A Quick Note....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Breadmaking is on hold but not forgotten due to a sudden family emergency. I'll be back soon, and I'll catch up on the loaves I'm behind on. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading, and your lovely comments.

Pretzel Pizazz!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Ok I admit it.. It totally wasn't fair to tempt you with tasty homemade pretzel facts and history without giving you any other pretzel outlet. It just wasn't right of me. I know it doesn't make things any better, but the reason the tasty pretzels have not made their way onto my blog is that most of my week has been like this, but maybe not quite so cute.

funny pictures of cats with captions

I did however, last weekend have a great time making and tasting pretzels with the boy, and our friend biscuit boy. Pretzels are a little more complicated than bread, but I am determined to see how far I can take this poor man's kitcheaide mixer idea.

Our cast of characters for the basic pretzel.

Oh look, it's the return of Lil'Milk. He always brightens my day.

The recipe which I found at The Fresh Loaf:

1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon malt powder or brown sugar
2-3 cups all-purpose unbleached or bread flour (I substituted wheat flour in for half of the regular flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm milk (approximately 110 degrees, which is 1 minute in my microwave) 

So the first thing to notice is that the milk is indeed suppose to be warm this time. Not tepid, like the french bread recipee, warm. So the milk took a little trip in the microwave for abut a minute. Weeeeeee, round and round it goes... but I digress. It might have helped that the sound of Wii Super Hula Hoop was coming from the other room as the boy and biscuit boy took turns.

I had all intentions of using this recipe as is for the first time around, but that didn't happen as I discovered I was also running low on regular non-bread flour. So I split it half wheat flour, half regular all purpose flour.

All the ingredients found there way into the bread machine, liquid first, and then dry. Of course don't' forget to make your yeast volcano. Set the machine to the dough setting, and while it mixes clean up that big ol'mess I know you just made.

I have to say I was more fascinating with watching what happens in the machine itself. Especially once I discovered you can lift the lid while the machine continues to cycle without interrupting it. Now this probably isn't the best idea to do during the rising time on the pretzels or bread, but is just fine to do while it's mixing. We hung out in our hang glider stood on the step stool and watched from above.

Let the machine take itself through the entire dough cycle. You should have a nice lovely risen chunk of dough by the time you're done. This recipe makes about 6 full sized pretzels, so divide your dough into 6 even doughballs.


 Now it's time to start rolling. Spray the clean counter with Pam. Lightly cover the surface in oil so the dough doesn't stick. If you roll the dough, and then let it rest for a minute, and then roll again you'll be able to stretch them in to nice long strips, go for about the width of a finger, preferably one of your skinner fingers. :)

Upon first roll:

 Upon second roll:

Now the fun begins! Begin shaping your ropes into a pretzel shape. Keep in mind as you shape that the pretzels will almost double in size, so leave lots of room in between the loops.

Bavarian pretzels are first boiled in a lye bath, which  gives them a nice shiny coating. You can get a similar effect without the lye. Take 2 tablespoons of baking soda and boil it in about 4 cups of water. Boil each pretzel in this bath for about 30 seconds.

So while I was doing this, I got this great idea. Pretzels and beer taste great together. I've eaten other things boiled in beer and they were very tasty. What would happen if I boiled a pretzel in beer and then baked it? I decided to try it out. I sacrificed a bottle of this.

What a happy looking pretzel!

Come on, you'd want to be that pretzel if the water wasn't boiling, and you know you weren't going to get eaten. If you were a pretzel, this would be the top shelf wouldn't it? Next came, the fun part! Getting with the toppings. I chose to try one of each of the following: Pepitas (green shelled pumpkin seeds), sunflower seeds, coarse ground salt, cinnamon and splenda that I mixed equal parts in a bowl and spread on top,  sesame, and the beer boiled I left the top plain.

The oven preheated to 425, I baked them for 15 minutes. They came out delicious looking! By this point biscuit boy and the boy were hovering waiting for pretzels. I made them wait while I took a photo.

