Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Salty Rods

Ciao! And that is Italian for 'hello' (or 'goodbye' or about a dozen other things, colloquially), which fits in with today's fabulous recipe!

This one is actually a dish that I consider my grand prix (and that's pronounced grahn pree and not grand pricks, however tempted you may be) of baked goods, as it is one of the most popular and requested things I have ever made. It doesn't take a lot of time, it's pretty easy to do, and even if it has a few steps, they're very simple steps.

Just take them one at a time, and you're fine! You'll surprise yourself and all your friends when you produce this mouth-watering dish, and you'll find they ask you -- sometimes repeatedly -- when you're going to make them again!

Spiced Pretzels (also known as Salty Rods, but you don't have to make them rods)


1 C flour
1 C flour (again!)
3/4 C lukewarm water
2 tsp dry yeast
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

to taste:

Italian seasoning
garlic powder
mustard seed

salt, preferably coarse kosher or sea salt

1) Stir the water to blend the sugar in, then add the yeast and blend as thoroughly as possible, stirring gently. Don't overstir it. Then let it sit for around 15 minutes at room temperature.

2) While you're waiting, crush the mustard seed into a powder, using a mortar and pestle. Add this and the Italian seasoning and garlic to the flour, and stir with a wire whisk. Make sure to get it all thoroughly blended.

3) Once the yeast mixture has sat for the necessary amount of time and risen (you can see foam on it!), slowly add it to the flour mixture. Stir it gently in with a spoon and blend it all together. Add the olive oil and then 1/2 of the other cup of flour.

4) Knead the dough gently as you add the flour, until it is of a good consistency and isn't too sticky. You may not have to add the whole other cup of flour; if you have some left over, reserve it for later.

5) Cover the mixing bowl with a tea towel and place it in an unheated oven for 10-20 minutes, so the dough can expand. Once it has expanded, remove it from the oven and uncover. You can knead it again at this point, which will make the pretzels smoother, but you don't have to.

6) Fill a saucepan halfway with water and mix in the baking soda. Heat the water and bring it to a boil, then turn down the heat so it stays hot.

7) Flour your hands, then pinch off pieces of the dough and roll them into rods. You can also make the traditional twists, but this will take a larger amount of dough than a rod. Carefully place each pretzel into the boiling water, and remove it when it floats, draining off the water.

8) Set the pretzels on a greased baking pan and sprinkle with salt. You can also use different salts for different tastes, such as black salt, or even other spices like pepper.

9) Bake at 400 F/200 C for around 15-20 minutes or until golden.

10) Place on cooling rack and serve warm!

Tips and Such

- If you don't have a mortar and pestle for your kitchen, it really pays to get one. You can find them at many kitchen stores, and many Asian groceries will also carry them. It's great to have one because it's best and most flavourful to buy whole spices and then grind them whenever they're needed.

- To extract the pretzels from the water, use a slotted spoon or slotted ladle, like the kind you might use in a deep fryer. This will allow you to drain off the excess water before placing them on the baking pan.

- You flour your hands when dealing with most breads, because if you have flour on your hands, the dough will not stick to you. You may need to reapply flour between each piece that you roll into a rod. This also works with surfaces like your countertop; if you apply flour to the countertop, it keeps dough from sticking to it. This is why in cooking shows and perhaps your own family's kitchen, you will often see a cook spread flour all over his countertop. It isn't just for the sake of being messy!

- If you have yeast in packets rather than a jar, just use a whole packet of yeast on this recipe. I recommend a jar, however, because it's less wasteful in terms of packaging. Besides, you're going to bake a lot with my recipes!

- The sugar is added to the water so that the yeast will have something to feed on, so that it can expand. You need this to happen, and that's why there's sugar in it. It doesn't take much, and it really doesn't contribute to the finished dish, but it is an essential part.

- When trying to get your water lukewarm, a good thing to remember is that lukewarm should be obviously hotter than your body but not so hot it burns you. It shouldn't hurt, but it shouldn't feel cold or the same temperature as your body. Lukewarm is a bit higher than body temperature.

Ingredient Info

As usual, I'm only covering the new things here. If you see something in the recipe that isn't covered here, read up in the older recipes! They're lots of fun and well worth your time.

Italian seasoning is a blend of spices commonly used in Italian cooking. Oftentimes it includes the standards of oregano, rosemary, marjoram, savoury, thyme, sage, and basil. Yours may vary, but the blend is quite a flavourful one, and a little goes a long way.

Mustard seed is, quite naturally, the seed of the mustard plant! This seed is full of flavour and really wonderful at adding subtle taste to dishes. You can use it whole or ground in many dishes. The popular and seemingly ubiquitous condiment mustard is made in large part from mustard seeds, ground into powder and mixed with other ingredients.

As always, I hope you'll let me know about your experiences making and enjoying my recipes! I'd love to hear how you like the pretzels, and of course I'd love to hear how you like all of my different dishes. Make my day and comment!

Until next time, happy eating!

};) Dhiar <3

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