Apr 29, 2013

Cinnamon No-Knead Bread

I've tried creating some variations on the wildly popular No-Knead bread from Sullivan Street Bakery and Jim Lahey. See here. But this is my favorite, no question. I still love the basic recipe, of course, but it is nice to have a slightly sweeter version. So delicious served warm with butter. It also makes fabulous toast or French toast.

4 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid rising yeast
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup mini cinnamon chips (I purchased these at a local kitchen store)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
A little less than 1/4 cup sugar
2 cups water at about 70 degrees

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast, salt, cinnamon chips, cinnamon, and sugar. Add the water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Put dough seam side down on floured work surface and dust with more flour, bran, or cornmeal. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 hours.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot in the oven while it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove heated pot from the oven. Gently move the ball of dough with your hands from your work surface and drop it into the pan. It may look like a mess, but that is okay. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 10 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Remove the bread from the pan and cool on a wire rack. Note: the cinnamon chips and sugar cause this bread to a little easier than regular no-knead bread, in my experience. So you'll need to keep an eye on the loaf once the lid is removed so that the bread doesn't get burned.

Apr 6, 2013

Chocolate and Caramel-Covered Pretzel Rods

The recipe for these addictive Chocolate and Caramel-Covered Pretzel Sticks comes from my friends Liza and Angie. They give them at Christmastime as gifts, and I've been a fortunate recipient. These are really, really good! Normally, I don't even like pretzels, but if they are dipped in caramel and chocolate, so you have the time-tested combination of salty and sweet tastes, then watch out!

With Liza's generous permission, I am using photos from her blog, along with some of the text, but I made a few changes based on my own experience in making these pretzel sticks.

1 12-ounce package Rold Gold Pretzel Rods (I think I ended up with about 30+ rods)
Dipping caramel (I used about half of a 5-pound package of Peter's Caramel that I purchased at a local cooking store)
A'peels dipping chocolates (I used a half bag each of milk chocolate for dipping and white chocolate for drizzling)

You can use any microwave-safe bowl to melt your caramel, but it helps to have a container that is somewhat narrow, that matches the length of the pretzel rods and that has straight sides. Like Liza and Angie, I used a mason jar. I cubed the caramel, put it the mason jar, and then microwaved the contents until the caramel was a suitable thickness for dipping (thin enough so that you get a coating but not so thin that all of the caramel drips off the rod).

Once the caramel reaches the desired thickness, you are ready to begin dipping your pretzel rods.

As you pull each rod out of the caramel, swipe one side of the caramel off on the side of the jar. The scraped side is the one you lay on the parchment paper. By scraping off some of the caramel, you avoid having the caramel pool underneath and going to waste.

Once you have dipped all the rods in caramel and they have set up (it takes about 5 minutes), you can dip them in the chocolate using the same method. You can use a double broiler for this process, but that takes longer. Instead, I used the A'peels dipping chocolates. I poured them in a bowl and heated them in the microwave on medium-high heat. The most important part about melting the chocolate is to NOT overheat it. Once the chocolate is about 2/3 the way melted, take it out, and stir it until all the chocolate is smooth. Then it is perfect for dipping. By the way, I didn't do this, but you could coat the pretzel rods in crushed nuts or candy once you've dipped them in chocolate. I decided to go for a chocolate drizzle instead (see below).

The final step is to drizzle the caramel/chocolate-covered pretzel sticks with white or dark chocolate. I used white chocolate, which I melted in the microwave and then put in a small Ziploc bag. I cut the corner off the bag, and that made the drizzling much easier.

Finished product.

By the way, I ended up with too much leftover milk chocolate dipping chocolate for the pretzel sticks, so I had some marshmallows on hand, and I dipped those with the excess. Not only were they delicious to eat, but I think I'll try putting one in a cup of cocoa and see how that tastes.