OK, so I have the worst patience in the world, but I couldn't wait until this Friday to find out the set challenge for the Daring Baker's for next month, and although I can't force Quellia to spill the beans on what she has chosen for us, I can keep myself busy by setting my own challenges.
I may be a glutton for punishment, but I really to enjoy a challenge, especially when it comes to cooking. So I have decided that I am going to make each of the recipes that have been attempted by the Daring Bakers so far. In order to catch up I am going to make pretzels, biscotti, croissants, flourless chocolate cake, red velvet cake, Martha Stewart's infamous chocolate crepe cake and Gateau Saint Honore. I'll be making one each month, on top of the set challenge for the month, which will take me over half a year to get up to speed. Oh boy, I really have gone insane!!
First up, the recipe that started the whole DB group. Back in November last year Ivonne and Lisa decided they would both tackle Pretzels and post about them on the same day. They got very different results for their efforts even though they used the same recipe. Check out Lisa & Ivonne's posts to see what I mean.
Pretzels aren't very big here in Australia, when I think of them I think of the little crunchy, overly salty ones out of a packet, which I am not a fan of at all - Waaay too salty for me. In fact, it was only once I looked over the recipe and realised it was for soft pretzels that I actually got excited. You see, when I was in high school (2000), Pretzel World opened up at my local shopping centre. Mum and I used to get them when we went shopping, I haven't seen them around for ages but my favourite flavours were French Onion & Sour Cream and Cin City (covered in cinnamon and a sticky white glaze).
Making these pretzels was just the thing to keep my mind busy, and not straying to the fact that my car is in at the mechanic, with quite a few problems (last phone call had the quote at a minimum of $800 and rising!). I am a uni student. I can't afford this! Breathe Tara, breathe...
Here is the recipe, that I got from Ivonne's post. Since the DB's were very small back then, in fact they weren't even called the Daring Baker's yet, there were obviously no DB rules yet. I have taken the liberty of assuming that if this was set as a challenge following the current rules, the 'creative' part of the challenge would be the topping or flavouring on the pretzels, therefore I made 3 variations.
Soft Pretzels (Makes 8)
Sift together 2 1/2C plain flour, 1/2tsp salt & 1tsp sugar. Add 1pkt (2 1/4tsp) instant dry yeast & 1C warm water and work together with your hands. Once you can form a ball with the dough (You may need to add a little more water if it is dry or flour if it is sticky) remove from the bowl and knead on a lightly floured bench for 8-10 minutes, until smooth. I used my Kitchenaid with the dough hook attachment to do this work for me, it took around 5 minutes. Lightly dust the dough ball with flour and place in an oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place to rest for 30 minutes to an hour. The dough will rise dramatically.
Preheat your oven to 250C and line 2 trays with baking paper. Once the dough has risen, divide it into 8 equal portions. One at a time, roll each portion out into a long rope (around 35cm long), cross the rope over itself to form a circle with around 1/5 of the rope sticking out at each end. Twist the ends over themselves and secure each on either side of the pretzel. Ok, those instructions may sound complicated, basically just play with the rope until it looks like a pretzel! You'll realise how easy it is when you do it.
Dip each pretzel in sugar-water mix made up with 1/2C warm water & 1tsp sugar and place on the prepared baking trays. After they have rested for 15 minutes put them in the oven to bake for 5 minutes, switch the trays around and bake for a further 5 minutes. While the pretzels are in the oven for the last 5 minutes, melt 3Tbsp butter and use it to brush the pretzels as soon as they come out of the oven. Use all of the butter, they will keep soaking it up.
I made 3 different topping variations for my pretzels: Garlic & Herb, Cinnamon sugar and Chocolate glaze. They were all so yummy, please don't make me choose between them!
Garlic & Herb (left in photo) - This was the closest thing that I had in the house to French Onion & Sour Cream. The ones at Pretzel World had a powdered flavouring on top that tasted like the chip version. I am sure I could recreate it pretty well with dried french onion soup mix, but all I had was garlic & herb seasoning. It was still very good, strangely it tasted a little like sour cream, so when I do attempt the french onion soup mix I will be adding a little of this to give the sour cream flavour. I just sprinkled it over the top while the butter was still melty.
Cinnamon Sugar (right in photo) - Very nice. I added some honey to the butter that I brushed them with and then dipped them in the Cinnamon Sugar mix I had left in the cupboard from making Cinnamon & Jam Donut Muffins.
Chocolate Glaze (Sorry, camera died on me - no photo) - So decadent. I wanted to recreate the white sticky glaze from Pretzel World, but had no idea where to start as I don't even remember exactly what it tastes like, so I opted for a chocolate glaze I found online that was used for cakes. I scribbled it down hastily and didn't write down where I got it from, but in the end it wasn't runny enough so I ended up just adding things until it got to the right consistency. Roughly: Mix together 2 1/2Tbsp cocoa, 2Tbsp water, 1Tbsp oil, 1Tbsp cornflour & 1C icing sugar. It is quite runny to start with, but the cornflour helps it to set to a very nice glaze.
Stay tuned for the June challenge (& possibly Biscotti before then if I can't hold out any longer!)