Crusts and Dough Hooks

(Issues with WordPress and Comp, sorry for delay between posts)             

               A recent class project found me making Pretzels by hand, so I thought it’d be fun to share the recipe and process! I’d also like to share pictures, but sadly I was only able to take a few… I had so many other things to cook that day I kept forgetting!

            Unlike my other “Making Food” posts, I’ll actually start this one with the proper recipe.

Homemade Soft Pretzels (Via Alton Brown)

1½ cup Water, Warm

Tb Sugar

1 pckg Active Dry Yeast (NOT expired… don’t ask)

22oz/4½c Flour

2oz (½  stick) Butter, Melted

Oil

5 cups Water

1/3 c Baking Soda

1-2 Egg Yolks

Kosher/Sea Salt or other Garnish

            So here we go! Start off the same as any proper raised-dough should, combine the water, sugar (make sure it dissolves a little), and Yeast, and “bloom” for 10 or so minutes. Basically until it starts looking “different.” If you’re lucky it’ll froth and spread or something, though if you’re me likely it’ll probably just look like paint.

            Carefully add one’s Flour and Melted Butter. If you want to do it right, one does this in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, which one then turns on to mix on Medium speed until it “pulls away from the sides.” However, if like me who doesn’t yet have a dough hook, can just do this with your hands until it all sorta comes together and looks good.

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            That’s nice looking dough, right? Well we follow this by transferring it to a bowl; but not just ANY bowl, this one is to be rubbed with OIL! Or, if you happen to have it like I did, leftover melted butter. Why not, they’re both fats, and I know for certain the latter tastes better.

            Cover in plastic, sit in a warm (not hot) area for at least an hour or so until it doubles. High up is usually best, especially above ovens and stoves. Or, if it’s a nice sunny summer day, outside!

            Now that it’s doubled, we can start considering our shape. At this point in time, I’ve found myself highly inspired by some of our local Trucks and Bars in their use of the “Pretzel Bun.” Since it fit with what I was doing, I then went to dividing my dough into 4 sections and rolling each into a ball, which I then sorta squished into a wide patty.

            There’s one more important step before we bake, and anyone who knows about Pretzels has already figured it out. We have to give it a bath. In particular, a Baking Soda bath, made by simmering the Soda with Water (doesn’t matter how big a bath it is, so long as the RATIO is the same and one can easily dunk one’s Pretzel Buns in it). Now, why do we do this one may ask? I myself find it curious, and forgot what Alton said in that one episode of “Good Eats,” so I looked into it.

            Traditionally, these breads (Laugenbrezel) were prepared in a lye solution (thus where the word “Laugen” came from) which is alkali in nature. That basically means it raises the pH of the water (the opposite of Acidic). As the pretzel is dipped, the outer coat raises its pH as well along with “gelatinizing” it. The result of this, upon baking, is the intense browning of the new gel/pH coat, giving pretzels their distinctive color as well as a little different flavor.

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            Given their bath, I now score my buns for a nice little cross pattern (also helps with any possible expansion), wash the top with a mixture of Egg Yolks and a touch of water (also helps with the color), sprinkle with any Salt or other toppings one desires, and bake in a 425F oven. Now, as one noticed, I didn’t mention turning the oven on in the very beginning like you’re supposed to for every single recipe you find that uses an oven. I just don’t think it makes since, cuz if one actually did that first the oven would be on for about 2+ hours before we could even use it.

            On that same note, the actual recipe for a pretzel states 450F. With my large, thick hunks of bread mass, I doubted they would cook as fast as a normal pretzel. Thus, one compensates by lowering the temperature a bit; giving the outside a longer time to brown so the inside can catch up with its rising.

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            And if done right, they should end up looking pretty like this!

            Ready to use for all one’s sandwich, cracker, or just regular munching needs! This size is a bit bigger than regular buns, so I ended up using ½ and ¼ loaves for my own needs. Just note that they don’t really puff up in size, so roll these to whatever width and thickness you want them for in the beginning.