See the sad little pretzel in the center? The one that looks kinda naked compared to it's brown, crusty, delicious looking friends? That would be the beer boiled pretzel friends. It had the smell of beer, but overall it was the least favorite of the batch. Sadness, next time I'll just drink the beer.

Sesame and sunflower were both tasty, as was the salt. By far the favorites were the cinnamon sugar, and the pepitas. The pepitas roasted nicely on top and gave a nice nutty flavor. the cinnamon sugar, well it speaks for itself. These pretzels went under great scrutiny, as the boy, biscuit boy and I all gathered around a table and enjoyed all of them bite by bite!

Don't worry, even though I haven't blogged quite yet about the bread I made this week I did make some. In fact, the lonely over-ripe bananas may have found their way into my bread machine.

Grow Your Own Round-up: Urban Breadmachine featured!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Just wanted to thank  House of Annie for adding me for her grow your own round-up. They featured my Rosemary Loaf that I blogged about on New Years.  Check out House of Annie for all the neat ideas of things you can grow yourself, and fun recipes you can make with your harvest.

The main ingredient in the bread was rosemary from the garden the boy tends (thought I help a little now and then). If you'd like to hear more about the process of some of the things we're growing and prepping ourselves, check out the boy's blog Growing, Eating, and Preserving Local Food in the ATL. Right now most of the garden is dormant, but he's prepping it for the soon to come growing season!

More to come on the pretzels. I know I'm leaving you hanging with just a taste of the history without some fresh pretzels to drool over. The next new loaf also to come this week!

A Short History of the Pretzel

Saturday, January 30, 2010

So one of the first things I've been dying to try in my poor man's kitchenaide is soft pretzels.

Pretzels have a long and interesting history.Though no one is quite sure how they originally started making them, they can be traced back to a monastery in Northern France/ Southern Italy where monks used scraps of dough to represent a child's arms folded in prayer. The 3 holes represented the trinity. The monks offered the warm, doughy bribe to children who had memorized their Bible verses and prayers. The monks called it a Pretiola, Latin for little reward. From there, the pretzel transformed into the Italian word, Brachiola, which means little arms.

Pretzels later worked themselves into medieval culture as a quick snack from a vendor. They came to represent good luck, prosperity, and became somewhat of a logo for fairs and festivals.

A legend exists of a young apprentice baker who fell asleep while the pretzels were baking. Woken up to the bellowing from his teacher at ruining them, the young baker tried them. They were crispier, nuttier, and even preserved longer. Fortunately for him the baker ended up loving them, and thus the hard pretzel was born.

Paintings have even helped us identify pretzels. Check out this reference from The Kitchen Project.  Click on the photo, and then zoom in on your browser of this painting. The painting is by Pieter Bruegel in 1559, and is called "The Fight Between Carnival and Lent." If you zoom in on the lower right corner, you'll find pretzels!

Pretzels have been used at weddings for a long time in Europe as sort of a wishbone. The spouse with the larger half assured their wishes would be fulfilled, and it became a symbol of prosperity. From this the now common phrase "tying the knot" originated.

German's have quite an intricate history with the pretzel.  Pretzels traveled from Europe and quickly adopted the chewy treat. Pretzels began showing up as dinner with two hard-boiled eggs on Good Friday, the day of fasting. the pretzel represented everlasting life, the eggs representing rebirth. Eventually parents began hiding them on Easter morning for their children to find, which led to to the tradition of the Easter Egg hunt.

The German Bavarian pretzel originated by accident as well. A Munich baker named Anton Nepomuk Pfannenbrenner is said to be an employee of a small business that made sweet pretzels. On February 11, 1839 mistook a soda/lye solution for the syrup normally used to coat the pretzels. Amazingly, no one died and it was a delicious mistake! The Bavarian pretzel, with it's thicker brown chewier shiny crust was born!

