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Monday, September 26, 2011

Bittersweet Blondies

I'm not actually sure what I was thinking but I ended up with blondies.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs
1 cup pecans, chopped
2 cups bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking pan.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, and mix well, scraping down the bowl. With the mixer still on low, slowly add flour mixture to the butter mixture. Fold the pecans and chocolate chunks in with a rubber spatula.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake for no longer than 30 minutes. A toothpick may not come out clean. Cool completely in the pan and cut into bars.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pretzel Time

I experimented with pretzels today. I like my pretzels soft and chewy but with at least a little bit of crust. Unfortunately, I've only been able to achieve the perfect skin with a lye bath. While cooking with toxins takes kitchen wizardry to record heights, I'm just not a fan of using flesh-burning chemicals around my food. I also wanted to improve on the pretzel recipe I've been using that tastes a little doughy (sorry, Alton Brown, but you know its true).

Here is my new recipe. Based on the reviews, they are pretty good:

1 cup warm whole milk (the original recipe called for the milk to be scalded and cooled but I skipped this step)
1/2 cup warm water (about 110 F)
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons coarse salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour (I split the flour evenly between bread and all-purpose flour)

For the soda bath:
3 quarts water
3/4 cup baking soda

For coating:
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
coarse sea salt

Proof the yeast in half a cup of lukewarm water and the sugar. In a bowl of a mixer, place the flour (start with 4 1/2 cups, you'll add the rest if necessary) and salt. Add the yeast, cooled butter and the milk. Mix for about 10 minutes until the dough is well kneaded and no longer sticky. Add more flour if necessary. Let the dough rise for about an hour in a warm place or until doubled in size. On a floured surface, roll the dough into long ropes, as thick or as thin as you want. I end up rolling them in my hands, like play-do snakes Shape the dough with the traditional pretzel shape (holding each end, cross them, twist and press down with a drop of water).

Preheat the oven to 400 F

Boil the pretzels in the soda bath for about 30 seconds each side. Place them on a baking sheet, brush them with either egg wash or melted butter and sprinkle them with salt. Bake the pretzels for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Leftover pretzels can be stored in the fridge and popped into the toaster for a nice warming before eating.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wendy's Natural Cut Fries

Since moving to New Orleans, I have lost the fast food habit. Not only are there a lot of other places to go to eat that are quick and cheap, there is a lot of better tasting food in this city. However, there are times when stopping somewhere with a drive thru to feed my hunger for fat is just what I need.

Today, I stopped at Wendy's for the first time in a long time. I was so disappointed that it is going to be a very long time before I go there again. The chicken sandwich was dry but the worst thing was the natural cut fries. A marketing gimick around the potato skin being left on and the use of sea salt that doesn't even begin to cover how unhealthy the darn things are (a medium serving of these fries contain 420 calories with 20 grams of fat and 500mg of sodium). If that wasn't bad enough, mine were almost inedible. The fries were either limp or over cooked and crunchy. The oil must have been old because they were a uniform brown, not golden. All in all, not what I go for in fries, no matter how naturally cut they are. The lemonade was pretty good.

For $7.34, I've got plenty of other options in this town.