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            For myself, I was also working with some nice Kishka (German/Jewish Blood Sausage) that day. Steamed it in beer for a while and sliced the nice log up.

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            Look at that syrup left in the pan; that my friends is concentrated Doppelbock and Wurst juices. The perfect topping for any meat dish, sort of like my own syrupy au jus.

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            A bit of Mustard and Horseradish on the bottom, and this pretzel bun has got it made. Now all I have to do is learn how to make them smaller…

BBB: “Burger Before Break”

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             With my leave for a 10-day vacation looming, I’m a bit determined to get at least one more Truck experience done before Thursday. Though as we can see, Minnesota’s trying to take us on a mass-delorian trip back to December, which isn’t really helping any of our Trucks get outside. The whole “Food Truck Day” I had planned with my cousin for yesterday became cancelled, leaving me to re-think my strategy.

            Luckily for me, I didn’t need to re-think too much, my daily plans leading me to downtown Minneapolis and straight towards AZCanteen. Finally returned after a long winter in Florida and other states, AZ has been making up the time lost, parking in all sorts of weather conditions despite any obviously-lacking crowds. It was a particular fun stop in the day for me, one for meeting up with an old classmate who happens to work in the Truck now, but secondly because I finally had the chance to get the Cabrito Burger.

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            Just a reminder, I definitely suggest one’s first try of the Burger be from the Truck as opposed to the Stadium. Not only does one get the “Truck Experience,” the line probably won’t be as long, and it costs $4 less than their $13 charge at a Twins game.

            Overall an interesting little experience; good chance I shall be adjusting some of the scores on my review. The wait was pretty long for the burger vs my other orders at the previous excursion; not that I had anywhere to go, and it was nice to see them take their time, shift the burger around, really cook it RIGHT. It’s quite a thing to see, watching the cook turn it ever-so slightly, nudge here and there for heat distribution, all while your little pile of onions and tomatoes just sit caramelizing on the griddle.

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            They finish the burger with an herb butter, let it melt on the grill, and finally move your perfect little bundle of ground goat and lamb(?) to the griddle-toasted brioche bun. No cheese required, the only toppings one gets being the stained-glass pile of grilled onions and roasted tomato. A little cup of their handmade pickles, to add with your own preference (aka, pile all of it on your burger cuz they’re delicious and awesome), and the plate is finished. Have you ever had those thoughts of making a gourmet burger and wondering what it would look like? Well, here you go:

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            Now that’s just plain picturesque. Just burger, bun, tomato, onion, and pickles, all kicked up to their most simple deliciousness. And for those who always like having a bit of spicy with their food, jalapeno and ancho chile hot sauces stand guard to the side (I tried a bit of the ancho on half of mine)… need a lot though if you wanna taste it, I didn’t get too much of mine.

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            As for the taste, what else is there to say? It’s all highly flavorful, the condiments are just plain IDEAL, and the bun is crispy. Well, crispy at first; it has a LOT of juices it needs to handle, and even this crispy bun can only hold out for so long. But hey, crispiness is ideal, but if it’s lost texture simply from all the flavor and juices it soaks up, I guess we don’t mind suffering.

            The one thing of note I have, though the burger is flavorful and nice, it really does NEED all the condiments and herb-butter. On its own, the meat is sort of dry, which is to be expected as ground goat is one which sometimes needs COMPLETE cooking through; and well-done or medium-well it was, which explains the wait. Again though, as an entire package it’s all pretty damn good. Think it’s a fun little comparison to Melch’s, whose excellence is purely based on the burger patty, as opposed to AZ’s elevation in condiments (their Buns are tied… I knew a girl who liked that once actually).

            For one little visit, it was a pretty fun experience, and now I NO LONGER need to go to AZ again! (…. that’s not to say I won’t… just ask Vellee) I think I can safely head out on my little vacation without regrets now.

            Let’s hope Minnesota finally gets over its little temper tantrum and accepts the fact we’re done with winter when I get back. I’ve still got Trucks to review, and I will be looking forward to getting those done for people as soon as I get back!