Monday, November 30, 2009

Pretzels! or Let's Get Twisted!!

Recently I got struck with this insane craving for a fresh hot soft pretzel with mustard. I couldn't get the idea out of my head so clearly I had only one choice!

Drive to the mall?!
No. Those are dipped in butter aren't they?

Buy some frozen?!
No! They get dry and stale and freezer-burned so fast.

Make my own?!
Of course, where did you think this was going? It's a food blog.

Fortunately pretzels are both easy and fun to make, and pretzel recipes don't require much veganization as they don't have a lot of animal bits in them. I used Alton Brown's recipe off the Food Network website. The only changes I had to make were subbing Earth Balance for butter, and omitting the eggwash, which is supposed to give them a nice golden brown color. Seems if you just sprinkle salt onto the wet pretzel and put them into a hot oven, they do actually turn golden brown on their own. Go figure!! These were so delicious the boy and I ate way too many pretzels in one go, but you really have to enjoy them while they're hot and fresh since they get stale so quickly. Like bagels, hot pretzels are boiled and then baked to give them a chewy interior and a crisp exterior.

Soft Pretzels
1 1/2 cups warm water (110-115 degrees F - should feel just barely uncomfortable)
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp (one packet for those of you who don't buy bulk yeast) active dry yeast
22 oz (about 4.5 cups) all purpose flour
2 tbsp margarine, melted
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
Vegetable oil to non-stick up your bowl and cookie sheet
Parchment paper if you've got it
Rock salt/Pretzel salt

1. "Proof" your yeast (test to make sure it's active) by adding it and the sugar to the warm water and allow it to sit for about 10 minutes. If it gets all bubbley and foamy looking, it's ready to go! If nothing happens, it may be time for new yeast.

2. Stir your flour and salt together in the bowl of your mixer (or in a large bowl if you're going to knead by hand). Add the water/yeast mixture and the melted margarine and mix until it is combined well, then knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it's smooth and elastic.

3. Lightly coat your bowl with vegetable oil and place the dough ball back into the bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave in a warmish spot for an hour, or until the dough about doubles in size.

4. When it's getting towards the end of the rising time, you can start prepping the rest of your things. Line the cookie sheets with parchment (or foil, or silpat, or nothing) and lightly brush with vegetable oil. In a large pot, bring the 10 cups of water and 2/3 cups baking soda to a boil. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

5. Back to the dough! Punch it down and divide it into 8 balls of dough. Roll each ball into a rope, and twist each rope into a pretzel. (Make a U shape, then cross the ends, then stick the bottoms onto the original U shape.) One at a time, gently place the pretzels into the boiling water for 30 seconds, then remove them with a slotted spoon and sit them on your prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.

6. Bake your pretzels for 12-14 minutes or until they're all golden. Allow them to cool a few minutes on a cooling rack before you eat them.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Individual Baked Apple Crisps

Another chapter in the 1001 things you can do with apples! But first...

Next weekend is the SECOND ANNUAL PRE-THANKSGIVING VEGAN THANKSGIVING POTLUCK here in the Albany, NY area. More specifically, in my house. If you are in or around or willing to travel to the NY State Capital Region, and are free on Saturday, November 7th from 2pm until we can't move anymore, and want to share some awesome vegan food, let me know and I'll send you further details!

Onto the apples!

I was a whiny mess last week when I was sick, so I wanted to make a nice treat for the boy because he put up with me. With just the two of us, making an entire apple crisp or an entire apple pie is just a bit much, and while I love baked apples, the boy typically would prefer a dessert with a bit more pizazz. These turned great. They were super simple to make, and really delicious! I didn't have a recipe, I just winged it based on the size of the apples and the proportion of stuff I wanted to put inside of them. Dried fruit or chopped nuts would also make great additions to the filling if you've got them around.

Individual Baked Apple Crisps

2 large apples
1 tbsp vegan margarine, melted
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Heaping 1/4 cup rolled oats

1. Peel a band of skin off of the outside of each apple. Cut a hole into the top of the apple as though you were cutting a pumpkin for carving. Scoop out the seeds and core, leaving just a little bit of apple at the bottom to help hold the filling in. Snack on the extra apple bits that came out.

2. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon into the melted butter to dissolve the sugar, then add the oats and stir to coat in the sugar/margarine mixture.

3. Fill the empty apples with the filling and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 min to 1 hr or until the apples are tender when poked with a fork. (This will depend on the size of your apple!) Serve warm for optimal deliciousness.