Skip ahead a little, and pretzels first came to the states with the colonists. Pretzels were first made in the homes. The first commercial pretzel is said to have been made in Lititz, just outside Pennsylvania Dutch country. Their was even a museum there at one point, but sadly it is closed now. Too bad to, I'd love to add it to my list of museums I've visited. Guess the salt and pepper shaker museum will continue to remain top of my list of strange museums for now....

A few other pretzel fun facts....
*Pretzels top some Christmas trees in Austria.
*Some Germans wear pretzels around their neck at new years for good luck.
*Pretzels without salt are called baldies.
*National Soft Pretzel Month is in April.... they have a month for everything now a days ehh?
*Helen Hoff is the world champion pretzel twister, twisting 52 per minute. Wow, that's pretty quick!
*Freepoint, Illinois High School has the pretzel as their mascot. Apparently the town had two major industries, beer and pretzels. Glad they chose the pretzel as the mascot! Go Pretzels!

I had all intentions of making this part of my post about pretzel making, but I didn't realize the long and intricate history of pretzels! Pretzel recipe and pictures to follow on the next edition of the Urbanbreadmachine...

Have a pretzel fun fact? Found another painting with pretzels in it? Have a personal pretzel story? Leave a comment!

Chocolate Walnut Loaf : Sometimes a Girl's Gotta Have Chocolate, Loaf 4

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

So this week I decided to try something a little different. Originally the idea of this was a chocolate chip bread, but I quickly learned that it seems that's fairly impossible in a bread cycle. So this loaf instead became chocolate walnut instead, tahdah!

Our cast of characters:

1 1/3 cups water
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sugar (I used Splenda for baking)
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons yeast (I would suggest trying a teaspoon and a half for this loaf!)
1/2 cup walnuts halves
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli)

First, into the machine went the wet ingredients. My vanilla extract happens to be clear, but you can tell by the lovely smell of vanilla that doesn't transmute over the inter-webs that it is in the pan. As per usual, I used "I can't believe it's not butter" for baking, but you could use plain old butter or margarine. We prefer ICBINB in our house. I chopped the butter roughly to help it distribute in the bread, and let it come to room temperature.

Shortly after that I discovered a fatal error in bread making.

Oh no, almost out of flour! Luckily I had just enough for this loaf through scooping some out of the plastic bag I keep the bag of flower inside, but it was barely enough. How am I suppose to make 52 loaves if I let myself run out of flour? Harrumph! This will need to be fixed soon my dear readers, never you fret.

After that, all the dry ingredients go in except the chocolate chips and the walnuts. I happened to put the splenda straight into the liquid before adding the flour. It made a satisfying fizzle as it dissolved. It looked kind of like the bubbles when you pour lemonlime soda into a clear glass? An oddly strange and satisfying sound. Make a little volcano, and put your yeast in last. Set the machine to the sweet setting, and I set my crust setting to light.

By now, you might be wondering what about the chocolate chips and walnuts? Didn't we forget them? Ah dear reader, it's now time to discover the raisin beep. You may have noticed it before... You set the machine, walk away, and about half an hour later the machine starts beeping all crazy. You wander over to find out what all the crazy beeping is about, yet their seems to be nothing going on other than the dough is finishing kneading. Shrugging your shoulders, you wander away and hopes it doesn't set your kitchen on fire. (Not that I'VE ever done this before).

This strange beeping, dear reader, is the raisin beep. The raisin beep can be used for any ingredient you want distributed throughout the bread, but not pulverized to smithereens. Pretty much anything you put in the machine at the beginning will be kneaded and slammed against the sides of the machines until only crumbs are left. This beep is the right time to add ingredients like raisins, nuts chunks, or chocolate.

So keep your ears open, and when the machine beeps drop in the nuts and the chocolate chips. The second time the machine beeped, the loaf was done, hooray!

This particular loaf rose.... a lot... I was a little concerned that it might pop the top of the bread machine, or get stuck all over my nice see thru window. I would recommend decreasing the amount of yeast to 1 1/2 teaspoons to keep it from going quite so crazy.

