stuff them with a deliciously cheesy filling and top them with butter and parmesan.

pretzels

This is based off of a great recipe by Baker by Nature! It includes a great explanation of yeast and the chemistry behind it, and why some people proof it and some do not. I proof yeast every time I bake with it. It is second nature to me, and I think it’s a good habit to get into. Because of this, I include the proofing process as part of the recipe here.

Growing up, my mom taught us very early how to bake bread from scratch, and she always proofed the yeast before making the dough. I have never had this method fail on me (unless, of course, the yeast is dead). It is super easy to follow, and it creates the fluffiest, moistest breads! If you’re totally confident working with yeast and breads, you don’t have to do this part, but I would certainly recommend it!

 

Rosemary-Mozzarella Pretzels

makes 8 large pretzels

for the dough
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons Rapid Rise yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 1/4 cups AP flour
3 tablespoons minced, fresh rosemary
6 tablespoons salted butter, softened
parchment paper

for the pretzel cooking liquid
10 cups water
3/4 cup baking soda

pretzels

for the filling
1 1/2 cups shredded, mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded, parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

pretzels

for the topping
4 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1/2 cup grated, Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

pretzels

 

Begin by proofing the yeast. Preheat an oven to 200°F. After it preheats, turn it off. Mix the sugar with the water in a small bowl (the water should be slightly warm to the touch, around 110°F). Pour in the yeast and agitate slightly to ensure that all of the yeast is moistened by the sugar-water. Place the bowl in the oven and leave the oven open. Let it sit in that warm environment for 10 minutes.

While the yeast is proofing, measure out the flour and salt into a large bowl. Mix them together. Add in the softened butter until it is completely mixed in with the flour (no big chunks).

pretzels

Wash, de-stem, and mince the rosemary.

Add the proofed yeast and rosemary to the dough. Use a rubber spatula to mix everything together by folding dough and scraping the bowl.

Cover the bowl with a warm, damp paper towel and place it back in the oven (with the oven door closed this time). Let the dough rise for about an hour (it should double in size).

While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Mix the mozzarella cheese with the parmesan, pepper, and salt.

When the dough has risen, remove it from the oven and roll it out in a ball onto a floured work surface. (I usually cover my counter with parchment paper and add a bit of flour on top for this process.)

Using your sharpest, unserrated knife, cut the dough into four equal pieces.
pretzels

Next, cut each of those slices into two, so that you have 8 pieces in all.

pretzels

 

To make each pretzel, roll one dough ball out into a long string. You want it to be about 1 1/2 feet long.

pretzels

Use your hands or a rolling pin to flatten it.

pretzels

Place about 2 tablespoons of the mozzarella filling on the dough, along one edge.

pretzels

Slowly and carefully, roll the dough back into a circular tube. Be sure to press down on the dough to create a seal around the filling!

Make the shape of the letter ‘U’ with the tube.

pretzels

Cross the two, top ends of the ‘U’.

pretzels

Flip the crossed ends down over the loop, and you’ve got a traditional pretzel!

pretzels

Do this with each dough ball, and in the meantime, set a large pot of water mixed with baking soda on the stove to boil.

As you are forming your pretzels, feel free to have some fun with it. You can even do a double twist, like so:

pretzels

After the pretzels are formed and the baking soda water is boiling, prepare two cookie sheets by covering them in parchment paper. Next, place the pretzels in the water one-at-a-time. Let it float there for about half a minute before carefully lifting it out of the water using slotted spoons.

Do this with each pretzel, until they are all partially cooked from the water. This might create a bit of a mess with baking soda residue on the range, but it is super easy to clean, so do not worry too much about it now!

Preheat the oven to 425°F. While the oven is preheating, do a quick egg wash on the pretzels to help them brown.

Whisk together 1 tablespoon of water with an egg. Using a brush, coat each pretzel generously in the egg wash. After the oven is preheated, let the pretzels bake for 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown on top!

Finally, prepare the topping!

Melt about 4 tablespoons of salted butter. Brush the top of each pretzel with the butter.

Measure out the extra parmesan and chop up another tablespoon of rosemary. Mix those two together in a small bowl along with the garlic salt and pepper. Sprinkle this on top of the pretzels!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Enjoy with tomato sauce for dipping or by itself!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

Squash Blossom Frittata

 

frittata

I love frittata for weird reasons. I find that there is a bit of nostalgia in this lovely, Italian dish. I remember Auburn tailgates and family brunches that always included a frittata of some sort, and although I could seldom partake (they usually included sausage), I always loved how neat and beautiful they looked in their pan. Frittata is an Italian word that means “having been fried”. Oddly enough, we don’t really fry this dish– it’s baked!

frittata

The frittata is such an incredibly elegant dish to have for breakfast, and it is SO easy. This particular frittata variation is inspired from one of my new, most favorite Southern cookbooks: Root to Leaf by Steven Satterfield. I really recommend this book for anyone interested in new and delicious Southern cooking with a bit of a twist.

