Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thick and chewy cranberry-pistachio cookies

Few days ago , I made one of the Christmas-themed cookies that I've seen online . I told myself how hard can it be to decorate the top of the cookies ?! I really suck at decorating and the ones that I made turned out to be a disaster , more scary than merry ugh ! I stared hard at the result and just sigh , so I scraped off the toppings and ate some of the cookies . Hey , the chocolate-peanut butter combination tastes really good ! Maybe I'll try again next week or better yet , next year .....

Or maybe I'll consider posting it and just change the name to " A nightmare before  Christmas cookies " lol   

So I baked another recipe , this time from America's Test Kitchen book , using the chocolate chip cookie recipe but omitted the chips and used some dried fruits and nuts instead . The color of the cranberries and pistachios make these cookies look festive . I like most of the recipe that I tried from that book though some didn't turn out as I expected it to be . Case in point , these cookies , it doesn't have a cracked top as the ones in the book , either because I over mixed the dough , which I usually do almost all the time or I just missed something else huh ?! That small anomaly heh ! aside , these cookies tastes great ! Thick and chewy ( melted butter in the dough helps make the cookies chewy ) with wonderful flavor and crispy texture - what more could you ask for ?!

Recipe adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book , page 153 . My notes in blue

Makes 24 ( 2 tablespoons of dough each ) 

 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons / 10 2/3 oz / 300 grams all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt 
12 tablespoons / 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter , melted and cooled
1 cup packed / 7 oz light brown sugar
1/2 cup / 3 1/2 oz / 65 grams granulated sugar
1 large egg 
1 large egg yolk 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups / 9 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips 100 grams dried cranberries , 100 grams lightly salted pistachios , 55 grams dried tart cherries , divided

* Preheat oven to 325°F / 160°C . Line baking sheets with parchment paper . 

* Whisk the flour , baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl . 

* In a large bowl , beat the melted butter and sugars together with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth , 1 to 2 minutes . Beat in the egg , egg yolk and vanilla until combined , about 30 seconds , scraping the sides of the bowl as needed . 

* Reduce the mixer to low and slowly add the flour mixture until combined  . Mix in about three-fourths of dried fruits and pistachios until incorporated . 

* Working 2 tablespoons at a time or depending on the size you prefer , roll dough into balls and lay them on the prepared baking sheets , spaced about 2 inches apart . Sprinkle top with some remaining dried fruits and pistachios . 

* Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are set and the centers are still soft and puffy . Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes , you can serve them warm or transfer to the wire rack to cool completely before storing in an airtight container . 

This post is linked to Cook and Celebrate : Christmas 2014 organized by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids Yen of Eat Your Heart Out  and Diana of The Domestic Goddess Wannabe   

Also at Cook your Books organized by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours

                                                    cyb12 photo 77951578-1914-4b72-8eda-9e40a91183ac_zps331eb4b4.jpg

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Soft and chewy parmesan pretzels

Time flies so fast and in less than a month , it would be another year . 

So , how's life treating you so far ? 

Anyway , I've made these pretzels last week but don't have time to sort out the photos . I used Alton Brown's recipe and this is actually my second batch , the first attempt was so-so , the shape looks blah and I found the taste a bit salty . This time , I hit a jackpot for both taste and shape , well , except for the legs heh ! 

Before I tasted Auntie Annie's soft pretzels , I was hooked on Snyder's , the hard and crunchy version with lots of different flavors and are readily available in the supermarkets . Much as I love hard pretzels , I can eat only so much before the roof of my mouth starts hurting . I don't have a problem with soft pretzels except I have to make it myself since you can't buy it anywhere in our area . No more Auntie Annie's shop in the mall near us *sigh*

From what I've read at Alton Brown's Good Eats 3 book , soft pretzels are always made with yeast dough and are similar in both composition and construction to bagels . Pretzels are shaped then briefly dip in a boiling water bath before baking . There are 2 ways to make a water bath , using a lye solution which you need a bit care in handling and using a baking soda which is readily available and safe to use . The boiling method gives pretzels its unique chewy flavor and a nice golden brown color . Brown's recipe calls for a baking soda bath but I added 2 tablespoons of light brown sugar when I saw The Kitchn's pretzel recipe . The recipe listed below is half with some minor tweaks . 

The dough will be sticky for few minutes of kneading but still easy enough to handle . The boiling gelatinize the surface of the pretzel dough ( and the addition of brown sugar ) makes the boiled dough a bit sticky , so don't forget grease the parchment paper , if you have a silicone baking mat , use it instead , it'll make your pretzels easier to remove after baking .

In this recipe , I used parmesan cheese not only as a filling , though you couldn't tell when you look at the photo below , but also for the glaze and topping . The cheese snob will certainly love this parm pretzels lol  

Recipe adapted from Alton Brown's Good Eats 3 , page 52 .  Please check full recipe here

Makes 8 pretzels 

11 oz / 308 grams all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt 
1 teaspoon instant yeast 
3/4 cup warm water
1 oz / 28 grams unsalted butter , melted 

* In a mixing bowl , combine the flour , sugar , salt and yeast , use a whisk and mix thoroughly . Make a well in the center and pour in water and melted butter . Mix everything until it forms a cohesive dough , tip dough in the work surface and knead until smooth and elastic . 

* Transfer dough in a lightly-oiled mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap , let rest until doubled in size , 1 hour or so , depending on the temperature . 

* Tip dough on the work surface , knead for few seconds then divide the dough into 8 pieces ( 65 grams each ) , let rest for 10 minutes . 

* Meanwhile preheat oven to 450°F / 230°C . Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly brush with oil or use a silicon baking mat . 

* Working one dough at a time , shape dough into a square , about 4 1/2-inch , use your palm or fingertips to spread it , sprinkle top with some cheese and roll out dough into 18-20 inches . If the dough breaks while rolling , shape it again into a small ball and let it rest for a while . Make a U-shape with the rope , hold both ends and make a twist in the middle ; take the ends and press firmly into the top sides of the U ( or in the photo below , it's the other way around ) , place in the baking sheet and cover with tea towel . Continue with the rest of the dough . Let stand for 20 minutes until fluffy . 

* Bring 10 cups of water with baking soda and sugar into a boil in a wok or any straight-sided pan large enough to hold the water . One by one , place pretzels in the boiling water for 30 seconds . Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula , shake excess water and return them to the sheet pans , brush top with glaze and sprinkle some cheese on top . 

* Bake pretzels until dark golden brown in color , 12 to 14 minutes . Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving .  

For the water bath 

10 cup water 
2/3 cup baking soda
2 tablespoon light brown sugar

For the glaze : Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens 

3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted with 1 tablespoon canola oil , let cool 
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese 
1 teaspoon grated garlic 
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning 

* In a small bowl , combine everything together and set aside . 

For filling and topping : 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese