Smetzels? Yes please!

So let’s say we are learning from our mistakes.  Many mistakes.

Pretzels, Round Two

But first look at this pretty espresso picture..

   mm-MMM!  that makes me warm and fuzzy inside..

So on my quest of all things pretzel, I have starting doing research online to find maybe another crazy soul like ours that has tried to sell twisted dough in this untwisted world.  Believe it or not, I have found one!  Amy Gross has some pretty good looking pretzels and the girl could not be more of a trail blazer.  She is a New Jersey native, went to college in Philadelphia and has started her own pretzel selling business at local Farmer’s Markets in Maine!   Good thing she’s not selling in California because we would have some stiff competition.  This week we decided to try her recipe.

Soft Pretzels (Thank you, Amy Gross)

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1-1/4 cups warm water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4-5 cups flour
  • Butter
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • Kosher salt

Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup of the warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, then stir in the remaining 1 cup of the water.  Mix 4 cups of flour and salt in a large bowl.  We also added a teaspoon of sugar.  Add yeast mixture and mix to form a stiff dough, adding extra flour if necessary. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes or until dough is elastic.  Form the dough into a ball and place in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let dough rise for 45 minutes.  Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Butter a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.  Pinch off a small amount of dough and form into desired shape.

Bring at least 4 cups of water to a boil, then dissolve baking soda in boiling water.  Drop several shaped pretzels into boiling baking soda bath. Allow to simmer until pretzels float to the surface.

pretty lil pretzel

Remove pretzels with slotted spoon or spider and drain on a kitchen towel.

Place pretzels on prepared baking sheet and brush with melted butter.  Sprinkle with kosher salt.  Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden.

Snagged a DONE picture before Lover Boy got to them

 Now, if you compare this recipe to the one we tried before, there really isn’t too much of a difference.  Round Two however, has salt added to the dough.  I enjoyed the salt in the dough, and because we snuck in the sugar, it balanced out? I’m not too sure if that makes sense but sounds right to me.  Come on people, we’re not pretzel pros yet.  We left the dough rise for exactly 45 minutes as per the recipe instead of leaving it out for a long time as we did in Round One.  We felt this really didn’t make a difference in the final product.  This recipe also did not have us oil the bowl at all.  At first we thought it made the dough dry and brittle when rolling out into the pretzel shapes, HOWEVER!  it made the dough crack when dropping it in the baking soda and then split even further when baking.  You can see the cracks in the picture above.  These cracks created a wonderful crunchy texture and allowed the melted butter to nestle into the pretzel.  And butter nestling of any sort is A-OK with me. 

Some thoughts for Round Three:

  • The dough is still missing something and we decided to next time add melted butter to the dough.  Butter = better
  • Read a little about “bread flour” instead of all purpose flour.  Bread flour has a higher gluten content and creates a fluffier dough.  Sorry all you Celiacs… Gimme that gluten!
  • No oil in the bowl to allow for crackling goodness
  • Round three is pushed off a couple weeks bc of a trip to Las Vegas and Turkey Day.  We are in charge of the turkey so we have bigger things on our plate.  Pun intended.

Pappalecco… me likeo

I have been to Italy three times, all before the age of 13 so my memories of the boot-shaped country are blurry and a little lost.  Smell is supposed to be the number one trigger of a memory and I absolutely agree with that.  But when smell, sound and taste are combined, they paint a picture for your sight and you can practically place yourself into the memory, even if you can’t actually see it in your mind.

When I step into Pappalecco, the smell of espresso, the sound of the milk frother and the taste of saltiness that touches your tongue seem to make my faint memories wobble from the back part of my brain into the forefront.

Pappalecco has two locations in San Diego.  One in Hillcrest and another in Little Italy.  Everything about the cafe feels authentic.  The glass displays contain perfect little pre-made sandwiches and delicate pastries and cookies.  There are mounds of creamy gelato and the employees all greet you with an enthusiastic “Ciao!”

Now I’m not writing this post to talk about teenage Lanie and her adventures in Italy, but about a beautifully complete panini.  Panini’s have become a popular concept among restaurants and cafes and I have had my fair share.  This panini however, is by far my favorite.

 The Melanzana contains prosciutto, grilled eggplant, fresh mozzarella, basil, and an herbed aioli.  The ingredients inside are pressed together and each of the different flavors are blended to make each bite perfection.  The saltiness of the prosciutto combined with the stringy texture of the eggplant is balanced by the creamy mozzarella and the fresh taste of the basil.  The whole panini is drizzled with a sweet balsamic reduction that really brings the whole dish together.  The rich inside of the panini are paired with a crusty bread that really makes the sandwich stand apart from most impostors.  It is not spungy like most panini’s but rather crunchy and chewy in all the right parts.  Before placing the panini in the press, they brush the outside with oil and dust it with salt and freshly cracked pepper which is my favorite part.  It gives you an excuse to lick your fingers at the end of the meal because, what’s the point of eating with your hands if you can’t enjoy every last taste.