The cookbook follows the seasons, so each recipe features a local and seasonal ingredient. Squash blossoms are intriguing, though, because they can be summer or fall ingredients as you eat with the seasons. Right now, the squash blossoms we eat from the farmer’s market (even in California) are from mostly summer squash (zucchini) plants. In a few month’s time, we will see pumpkin squash blossoms, as the seasons transition!

frittata

As a vegetarian who is interested in eating natural and whole foods, I am so in love with this concept of eating with the seasons, and I commend Satterfield on his creative use of vegetables. Although the cookbook is not vegetarian, it is based off of a food philosophy that advocates for more vegetables and less meat overall (think Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food— which just so happens to be one of my favorite books of all time).

Being able to pick these ingredients up at the farmer’s market, and then make the dish the same day is especially useful when dealing with something like squash blossoms. They go bad very easily, so you truly need to make the frittata within a day or two of buying them.

frittata

 

Squash Blossom Frittata
serves 6-8

Ingredients
8 eggs
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/4 red onion (1/3 cup chopped)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sliced mozzarella or ricotta cheese
2 green onions
8 squash blossoms (cleaned and washed)

frittata ingredients

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

First, whisk together the eggs and whipping cream in a medium-sized bowl.

Chop the red onion and add that into the egg mixture along with the salt and pepper.

In a large, heavy pan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the egg mixture into the pan and stir continually over low heat for about 7 minutes or until the mixture is warm, but not cooked.

Remove from heat and add in the sliced cheese. Sprinkle the white parts of the green onions into the pan.

Next, arrange the squash blossoms in the pan. Make sure their insides have been cut out and the stems cut off. Coat them in the egg.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes.

Serve immediately topped with added cheese and green onion.

Enjoy!

Smashed Potatoes

smashed potatoes all dressed up

This was a dish that I had seen many times but had always been hesitant to attempt. One of the worries I had was that the potatoes would dry out and end up tasting chalky, this recipe solves that problem and in doing so imparts a spectacular flavor on these potatoes.

This dish was made vegetarian but you could easily make it either vegan or meaty with a few swapped ingredients.

DSC_0224

 

Ingredients
1 lb baby butter potatoes
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh sage
2 sprigs fresh oregano
1 Knorr veggie broth bouillon cube
4 tablespoons salted butter (divided into single tablespoons)
2 cups water
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Optional Ingredients
chopped rosemary (topping)
grated Parmesan cheese (topping)

smashed potato ingredients

To start, combine the water and the bouillon cube in a wide pot (be sure it’s large enough, this is where I made a mistake) over high heat until it begins to boil. Feel free to help the bouillon cube dissolve by crushing it with your spoon and stirring the pot. At this point, add in your herbs and two tablespoons butter to help season the broth and let it stew for about 5 minutes. It’s this delicious broth mixture that gives the smashed potatoes so much flavor and at the same time allows them to stay moist.

herbs, butter, veggie broth

After the butter has melted, gently add your potatoes, making sure they are partially covered with liquid and have enough space around them. As you can see in my picture, the pot I used was a bit too small and I ended up having to change to a larger one later. Making sure they have enough space is crucial, as they will need to spread out when you gently smash them.
potatoes in the broth

Let these cook, covered, until tender enough that a fork will somewhat easily pierce a potato (about 15 – 20 minutes). At this point remove the cover and gently press down on each potato until you feel the skin give way. Don’t push too hard or the potatoes will not hold together and you’ll have a mess on your hand!

squished potatoes

Cook these until the liquid has completely evaporated, and after for an extra 3 – 5 minutes to get a nice crispy edge. At this point, remove your pan from heat and gently remove the potatoes from the pan.

potatoes out of the pan

Scrape out the contents of your pan before returning it to the stove top.

scrape the pan

Upon returning the pan to the stove-top, add in the last two tablespoons of butter. This will help the other side of the potatoes get nice and crispy.

butter in the pan

After the butter melts, add the potatoes back in with the previously crisped side facing up.

second round potatoes

Cook these for another 3 – 5 minutes or until browned. Remove them from the pan and serve! We added extra chopped rosemary, some grated Parmesan, salt, and fresh black pepper to ours.