The loaf was quite swirled on the bottom.

Swirled on the outside...


Upon slicing it open, I was met with a marbled squishy delight. Though their were no chunks of chocolate, their was a nice chocolate flavor, and the walnuts gave some texture. The bread itself was squishy, not cake like at all, and the vanilla mixed with the chocolate was lovely. I plan on trying it with some peanut butter later this week. Maybe with some banana too... yum! I give this loaf 4 out of 5 loaves.

I'm still waiting for the special loaf to blow my socks off to get 5 loaves.This one was close, but still missing something to push it over the edge...

French Bread Memories- Loaf 3

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

So growing up, my mom had a bread machine. I have fond memories of her making mixes and bagging them into the fridge so we could have quick and simple homemade bread. I remember her experimenting with cornflake bread, and she always cut her butter and put it in the four corners. She says with her machine, it would spread better throughout the bread. My favorite bread she would make was a simple French bread. Somewhat dense, but also springy slathered in a thin layer of butter, warm from the machine... yum...

I called my mom last week for her recipe. She still has her recipes, and was more than happy to share for the cause. Meanwhile in the background my father's warning: You don't want that recipe, it's too good, we ate too much of it and it was bad for us. I agree, eating several loafs of it a week like we did when I was a kid is not good for your health. Which is why I decided to share this recipe with 10 other women, not a bad idea eh?

Below is the recipe I scratched while on the phone to my mother... looks good, no?

 Just in case you didn't get all that.. ha!

1 cup plus 3 tables spoons water
1 tablespoon of butter
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dry active yeast (1 1/2 teaspoons if bread machine yeast)

So as per all machines, first add your wet ingredients. You might notice in the scribbles about the water it says hot. I was told it needed to be warm, so I thought why don't I pop it in the microwave? I just wrote down hot for my sake....

Then I checked the temperature and realized I may have gotten overzealous. What else do you do with a meat thermometer in a mostly vegetarian household? At least my ground beef would be done, ha!

So after a quick realization, I just let the tap warm up. Silly me. In to the pot went the wet ingredients, and then the dry. If you're keeping up, you might notice the yeast is a little different, I opted for the fleismann's to see how it'd compare and if I could avoid the big bread loaf dents. make yourself a yeast volcano in the dry ingrdients. I prefer the light crust, and I used the regular basic setting on the machine.

The loaf turned out beautifully, without the big dents in the top. May I present, SUPER LOAF! Kinda looks like a cape..

The ladies loved the bread, I made three loaves of it and it made awful good turkey sandwich. Keeping it in plastic will help keep it fresh longer, but the cut edge of the bread will start to go stale within a day or two. I  give this loaf 4 loaves out of 5 for it's versatility, springiness, and overall yummy taste. It would be a 5 if it didn't go stale so easily. Overall a beautiful basic loaf.

Amish Friendship Bread- An Oven Baked Chain Letter of Good Will

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

So I've found as I've started doing more research to try to keep my challenge alive that there are a lot of different types of bread I can make easily by using my bread machine as essentially a poor man's stand mixer. Throw in your ingredients. hit the dough cycle, and then form bread as you would any bread. Not having a kitchenaide mixer myself, I find this idea about the bread machine fascinating.... Especially with how many people I've known who have mixers and don't really know how to use them. Don't get me wrong, a kitchenaide can be a great tool, and they have some awesome attachments. Yet I can make some of the same things by throwing them in my bread machine and let it do the mixing for me? Heck yeah!

So in the coming weeks in between loaves, I think I might experiment with a few of these recipes. I think for the time being, I'm not going to count them towards my 52 loaves as they're not cooked in the breadmachine itself, and that means more dishes in a home without a dishwasher. Stay tuned for more of these....

In the meantime, until we get to next weeks loaf (Which happens to be mixing as we speak. In the room right now it's a combination of bread machine grumbles and the sound of the boy playing Super Hula Hoop) I thought I'd share another creation with you called the Amish Friendship loaf.

