Soft Pretzels & Beer Cheese

Soft Pretzels

Janna:  I love soft pretzels.   I’m a sucker for the ones at the mall that are served with piping hot spicy “cheese!”  So when Joanie and I were discussing great Super Bowl food, naturally I thought of soft pretzels.  They are fairly easy to make, and go great with cheese or assorted mustards for dipping.  Plus you can make them the day before you need them.  In this case I am pairing pretzels with beer cheese!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 ½ tsp)
  • 4 ⅓ to 4 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 2 ounces butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • Large pot of water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt or coarse kosher salt

Directions:

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for a few minutes or until the mixture begins to get bubbly.  Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth, approximately 4 minutes.

Oil a large bowl with vegetable oil, put dough into oiled bowl and turn once, coating with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 45 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Line two cookie sheets or large shallow pans, spray lightly with cooking spray or lightly coat with vegetable oil.  Set aside.

Bring the water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8 quart sauce pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto an oiled work surface (I spray my clean counter top with cooking spray) and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other until each end is back where it started and press onto the bottom of the U to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the cookie sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for about 30 seconds each. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula.

Return to the sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt.

Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 11 to 13 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack for about 7 minutes before serving.  These are easily reheated in the oven or toaster oven for a few minutes.  I don’t recommend reheating them in the microwave because they will get soggy.  Below you will find the recipe for beer cheese.  Enjoy!!

Beer Cheese

So, I did a little research on beer cheese and discovered that it originated in Kentucky in the 1940’s.  It’s been a Kentucky staple ever since!  I’ve put my own spin on this beer cheese, adding cream cheese for a creamier texture.  Also, please note that this works best using a cheaper beer and it works best when beer is at room temperature and flat.  Mine was cold so I put it in a microwave safe cup and microwaved it till room temp and then stirred it a lot to flatten it.  I used Pabst in mine, you can use whatever you like!


(Note: picture shows a mini food processor, it ended up being too small so
I used a bowl with emursion blender instead).

Ingredients:

½ Lb sharp cheddar cheese (grated)
4 oz cream cheese (softened)
1-2 small garlic cloves (minced)
2 tsp Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (or any hot sauce)
¼ tsp worcestershire sauce
½ tsp cayenne pepper (add more to taste if you like it spicier)
½ tsp dry mustard
8 oz flat beer (room temperature)

Start by combining the cheddar and cream cheese in a large bowl.  use emulsifier, food processor or hand mixer to blend together until creamy 20-30 seconds.  Add all ingredients except beer and combine.  when well blended, slowly add beer and mix.  Add more hot sauce and cayenne pepper if you like it spicier.  Refrigerate for about an hour.  To heat, you can either microwave for about 20 seconds at a time until hot, or on low heat on stove top being careful not to scorch.

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Homemade Butter Is Better!

So here it is, our first blog post!  This has been a long time coming, as we have been talking about putting together a cookbook for years.  However, it was Janna who said “I want to start a food blog!”  That idea has now become a reality and we are so excited to get started!

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Janna here!  I’ve been thinking hard about what recipe I want to share first.   I want it simple, yet intriguing…maybe a little inspiring.  So I’ve chosen BUTTER.  Yes, butter!  You will not believe how easy it is to make your own butter.

I had just started working in the kitchen at Hedges Family Estates Winery, with Deborah Culverhouse, the Liason.  Deb (as we all call her) told me we were going to make butter and I thought, seriously?  Where’s the wooden butter churner and the rickety front porch?

Deb pulled out her food processor and some heavy cream and it literally took under ten minutes to make delicious, creamy, sweet butter!  This was only the first of many fantastic things I would learn from Deb.

AMAZING!!!

To make your own butter, you will need:

8oz heavy cream (unpasturized or pasturized but NOT ultra pasturized, I use pasturized, organic, grass fed)

Food processor, stand mixer or hand mixer with a paddle attachment (a whisk attachment will NOT work)

Rubber spatula

Cheese cloth or mesh colander

Very cold water

Fine sea salt

Put cream into mixing bowl or food processor and start on med/high.  Cream will start to thicken and will resemble whipped cream in about 4 minutes.  Continue mixing.

The cream will “break” and the butter will start to separate from the buttermilk at about 6 minutes.  The butter will look dry and grainy.  The buttermilk will slosh out at this point so, use the splash guard attachment on your mixer if you have one.

*Note:  The “ghosty” look of the pictures is just the paddle spinning.  Don’t turn your mixer off during the churning process, even for pictures.  =)

Drain the buttermilk out of the bowl (you can reserve it to use in another recipe).  Press the butter up against the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula, squeezing excess buttermilk out.  Drain off buttermilk again.

Scrape butter into bottom of bowl and add about ½ cup of the cold water.  Turn mixer on low for about 10 seconds.  Press butter against the bowl again and drain water.  Do this 2 or 3 times.

As a last step, to make sure all the buttermilk and water is out, put the butter into a mesh strainer and press with rubber spatula over the sink or a bowl.  Turn butter and press several times.  It may be useful to pat lightly with a paper towel to get all the moisture off the surface of the butter.

*If you don’t have a mesh strainer, you can do what Deborah does and wrap the butter in a cheesecloth and press excess moisture out.

At this point you have delicious homemade butter!  Aren’t you proud of yourself?  It was easier than you thought huh?  I don’t make this every time I want butter because it is a little more spendy than buying it already made, but for some recipes (like homemade bread), no other will do than freshly made butter!  Your friends and family will be completely impressed and will think you were hunkered over the churn all day!!

If you want your butter salted, use a fine grain sea salt and stir it into the butter.  a little goes a long way so start with a very small amount (a pinch) and add to taste.

Enjoy!!

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Update:  1/15/13

Here’s a couple snapshots.  Top: Janna’s butter next to a store-bought stick of butter.  Bottom:  Joanie’s first attempt at butter.  Turned out lighter in color, but still delicious!

JannasButterJoaniesButter

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