Quarantine Pretzel Bites

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Unlike most of you bloggers during our world-wide quarantine, I haven’t been baking cakes and pies and sweets and treats. Mostly that’s because I’m not a baker. I can bake yeasted bread in my sleep, but bread isn’t what I wanted to create in my kitchen during my isolation. I cooked instead.

But one day I was looking through my pantry and came across pretzel salt that I bought years ago, with the anticipation of making pretzel bites for the first time. So here I am getting on the baking bandwagon, although still a savory one.


I googled for a recipe, and found one from King Arthur Flour, which is a wonderful U.S. company that sells just about everything with which you need to bake. So I assumed it was a good recipe.

Turns out, my pretzel salt was from King Arthur Flour!

From the King Arthur Flour website, “You know the chewy texture and distinctive “street vendor pretzel” flavor you get in pretzels bought hot from a pushcart in the city? These bite-sized pretzels, in either a sweet or classic salty version, are a wonderful made-at-home take on those metro-style treats.”

Pretzel Bites
Recipe from King Arthur Flour

Pretzel dough:
2 1/2 cups (298g) King Arthur unbleached all-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (7g) instant yeast
7/8 to 1 cup (198g to 227g) warm water*
* Use the greater amount in the winter, the lesser amount in the summer, and somewhere in between in the spring and fall. Your goal is a soft dough.

Topping:
1 cup (227g) boiling water
2 tablespoons (28g) baking soda
Coarse, kosher or pretzel salt
6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, melted

To make dough by hand, or with a mixer: Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat until well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, until it’s soft, smooth, and quite slack. Flour the dough and place it in a bag, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

My yeast is not instant, so I prepped my yeast first, then continued with the remaining dough ingredients.

While the dough is resting, prepare the topping: Combine the boiling water and baking soda, stirring until the soda is totally (or almost totally) dissolved. Set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm (or cooler).

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with vegetable oil spray, or lining it with parchment paper.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into six equal pieces. Roll the six pieces of dough into 12″ to 15″ ropes. Cut each rope crosswise into about 12 pieces.

Pour the cooled baking soda solution into a pan large enough to hold the bites. Place the bites into the solution, gently swish them around, and leave them there for a couple of minutes. Transfer them to a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and top with pretzel salt or sea salt.


Bake the bites for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and roll them in the melted butter.

Place on a rack. In you’re not going to enjoy them immediately, store the bites, well-wrapped, at room temperature. Reheat briefly before serving.

The sweet version of these pretzel bites involves sprinkling them with cinnamon sugar, instead of salt.

I’ve seen a lot of folks mention that they were out of yeast during their isolation period. I can’t tell you how long I’ve had this yeast – ten years at least. I keep it in the freezer. It continues to work perfectly, and boy is it so much less expensive than buying little jars of yeast.

These pretzel bites are superb. You don’t have to sprinkle on much of the pretzel salt because the saline bath provides a lot of saltiness.

The only thing I’d do differently is to raise my oven rack. Its default position is the lowest position, mostly because the 6’6″ man who installed it thought the oven “looked better installed a little higher.” He may have been right, but as it is I need a step stool…

Savory Biscotti

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The cookbook by Martha Stewart, called Martha Stewart’s Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook, was published in 1999, pretty soon after I started my catering business.

It’s a beautiful book, even if you’re not a Martha Stewart fan. Her ideas for hors d’oeuvres are, not surprisingly, creative and unique. Sometimes they’re on the crazy end of the spectrum – completely impractical and unreasonable.

One thing always got my attention – savory biscotti. She served them like fun crackers, but they could be used for canapés.

When I think of biscotti, I always think sweet, like my Christmas biscotti. But these are savory varieties, and include ingredients like nuts, seeds, cheese, olives, and other goodies. I imagined them to be really good served alongside cheese, with prosecco or rosé.

I decided it was time to make a variety of savory biscotti for a fun get-together, to have something unique on hand!

The following recipe is the base recipe. What I actually used in my savory biscotti is below.

Savory Biscotti
by Martha Stewart
printable recipe below

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk

Place the flour, pepper, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Combine on low speed.

Add the butter and beat until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the eggs, and milk. Gradually pour the milk mixture into the dough and mix just until combined.

This is the base dough for savory biscotti. Before chilling the dough and proceeding with baking, add various combinations of savory items and make sure they’re well distributed.

I kneaded the dough a bit before folding in my add-ins, which are listed below, along with Martha’s suggestions.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with the remaining olive oil and set aside.

Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. (I halved the dough to make 2 logs.)

Roll each piece into a log measuring 1 1/2″ thick and about 7″ long. (I formed a log about 12″ long, then flattened it to about 1/2″ thick. (I am pretty sure MS meant 1 1/2″ wide, not thick.)

Transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Brush each log with an egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt). I didn’t do this. I did make sure there was a bit of grated cheese on the top of the biscotti, however.

Bake until the logs are light brown and feel firm to the touch, about 30-40 minutes. Reduce the oven to 250 degrees F.

Using a serrated knife, slice the logs crosswise on a long diagonal into 1/4″ thick slices that are 3-4″ long. Arrange the slices cut-side down on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and bake, turning the biscotti halfway through cooking time for even browning, until crisp, about 40 minutes.

Cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

These biscotti really are fabulous, and perfect on a cheese platter. Charcuterie would be a fabulous addition.

Today I simply paired them with Cambazola, but they’d be crazy good with a soft goat cheese or any spreadable herbed cheese.

You can really go crazy with all of the ingredient choices. Martha Stewart’s orange zest suggestion was really tempting but I didn’t have any oranges on this day.

Instead of all olive oil, you could use a flavored or infused oil, or even a little truffle oil.

I’ll definitely be making these again, and will enjoy switching up the ingredients.

Ingredients I used in addition to the above recipe:
Dried parsley
Garlic powder
White pepper
About 3 ounces coarsely chopped walnuts
About 3 ounces pitted Kalamata olives, sliced lengthwise
Grated Grana Padana, about 1 1/2 ounces

Martha Stewart’s savory biscotti suggestions:
Lemon zest, capers, parsley, and browned butter instead of olive oil
Orange zest, pistachios, and black olives
Parmesan, fennel seeds, and golden raisins

Canapé Bread

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Many years ago in the United States, there was a cooking company that was built on having a hostess sponsor a party in her home, and a representative of the company would demonstrate all of its kitchen gadgets. It was one of those parties that you felt obligated to go to, and also buy something, because your friend was having the party. Even if you’d just been to one the week before!

So for the few years that this company was popular, I collected quite a few gadgets. (I don’t remember the name of this company, and I don’t know if they’re still around.)

Something I did purchase were canapé molds. I thought they were pretty cool. I purchased 2 flower-shaped molds, 2 star-shaped, and 2 heart-shaped. I used the star breads for a New Year’s party once and they were so pretty!

Here are the flower molds I’m using today:
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Essentially, you bake a yeasted dough inside these molds, and slice the breads to use for canapés.

Recently I was asked to be part of a special event, and I wanted my contribution to be unique. So I decided to practice with these molds since it had been such a long time since I’d used them for caterin. Fortunately, after a little digging, I discovered the recipe that was created for these molds, although the recipe is for 3 and I only had two of the same flower-shape.

I wanted to use the recipe because I remember once I made my own bread dough and filled the molds up too much, and there was a lot of bread overflow in the oven. I think I even remember some flames.
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Here is the recipe:

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So here’s what I did. If you need a more involved tutorial on baking bread, there is a recipe with many more photos here.

Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the warm water. I keep my yeast in the freezer, and it lasts for years.

Once the yeast has dissolved, give the mixture a stir, then let the bowl sit in a warm place for about 5 minutes. The yeast will cause the mixture to rise and bubble.

Heat the milk and butter together until the butter has melted and the mixture is warm. Pour it in to the yeast mixture.

Begin adding flour 2 cups of flour. I typically keep the dough moist for the first rise. Cover the bowl, and after 1 1/2 hours, the dough will look like the second photo.

Add a generous amount of flour to your work surface and remove the dough from the bowl. It will be very soft. Carefully work flour in to the dough as you’re kneading it.

After about 5 minutes of kneading, the dough will be nice and smooth.

Add a little oil to a clean bowl, place the dough in the bowl top-first, then turn over. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise for about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in to 3 parts, and gently roll each part lengthwise.

Place the dough into a greased mold. Place the lid on the molds and place them horizontally in a warm place for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees meanwhile. Then bake the molds for 10 minutes, and lower the heat to 375 degrees. Continue baking for about 25 minutes, then remove the molds from the oven.

Let them sit for 10 minutes, then remove the lids. The photo on the right shows what the bread looked like after I removed it from the oven, the photo on the left shows the bread with the “heel” sliced.
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Remove the breads from the molds and let them cool. Then slice and serve.

I served them with my faux Boursin spread.

Alternative, you can place the sliced breads on a cookie sheet, brush them with oil, and toast them in the oven first before serving. This makes them firmer and easier to spread.

Either way, they add something special to a party spread.
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Now, it does take a little effort to make these, especially for me because I only have 2 matching molds, but I think it’s worth it. If you don’t own molds like these, you can always use cookie cutters and cut shapes out of sliced bread.
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