The starter was passed to me by my neighbors who with all the best intentions passed it along. The first clue was that the recipe included a box of jello pudding mix. "I don't know what's amish about jello pudding, but it should be tasty" my neighbor said with a smile. Sounds like fun, I'll give it a try.

For 10 days I followed the recipe for the starter. I mushed the bag... mushed the bag... etc. Day 10 came along, baking day! Whoo hoo, a Sunday to boot!

I started reading the recipe... milk... oil..vanilla.... a CUP of sugar? What bread has a CUP of sugar? A sweet bread, that's what! I think we might call this cake dear friend!

Well I'm already elbow deep in it...and we have all the ingredients... and I've been mushing the bag in anticipation for 10 days... and I already made a HUGE mess portioning out the starter into portions. The recipe claimed not to use metal anything... In hindsight I should have said that's a load of phoey, but instead I mixed it up in my pretty glass salad bowl... I felt like a fool mixing it in my glass salad bowl, but I did. Don't judge, you would have too!

So I finished the recipe... wait, 2 loaves? How much does this make? I only have one loaf pan! So I carefully dusted the pan with more cinnamon sugar, split the dough, more cinnamon sugar on top, and baked.

It.... smelled... heavenly. I think I gained 10 pounds just smelling it. One taste and I quickly realized it was very tasty, and there was no way I could keep it in the house and keep my other new years resolutions of trying to eat more in moderation. (Yes I realize a bread blog resolution and an eat in moderation resolution may be just a wee bit contradictory.)  So I packaged up a loaf and took it to friends, and the other loaf was sliced and taken to work.... and somehow I managed to only eat one piece. (score, kept both of my new years resolutions! 21 days to make a habit, bam!)

The folks at work seemed to enjoy it, I got several compliments on it. I assume the friends did as well...So if you're looking for a really sweet breakfast cake... or just to torment your friends with lots of cake and a smidgen of guilt you've found your recipe.

Amish Cinnamon Friendship Bread
Important Tips:
  • Do not use a metal bowl or spoon for mixing (see my note about this below)
  • Do not refrigerate.
  • It is normal for batter to thicken, bubble, or ferment
  • You may need to open the bag to release some of the gas
Day 1: You receive the fermented batter in a 1 gallon ziploc bag. Do Nothing. Just place the bag on the kitchen counter.
Day 2: Squeeze the bag several times.
Day 3: Squeeze the bag several times.
Day 4: Add 1 c. of flour, 1 c. of sugar, 1 c. of milk. Squeeze bag.
Day 5: Squeeze the bag several times.
Day 6: Add 1 c. each flour, sugar, and milk. Squeeze bag.
Day 7: Squeeze bag several times.
Day 8: Squeeze bag several times.
Day 9: Squeeze bag several times.
Day 10: In a large, non-metal bowl, combine batter with 1 c. each flour, sugar, and milk. Mix with a wooden spoon. Pour four 1-cup starters into individual gallon ziploc bags. Give away starters to friends with this set of directions. It is important to follow this sequence exactly.
To the remaining batter add:
  • 1 c. canola oil
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 large box of instant vanilla pudding
  • 2 t. cinnamon
In separate bowl, mix 1 t. cinnamon and 3 T. sugar. Sprinkle into well-greased loaf pans and coat the sides with sugar mixture. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until done.

To add to the mystic, the paper claimed only the amish know the deep dark secret to making this starter. Some internet research confirms that's phooey. If you'd like to make your own starter simply imply put 1 c. flour, 1 c. sugar, 1 c. milk, and 1 T. yeast in a gallon ziploc bag and let it sit on the counter. Call that day 1, and you’re good to go.

I apologize I took no pictures of this bread. If you'd like to see what it looked like check out a version of Amish Friendship Bread here. 'Cept that one got a little fancy and included raisins... which I now wish I had done.

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