Mini Hiatus

Yikes.  Today is the first day of March and on the 10th, I will turn 25 years old.  I have used this date as a deadline for all-things-important in life.  I better boogie because I only have 9 more days left to do a lot of things.

I have not yet made a real content-filled post in 2012.  Let me paint you a quick picture of what my new year has been filled with.  Just so everyone is on the same page.  And because I know you are all just dying to know.

Christmas Time: bells will be ringing.

New Year’s Eve: a little song a little dance a little seltzer down your pants.

New Year’s Resolutions: you win some, you lose some.

A Trip Back To New Jersey: struggles and strife.

Valentine’s Day:  two forks, two people, too perfect.

Current Feelings: nothing is more complete then to love where you are and to love the one you’re with.

So here I am, March 2012.  This year you will bring me to a Quarter Century.  How can something be so terrifying and exhilarating at the same?

Bring it on.


Over the bridge to the other side of the bay

I’ve written a post with this exact title before.  I recently took a weekend trip to San Francisco with some family, friends and friend’s dog.  Since we went over the bridge to the other side of the bay only this time, a little higher up in California, I decided it was the perfect title.  We (and yes that does include the pup) rode bikes over the Golden Gate Bridge.  Does NOT get any more touristy than that but what can I say? I loved every second of it.

All pictures are from my iPhone.


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.

Pretzels? Yes please!

It has been officially one year since we have derooted our lives in the Garden State and repotted ourselves in the Golden State. Charlie and I promised each other that we would give California a real try and stay here at least a year. Here we are, November 2011, and I cannot quite express just how fast time went. As a kid you always hear that “time flies” and of course you never quite understand it. But lately I literally have to stop myself from saying those exact words because, how dare I be so trite.

But damn… time flies…

eekkk!! my trusty Civic finally hit 100,000 miles

Does me saying that mean I’m no longer a kid? Perhaps my fantastically amazing boyfriend and I’s new quest of making the perfectly amazing pretzel will add some youth back into our lives.

(apparently the title of this post should be “Adjectives? Yes please!”)

I have gathered a lot of information from being alive for 24 years and something that I now know for sure is that life is always better if you work for yourself. Information I have not gathered in my 24 years however, is how to make that happen. So for the sake of making this new focus of life easier to tackle, I picked something I know, for sure, that I have passion in.

Food.

Clearly! The answer to most questions is always food.

What will make me feel happy right now? Food.

What will make me feel worse right now? Food.

What is the purpose of life? Food.

What do you want a side of? More Food.

But you can’t just choose food and suddenly be set. As with most things, you need to find a nitch and it is clear to me that Californian’s love to try new things. Well let’s show them something new then!

Amish style soft pretzels is our best idea so far.

Ok so, idea, done. What’s next?

Perfecting a recipe, mass producing and making millions and millions of dollars and goodbye america!!

But before then, here’s how our new adventure in the kitchen is going and let me tell you, sit back, relax and bear with us because it’s going to be more of a slow, frustrating journey. Below is the recipe and instructions we followed and I’ve added some notes of some of the things along the way that may have impacted our outcome or changes we have made.

Pretzels (Round one)

Dough (adapted from Alton Brown’s Homemade Soft Pretzels)

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water

First you combine the warm water, sugar and yeast in a large bowl and let that sit for five minutes. Then you add the flour and butter, mix together and then knead to create the dough. This is where the use of a KitcheAid mixer would be the proper thing to do. However, we don’t have one, so we get down and dirty in the sticky. (Ahem.. gift idea!!)

Our iddy biddy kitchen =)

*Perhaps another gift idea!!*

Place the dough in a bowl that has been oiled and allow it to rise for approximately one hour.

Now in the DePasquale-Sanclemente household we of course left, went shopping, and left the dough for over 3 hours. If this is one of our mess ups, we will be sure to not do this a second time. Maybe.

After the dough has risen, divide the dough into 8 pieces and roll them into long ropes about the thickness of your finger. Add the 10 cups of water and baking soda to a saucepan and bring to a boil.

Arrange the ropes into pretzel shapes (ha, easier said then done.) Dip pretzel into boiling water for about 30 seconds and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush each pretzel with egg wash mixture and sprinkle with salt. Bake in preheated 450°F oven for about 12-14 minutes.

The 8 divided pieces produced way too thick of ropes for our liking so we cut those pieces in half. We tried all different thicknesses and lengths to see what we liked best. Thin and long is most reminiscent of home. We tried different lengths of time in the baking soda mixture and are not decided on which length of time is perfect. Because the mixture made the pretzels wet, we tried drying them on towels before baking and found that made the outer layer a little bit more crunchy. The egg wash was nixed immediatly because that weird green color of cooked eggs was appearing on the bottom of the pretzels. It seemed the outsides were cooking faster than the middle so we turned the oven down to 400°F and the pretzels were cooking more evenly.

Even though to pretzels were just so-so, Lover Boy and I ate about all of them before I could even snag a photo.

Some thoughts for Round Two:

  • We both agreed that the dough was not perfect. It needed to be a little bit sweeter.
  • We had used salted butter instead of unsalted and will change that next time. (Probably why the sweetness was not perfect)
  • Only let the dough rise for an hour.
  • Will mess more with the length of time in the baking soda bath.
  • Eat less and share with neighbors =)

Please tell us your thoughts and feelings about our adventure. Maybe you have an old pretzel recipe that we just have to try or you just think we’re crazy… Let me know!!


Over the bridge to the other side of the bay

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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.