Oh boy did I get a lot of books for Christmas, especially graphic novels (Harvey Pekar's Cleveland, Drawn Together by Aline and R. Crumb, New York Drawings by Adrian Tomine, and, geek squee!, Building Stories by Chris Ware, which I haven't even opened yet because I fear its power and size--it's about as big as a Monopoly box). I also received a couple of cookbooks: Ready For Dessert by David Lebovitz and Deb Perelman's The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.
Let's hear it for Amazon wish lists, everybody!
I tore into The Smitten Kitchen and was immediately inspired. This 300+ page wonder includes a surprising number of vegetarian recipes. Bacon gets mentioned once or twice during the breakfast chapter, but meat doesn't make a real appearance until after page 200. Which is great! I've been craving more vegetables, and Deb's broccoli slaw and black bean ragout are already big hits with me.
But yesterday I felt like trying something more indulgent, and the book's chocolate chip brioche pretzels seemed too good to be true. They are pretzels in shape only. Our favorite local bakery makes a similar item (a long, narrow brioche sandwich with melty chocolate chips inside), and it has been a favorite of Jeff's and mine for nearly as long as we've been together. He even ate two of them on the morning of our wedding. Could we create something like those ourselves?
Answer: yes. Just barely, but yes. The recipe put our KitchenAid stand mixer through its paces, that's for sure, to the point that we thought it might do some damage to the machine. And even though these pretzels are as good as our bakery's if not better, Jeff and I will not be making them as often as we would like to because we love our mixer and would hate to see anything bad happen to it.
The recipe, which is kind of long, is here. Please read it if you want to give these prezels a try. Otherwise, here are some photos of the pretzel-shaping process and comments.
Here's half of the dough after its 2-hour rise. Jeff cut it into eight equal portions. Dibs on that one on the left!
He rolled the dough into 18-inch ropes on a plastic cutting board, stretching the dough by spreading out his fingers as he worked. The dough was really easy to deal with and required no flour to keep it from sticking to the plastic.
Each rope was turned into this sort-of noose shape.
Four per pan.
While Jeff formed the pretzels, I got the egg wash going. I used the coarsest sugar in my cookie decorating arsenal to beautify the tops. I wish I had the clumpier kind that mimics the salt traditionally found on pretzels, but this was a good-enough substitution.
The recipe said to bake them for 12 minutes "or until lightly bronzed." After 12 minutes, ours were still pale and squishy. Ditto after 14. At 16 minutes, we declared them done, although they weren't as brown as the cookbook's photo:
That, to me, is "bronzed." And I want that sugar.
Be that as it may, our pretzels were perfectly baked and bronzed on the bottom. Please note the gross-looking crust in the prezel's holes formed by the egg wash. Don't be as aggressive as I was with the egg wash, or just don't worry about it. You won't notice it when you're eating these. Also please note my stylish bracelet. I'm one of those women who wears a seemingly-permanent hair tie bracelet.
These brioche pretzels are outstandingly delicious. As I ate the first one, still warm from the oven, I informed Jeff three times that "these are SO GOOD," as if he didn't know. They were also fantastic this morning after 20 seconds in the microwave.
PS A whole stick of butter was involved in the making of these babies, along with a hefty amount of chopped dark and milk chocolate, and when you look at them they positively scream I AM MADE OF CARBS PLEASE JUST STICK ME DIRECTLY ONTO YOUR THIGHS RIGHT NOW OKAY?! Sorry everybody.