Saturday, February 6, 2016

Soft Pretzels

 This recipe (a slight adaptation of FoodNetwork's version) makes a dozen LARGE pretzels, or 2 dozen smaller pretzels or pretzel 'knots'. (See lower photo.) For the knots, I used  half whole wheat flour; some are simply lightly salted, some I topped with shredded cheese, some I brushed with honey butter and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Lots of options...

3 T butter, cubed, then softened
2 T butter, melted
2 T dk brown sugar
1 pkg (2¼ tsp) active dry yeast
6 C flour
2 tsp salt
1/3 C baking soda
coarse salt for sprinkling on pretzels
mustard, for dipping

In bowl of stand mixer, combine 2 C warm water, cubed butter, and brown sugar. Sprinkle yeast on top; let stand 10 minutes.

Add 3 C flour and 2 tsp salt; mix on low speed using dough hook; increase speed to medium as flour incorporates. Return to low speed; add remaining 3 C flour. As flour incorporates, increase speed to
medium, mixing until dough leaves sides of bowl and balls around dough hook. Continue kneading -- in mixer or by hand -- 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

Coat a large bowl with oil; add dough, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place until doubled (about 1 hour).

Line baking sheets with parchment paper, lightly coat with non-stick cooking spray. Punch down dough. Divide in half; divide each half into 6 equal pieces.

Roll out each piece of dough into a 'rope' on flat surface, start in middle roll out to 24"; occasionally lift dough by ends, slapping middle against the counter to stretch evenly. Lay rope in a 'U' then cross ends twice and fold ends downward to create pretzel shape. Gently place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with all 12 pieces.

Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes; pretzels should be slightly puffed.

Preheat oven to 425˚.

Cut parchment into separate 'squares' around each pretzel*; remove from baking sheets. Reline sheets with parchment. Fill a wide pot with 6 C water. Add baking soda, whisking to dissolve; bring to simmer. Using parchment, gently transfer pretzels into simmering water*; simmer until pretzels plump (about 45 seconds per side). Remove with a skimmer or slotted spoon, letting excess water drain off. Place on parchment lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt.

Bake until golden brown (12 to 15 minutes). Rotate, upper to lower rack, half way through when cooking two trays. Brush with melted butter. Serve with mustard for dipping.

* As BIG as these pretzels are, the parchment paper squares really did help transferring them from one surface to another and into the simmering water bath. With the smaller 'knots' I was able to do it easily enough by hand.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Hummus Stuffed Zucchini with Tomato & Basil

Serves 6-8 (appetizer portions)

3 medium (or 4 small) zucchini
10 oz hummus
2 C cherry tomatoes (red or yellow)
¼ C red onion, thinly sliced
2 T fresh basil, chiffonade
2 T olive oil
2 t red wine vinegar
¼ C panko breadcrumbs
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350˚.

Trim zucchini ends and slice in half lengthwise. Place zucchini in baking dish, flesh side up, with a little water in the bottom; bake 20 minutes or until inner flesh is softened.

As zucchini cooks, halve tomatoes; toss together with onion, basil, 1 T of olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove zucchini from oven; cool as needed until handleable. Scoop out inner, seeded flesh of zucchini; discard or reserve for another use. Spoon hummus into hollowed out zucchini halves*. Top with tomato mixture. Sprinkle panko crumbs over top and lightly drizzle with remaining olive oil.

Return to oven for 10 minutes, using broiler for final 3 minutes to slightly brown tops.

Best served warm.

* If I was making a larger quantity of these, using a pastry bag to pipe the hummus into the zucchini halves would be quicker and easier -- and easier to be neat for a tidier presentation; but for just a few, it's probably not worth the trouble.