Whole Wheat Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels

This week’s recipe is Whole Wheat Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels. I am a big fan of making bread, finding the chemical magic of yeast to be a fascinating. We make a lot of pizza and calzones in this household. I haven’t made pretzels before though and I was really excited to see how boiling the dough in a baking soda bath would change things.

The recipe started off with making a half whole wheat, half bread flour dough in a stand mixer using the dough hook. The dough came together fairly quickly. It started off as a rather chunky mix but came together into a ball of dough after a few minutes.

My husband and I took a nature walk while we waited for the dough to rise, to kill time, but also to help offset our plan to eat a whole bunch of pretzels.

When we got back I was pleased to see that the dough had risen considerably. I divvied up the dough into 9 pieces and then worked on shaping them into some sort of pretzel shape. I was kind of surprised that it was fairly easy to do, though I did find that pinching the dough was easier and faster than rolling it out. The baking soda bath was also pretty straightforward. I was a little concerned though when the water and pretzels started foaming a lot mid way through, did that happen to anyone else? I used an egg wash for half of the recipe and sprinkled them with salt. The other half got a generous amount of butter, cinnamon, and sugar when they were out of the oven

I love recipes that say “Dig in! What are you waiting for?” Well, I paraphrase, this recipe didn’t say exactly that, but we only had to wait a few minutes for them to cool before we could enjoy the results. While I am a huge fan of butter+cinnamon+sugar, I wasn’t super crazy about how these came out. I kept kind of wishing that I was eating a cinnamon roll instead, or wishing that I had cream cheese so that I could have eaten it like a bagel. My husband enjoyed the salted versions with some spicy mustard, and polished off two in short order. If I made them again I think I’d stick to savory versions, maybe even a garlic salt cheese topping. Or try to sweeten the dough a bit to complement the awesome topping a bit more.

Whiskey Pear Tart

Recipe

This week’s recipe is the Whiskey Pear Tart from Baked Explorations. I have a long standing love for pear tarts (and whiskey, though that is much more recent). Growing up I had the privilege to frequent an outstanding french restaurant and patisserie  called La Chatelaine,  which taught me just how good fruit tarts could be. I was delighted to discover that those delicious confections are not terribly hard to make, and are wonderfully pretty.

This recipe turned out beautifully, and tasted amazing. However it was not the easiest recipe to do, with a lot of steps and a lot of time waiting for things to chill. The flavor was delicately almond, with a touch of vanilla. I didn’t really taste much whiskey at all. I used Jameson, because it’s our favorite and we always have it in the house.  The recipe starts off with an overnight soak of canned pears in a mixture of whiskey, lemon juice and vanilla. I kind of suspected that one 15 oz can wouldn’t provide enough pears to cover the tart, so I bought extra just in case. I also made the dough for the crust the evening before so that it could chill overnight.

I had a bit of trouble with the dough, when I put all the ingredients together in the food processor I just ended up with a sandy mess. I had to add a bit of water to get it to adhere together. I’m also not entirely sure where my rolling pin is, we just moved and I’m still in the process of figuring out where all of my cooking gadgets have gone. I ended up MacGyvering it by using a stainless steel water bottle, which luckily worked just as well.   I decided to roll out the dough using waxed paper, because that’s how my mom taught me to do pie dough, and it’s a technique that’s always worked well for me.


The filling was very easy to make, and the tart was a cinch to assemble. I’m glad I had those extra pears on hand because the tart was really improved with more fruit on top.  When it came to making the glaze though, I tend to read instructions like “Boil until you have about 3/4 of a cup” as nonsensically impractical, and instead just boiled it for “awhile.”  The finished tart was excellent,  so much so that we polished it off the same day. I would definitely consider making it again.  In fact I think that the crust and almond filling would lend itself to other kinds of fruit toppings, like strawberry, depending on what is available.

Baked Sunday Mornings

The Brookster Experiment

I recently decided to bake along with Baked Sunday Mornings, a blog that posts weekly recipes from Baked, Baked Elements, and Baked Explorations, cookbooks written by Brooklyn bakery owners Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. While I’ve never been to their Brooklyn storefront, I checked out Baked Explorations at my local library when it first came out and fell in love with it. The recipes were beautifully photographed and very enticing. A lot of the recipes seemed unique as well, like the Orange Creamsicle Tart. When I heard that the new release, Baked Elements, would be themed around ten of the author’s favorite ingredients, including pumpkin, cinammon, chocolate and booze, I was sold, and ordered it right away. I have not been disappointed.

First off, the Brooksters came out really well.  If you’ve made chocolate chip cookies or brownies before these will be really easy for you.  I was a little skeptical that this recipe would improve these old standbys, and I wasn’t exactly wrong on that point. While this treat is fabulously delicious, I don’t think I would make it again. The appeal of a brownie or a chocolate chip cookie, besides the fact that they are delicious, is that they are easy and fast to make. This recipe requires making them both, and then has a three hour chill time, which is kind of a bummer.  The recipe also called for six, four inch pie plates. Even as a veteran baker, who owns four different sizes of bread pans,  I thought that was a strange thing to have on hand.  There is a side bar in the book that says that you can make the recipe in a muffin tin instead, which seemed much more reasonable, and you end up with 12 desserts instead of 6.  Even though I love dessert (clearly) I don’t really feel like eating a miniature pie when I can have something smaller. And these are very decadent indeed. When they were ready to eat I had trouble finishing even one of the smaller sized ones.

I also ended up with a lot of extra cookie dough, like enough to make a dozen chocolate chip cookies. At first I considered this to be one of the recipes negative aspects, but then I laughed at myself and just put it in the freezer for one of those midnight “Gee, I could really go for a chocolate chip cookie” moments (also known as days that end in y).

I also thought there should have been instructions as to the best way to remove them from the muffin tin. Greasing or spraying the tins with cooking spray is a key step that you absolutely cannot skip. I think it would have been impossible to get them out while they were still warm. I let them cool completely on a wire rack, and then ran a knife along the edge to gently pry them out of the tin. I had a couple that stuck a little bit but it wasn’t too bad.

Overall, these were a decadent, rich, delicious treat. The cookie on top crisped nicely, while the brownie provided a moist, chocolatey base that melted compared to the buttery cookie crunch. I would definitely recommend trying them once, but overall I would stick with the two classics individually.

Recipe

Baked Sunday Mornings