Monday, November 15, 2010

Beers and Soft Pretzels

I had a great weekend with my family. My sister Laura was in town from Virginia, my brother Jim was home (which still seems like a novelty since he just moved home from New Mexico in August) and we got to spend time with our parents as well. I did make one request of the weekend...that as a family we make soft pretzels. Growing up we often made soft pretzels at my mom's house and I have very fond memories of all of the fun shapes we'd make, big messes in the kitchen, and the delicious satisfaction with a job well done when they were finished cooking. 

Here's a palm tree I made this weekend:

Friday night I picked Laura up from her conference in Boston, then we got Jim from the subway station, and headed home to Concord. My mom prepared lots of great dishes so we could enjoy tapas. Here's my plate (before going back for seconds):

That's apple slices, baked brie with cherries, spanicopita (spinach pie in a flaky crust), grilled kielbasa, pita crackers, and olives marinated in olive oil, garlic and lemon. So good!

Jim had bought a nice selection of beers (some new ones to try and some old favorites). We decided the best method of sampling would be to split the beers so we could try more. We started with a new Sam Adams  - Latitude 48 IPA. We agreed that this was a very nice IPA, definitely a do-again.

Next we moved on to Hop Head, another beer I'd never had before. This is made by the Green Flash Brewing Co. in San Diego, CA. This is a cross between a red ale and an IPA, and very tasty!

The last beer I had (I think Jim kept going) was an old favorite - La Fin Du Monde. Its made by Unibroue, a brewery in Quebec. Unibroue is one of my favorites (if not absolute favorite) beer makers, and their line of beers is quite extensive. I love every beer of theirs I've tried (a couple favorites besides La Fin Du Monde are Ephemere Apple, Maudite, and Don de Dieu). If you have never tried Unibroue, I very highly recommend that you try it now!

My mom made a delicious pumpkin pie...totally from scratch! She used 2 sugar pumpkins, a sweet potato, some brandy, and a whole lot of other goodness to make an amazing pie. It was incredible!

After lots of tapas, pie, cookies, and beers, we were all too tired to make the soft pretzels. We decided to wait until Saturday afternoon when we'd have more energy and more of an appetite. Jim's girlfriend Kristi joined us, too.

We doubled the recipe to be sure that there would be plenty to go around and lots of leftovers, too. Here I am kneading the dough:

After kneading we all dug in and started making our pretzels (after a good hand scrubbing, of course!). 

Here are a couple trays of pretzels before going into the oven:

And after cooking:

Some highlights:

My palm tree:

Snakes (one made by Laura, one made by my mom):

Skull and Bones (made by Kristi):

Everyone got pretty creative with different shapes and sizes. We usually start off spending a lot of time making them look great, and about halfway through we switch over and make sticks and dots that aren't as nice looking (that way you don't feel guilty eating them!).

My mom has had this recipe since we were very young children, and we've been using it ever since. Its easy and fun for kids of any age (yes, I still consider myself a kid).

  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Mix yeast, water, sugar, and salt. Stir in flour. Knead the dough.
  3. Shape the pretzels and place on cookie sheets (sheets should either be covered in parchment paper or greased).
  4. Brush pretzels with beaten egg and sprinkle with salt.
  5. Bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes (depending on the thickness of your pretzels).
The nice thing about these pretzels (besides being delicious and easy) is that they are pretty versatile. You can top with cinnamon and sugar, or roll the dough with other spices (like garlic and rosemary, or Parmesan and pepper). I like the standard version best, probably because I associate it with my childhood, but there's lots of room for experimenting.

Do you have any favorite recipes or dishes that make you think of your childhood?

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