Monday, October 29, 2012

Don't Pretzel My Buttons Mr. Winter

The once bright orange and blood red leaves are fading to earthy browns and littering the lawns. The autumn air is crisper, hinting of colder days to come. Our evening walks are now accompanied by big puffs of wispy breaths, smoking the air in between us. I found myself in shock yesterday, realizing that my favorite month is on its way out, waving its bare boned branches in farewell.

I am not ready to let go though. Stubbornly I sorted my mourning thoughts and dug into my cabinets, fishing out ingredients to soothe my aching soul. A recipe that fights back at the notion that winter is pushing its way in. And what says October more than a piping hot pretzel, sprinkled with salt, melting in your mouth?

Flour caked my pants all afternoon and dough clung under my nails. The courtyard doors were sprung open, but I dared not shiver and admit defeat. No, this last October Sunday afternoon would not be tainted by the north winds. Even if it meant I baked in my earmuffs.

Rosemary and Sea Salt Pretzels
Adapted from TwoPeasandTheirPod
This is my first foray into gluten free pretzels and I must admit it was quite a challenge. Sunday afternoons are recommended as it is a long process to make them. I boiled one batch before baking and made them into pretzel “bites”, and the other batch I curled and shaped straight to the pan. The non-boiled pretzels tasted more like bread, while the boiled and more of a pretzel consistency. Both were nonetheless delicious, especially dunked in spicy mustard. Enjoy!

• 1 1/2 cups warm water
• 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
• 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
• 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
• 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
• 5 cups all-purpose gluten free flour (I used Bob’s)
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
• Canola oil, to grease bowl
• 3 quarts water (if boiling)
• 2/3 cups baking soda (if boiling)
• 1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
• Coarse sea salt

In the bowl of your mixer combine first four ingredients (water, sugar, yeast, and butter) with a dough hook. Let sit for 5 minutes.

In a bowl whisk sea salt, flour, and rosemary and slowly add to the bowl on low speed. Increase your speed and knead until the dough sticks together and pulls away from the bowl. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.

Lightly coat a large bowl with canola oil and add your dough ball. Cover with multiple towels, and place in a warm dry place for the dough to rise. I let mine rise for one hour.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove dough and divide into 6-8 pieces, depending on how large you want your pretzels. Shape by crossing the right side over the left, than left over right. Flip ends up.

Place on baking sheet. Whisk the egg with 1 tbs of water, and brush over the tops of the pretzels. This will give them a nice golden glow. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt.

Bake for about 15-17 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm with spicy mustard!

If boiling:

Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add baking soda, slowly. Divide dough into “bites”. Submerge pretzels for 30 seconds than place on baking sheet. Be careful when removing as the dough is very flimsy!

Follow instructions for baking above.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pumpkin Please

Fall is by far my favorite season, and with the crisp leaves crunching under the soles of my boots, I feel like taking a walk in a new direction. A direction that involves more deep breathes of brisk morning air, more meditation, more time carved out for family, and more cooking.
Obviously the last bit is where you’re supposed to be excited. I know it’s been a while since my last post and I could throw a million excuses at you, but instead I shall throw you a recipe that makes up for lost time. And what do you know, it happens to incorporate my favorite fall ingredient…pumpkin.

The last few weeks I have been drooling over a local cafĂ©’s pumpkin cookies. Queenies, a small shop housing big seasonal flavors in Utica Square, has been a favorite drop in lunch spot for me since high school, so it was no surprise that I was inspired by all their fabulous fall treats. Unfortunately their pumpkin cookies aren't kind to the g-free tummy so I was once again on a mission to sate my sweet tooth.

I probably searched for an hour yesterday for a recipe that I could easily adapt gluten free without a bunch of substitutes. I've honestly always been a little leary of recipes involving ingredients like xanthum gum or 8 different flours. After a long search I settled on a couple recipes to adapt from...and then I bought my first can of pumpkin of the season, shocked that it just purchased. Usually by now the stuff is in permanent stock in my pantry.

I am not claiming this recipe to be “healthy” dear readers, but we all need a treat or two every now and then right? I am sure you are hoarding halloween candies in your households so a little butter and sugar won't hurt. Just go for a long walk in the wispy autumn wind afterwards!

I decided to test the recipe on my husband and son without letting them know it was gluten free to get a true response. They both scarfed down a few within minutes so I think that gives you an honest answer. They were pretty astonished when I revealed my little secret, and then promptly both helped themselves to another. My co workers had praise as well, and I do believe I will be repeating this for them very soon.

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting
These cookies turned out cakey, almost to a muffin top consistency. Fluffy and rich inside and topped with smooth icing helps them glide down easily, and the pumpkin and spice bring all the delicious flavors of fall to your taste buds. Try and eat just one, I dare you. My son loved them without icing, but everyone else doted on them with icing. You should definitely try both! Recipe adapted from Very Best Baking.

• 2 ½ cups bob’s gluten free flour mix
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp ground nutmeg
• 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• ½ tsp salt
• 1 ½ cups baker’s sugar
• ½ cup butter, softened
• 1 can organic pumpkin
• 1 large egg
• 1 tsp organic vanilla extract
• Gluten free cream cheese frosting (optional)


Preheat your oven to 350F.

In a mixing bowl whisk together all dry ingredients (spices, baking soda, powder, and flour) and set aside.

With a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in egg, pumpkin, and vanilla and beat until combined. Slowly add in dry mixture until fully combined. Your batter will be pretty sticky so you may have to scrape down the sides every so often.

Spoon batter onto cookie sheets and lightly press down. This will ensure the middle cooks all the way and allow you to create form to the cookie.

I baked there batches of a dozen at a time, for about 13-15 minutes. Watch the edges of the cookies and pull when they are slightly golden brown.

Let cool completely, then ice with your favorite cream cheese frosting!