Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bake your Blues Away... even if you're not blue

Originally Posted 02/24/10

Today was a bake day. I gave myself a few hours in the kitchen and there will be days of food to show for it! I can't say exactly how long it took because I had to break up a few fights between my two youngest, but the baby to sleep, do the dishes a few times, etc. Including all of those things, it took 4 hours from start to finish - but those hours weren't all spent in the kitchen. I pay my own utilities, so to cut down on energy costs I bake as little as possible - cramming as many things into one session as I can. I often freeze things soon after they've cooled so when they're defrosted they taste as fresh as the day you made them.

Please note I couldn't even take a picture without Sol grabbing a pretzel!

First on the list:

Soft Pretzels

2 tbsp Yeast
2 tbsp Sugar
2 tsp Salt
4 tbsp softened butter
2 cup warm water
5 1/2 cups flour
Coarse Salt to sprinkle on Pretzels before baking
5 tsp baking soda mixed in 4 cups water

Preheat oven to 475 F

Mix sugar and salt with warm water. Sprinkle yeast on top and let proof for about 5 minutes. Add butter and two cups of flour, mix well, and let it bubble again (another 5-10 minutes).
Add remaining flour one cup at a time until dough pulls from the bowl. Please remember you may not need the amount of flour in the recipe.  Different climates require different amounts of flour.  Turn dough onto floured work surface and knead. Dough should be moist but not sticky.
Allow dough to rise to about double (typically 1 hour)
When dough is risen enough, punch down. Begin to boil water and add baking soda only once the water has boiled. Knead dough a few times, then divide into 12 even sized pieces. If you'd like to make smaller pretzels just keep an eye on them as they bake.
Roll pieces into long ropes (anywhere from 1 - 2 cm thick) and twist the ends two or three times leaving enough room to attach ends to round part.  I had a video on the original post but can't transfer it!  YouTube it if you must :)
Let the pretzels boil for 1 minute, then flip them over with a slotted spoon and boil on the other side for another minute.
Fish them out of the water, let them drip off and place them on cookie sheet. Your cookie sheet needs to be greased or have parchment paper.

Sprinkle the pretzels with rock salt while they are still wet from being boiled.
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the pretzels are golden brown.


While my dough was rising for the pretzels, I began to get a batch of sandwich bread going. I'm not going to share the recipe I used, because I used specialty bread flour and most people bake with all purpose. There are a TONNE of bread recipes online, but I particularly like a recipe from King Arthur Flour website. It's called "The easiest loaf of bread you'll ever bake"

It's rustic looking and beautiful like a baguette. I'll make a few loaves soon and post the pictures.

So, I made three loaves of sandwich bread for the kids lunches. It took no more work than making one loaf, and since bread typically takes an hour to rise and another hour to rise in the loaf pan - the timing will work out perfectly. When my pretzels are done baking I can turn the oven down for the bread and it will be ready to go in. After they've cooled, I'll keep one in the bread box and the other two will go straight to the freezer for when we need them next.

Ever get stuck for lunch ideas? Stuffed bread is AMAZINGLY delicious and quite simple to make. You can substitute the meat in this recipe with grilled vegetables if you prefer, any way you change it - it usually turns out delectable.

This recipe is an adaptation of the "All-American Ham and Cheese Roll" from King Arthur Flour

Stuffed Bread

3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup powdered milk
1 tbsp corn starch
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tsp traditional Italian herbs (oregano, parsley, whatever you'd like. I used the Tapinade mix from Epicure)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 teaspoons instant or quick yeast
1 cup water (you may need more depending on weather)

thin-sliced deli meat
thin-sliced cheese

I haven't specified amounts for the filling, because this is entirely to taste. I used enough meat to cover the dough, and only enough cheese to cover one "fold". Today I had specialty turkey (onion and sage flavored) that I bought 50% off and froze. You can use more if you're not on such a tight budget, or even replace the meat with roasted peppers, zuchinni, eggplant, etc. Just be sure to keep the veggies to one layer and not to pile them on top of eachother.

To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients (wet ingredients last), and knead them together until you've made a soft, smooth dough. This is where you may find you need an extra tablespoon or so of water. Allow the dough to rise, covered with a damp cloth or dishtowel, for 1 hour.

Roll the dough into a rectangle until it is roughly 1cm thick. Brush one third with soft or melted butter. Brush all over with mustard, leaving a 1" mustard-free zone all around the edge. Lay your meat (or veggies) out in a single layer across the dough, again leaving a 1" border. If using veggies, you might want to substitute the mustard for hummus (see Hummus recipe). Add the cheese to one third of the dough.

Starting with a long edge, roll the dough into an log. Pinch the long seam closed (or as close to "closed" as you can get) then fold the ends over and pinch them closed too. Curve the log into a horseshoe shape on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, seam-side down. Cover the sheet, and allow the roll to rise for 1 to 2 hours; it should look puffy, though not doubled. I only let mine rise for an hour today, because the oven was ready for it and I had a doc appointment coming up.

Score the roll crosswise (you may want to sharpen your knife first), about ½" deep, at 3" to 4" intervals along its length. Bake the roll in a preheated 375°F oven for 35 minutes, until it's golden brown, tenting it lightly with foil if it appears to be browning too quickly. Remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool for 20 minutes before serving. Serve warm, or at room temperature.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings.
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