For several years I created recipes for my Food for Thought column in Yummy Northwest, and loved every minute of it. The website is in the middle of a transformation, so all of my past columns are archived for now, but you can still read them at any time. This Easter I’m posting photos of my Yummy Northwest favorites, with links to the recipes.
Hot Cross Buns and Kulich were two recipes I created for an old-time Easter theme. This link will take you to both recipes:Old Time Easter Treats
Little bread bunnies, birds, and lambs are fun to make, and kid-approved. Using the link below, you’ll find instructions for making bread critters and sugar eggs. Let your creativity loose on this project! I have a Rowdy blog about them, but there’s good info in this column too. Bread Animals and Sugar Eggs
Who says you shouldn’t play with your food? Use your imagination and enjoy!
I can’t even begin to tell you how relieved thrilled I am to be posting this recipe for Savory Bacon Crackers. After countless tries, with results ranging from “marginal” to “close…but no cigar”, I finally produced crunchy, flavorful crackers that got gobbled up by the tasting crew.
I tried making them yeast-based (bleh), I layered the dough with butter (like croissant dough), I baked them hot and fast, and low and slow. I tried chilling the dough for days.
In the end, it was just a matter of getting the proportions right and finding a way to make sure the crackers were crunchy all the way through. These aren’t flaky (like Ritz), but are delightfully light and crunchy, yet still sturdy enough for dipping. And did I mention they taste great?
Crushed bacon adds flavor and texture. Make sure you cook the bacon until it’s extra-crispy. I pan fry mine, then wrap it in paper towels and microwave for a minute or two and shake the bacon out onto another piece of paper towel to cool. Crush with a rolling pin or use a sharp blade – either a knife or an ulu – to make small crumbs.
½ cup finely crushed bacon - about 10 strips (reserve the grease)
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
¼ cup oil (I use peanut oil)
½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup water
Heat oven to 425 F.
Grease two baking sheets with bacon grease (or you may use shortening if you prefer)
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, garlic salt, onion powder, pepper, brown sugar, and crushed bacon.
Stir in the liquid smoke, oil, buttermilk, and water. Mix until well combined. This will be a soft dough, but shouldn't be sticky.
Working with half of the dough at a time, either roll between two pieces of parchment (flour dough lightly if necessary) or roll directly onto the baking sheet, dusting the top with flour as needed.. Try to roll the dough out as thinly as possible...less than ⅛-inch. You may cut round shapes out, re-rolling the extra dough, or simply cut into squares or diamonds, using a pizza cutter.
Place pans in preheated oven for 4 minutes. Remove both pans. Brush the tops of the crackers with bacon grease (or butter, if you prefer) and lightly salt. Using a spatula, flip the crackers over.
TURN OFF THE OVEN. Open the door for 20 seconds. Place pans back in the oven, close the door, and leave the crackers to cook slowly for 1 hour, as the oven cools down. Check one to make sure it snaps crisply when broken. If not, leave them in the oven for another 30 minutes.
Brush with bacon grease, sprinkle with salt, flip over, and return to oven.
Do you have any idea how good these would be with my Succulent Salmon Dip? I’d leave the bacon out of the dip (unless you’re a really hardcore bacon fan) and offer a knife to spread the dip on each cracker. Ham spread would be yummy too.
Okay – this was my obligatory savory recipe before I go into full-blown Easter mode. I’ve stocked up on powdered sugar, chocolate, and sprinkles…and will be putting it all to good use soon!
March Madness is here! Six of us bloggers are posting our favorite recipes to brighten up a gloomy month. I brought comfort food, but if you scroll down to the bottom (after you’ve read my post of course) you’ll find the links to the rest of the sweet, delicious desserts.
We never, EVER have enough corned beef left after indulging in our St. Patrick’s Day feast. We love to nibble on it, make huge sandwiches, cook corned beef hash, and (provided I was smart and cooked two pieces) we adore Corned Beef Pot Pie. I’m guessing you will too, so hit those sales after St. Patrick’s Day and put a couple of extra packages of corned beef in your freezer!
Logic would tell you that a beef pie needs beef gravy, but corned beef is different – definitely not your traditional beef flavor. So I use chicken broth in my white sauce, which is delicate enough to allow the amazing flavor of the corned beef shine through.
If you have lots of leftover carrots and potatoes from your dinner, you could certainly use those instead of cooking more; they’d add even more flavor. Aim for 4 cups of veggies, and don’t worry about getting even amounts of each.
For this recipe, I’ll assume you only have leftover corned beef. Need a pie crust recipe? Here’s my favorite:
Never Fail Pie Crust
(makes 2 crusts)
1 cup chilled shortening
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vodka (or vinegar)
1/4 cup milk
Mix flour and salt in medium bowl. Cut in the shortening until it looks like coarse crumbs.
Mix vodka (or vinegar) into milk. Combine all at once into flour mixture.
This can be rolled into crusts immediately, or flattened into disks and placed between sheets of plastic wrap and chilled first in the refrigerator.
Since I like big, thick top crusts, I usually double the recipe and freeze leftover dough. Just sayin’.
If you’re looking for a last minute idea for St. Patrick’s Day, here are some delightful cupcakes. They are filled with ganache made with Irish Cream, but if you’re making these for the kidlings, you can use regular heavy cream instead.
Here’s the recipe, but if you’re in a hurry and need to use a cake mix, I won’t hold it against you. The important part is the filling (whooeee, it’s potent!) and the decorations.
Milk chocolate cupcakes are filled with Irish Cream ganache and decorated with buttercream icing and sour strip rainbows. Makes 24
4 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped
½ cup Irish Cream liqueur (like Bailey's)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
4 eggs, room temperature - divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup whole milk
2 cups cake flour
¼ cup cocoa
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoons baking soda
Green buttercream icing, sufficient to frost 24 cupcakes
Junior mints (optional to use in place of ganache for pots of gold)
In a small pan on low heat, combine the chocolate and Irish Cream. Heat and stir gently until chocolate is melted and mixture looks well blended. Set aside, stirring occasionally while the cakes are made.
Heat oven to 350 F.
Line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners.
In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy.
Slowly add sugar, beating continuously, and scraping bowl often. Beat until mixture is light and fluffy.
Add egg YOLKS, one at a time, mixing well between each addition.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the vanilla, buttermilk and whole milk.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda.
Beginning with the dry ingredients and ending with the wet, add alternately, approximately ⅓ of each mixture at a time, scraping the side of the bowl often.
Whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into the batter.
Fill cupcake cavities ⅔ full and bake for approximately 20 minutes. A toothpick should come out cleanly when inserted into the middle of a cupcake.
Cool in pans on racks for 5 minutes, and then turn out the cupcakes to cool thoroughly.
Place ganache in a piping bag with a large round tip. Press tip into the center of each cupcake, almost to the bottom, and squeeze gently while pulling the tip back out. Don't try to put too much ganache in each one; they'll crack if you do. The remaining ganache will be used to make the pots of gold.
Cover each cupcake with green buttercream icing. (I used a large closed star tip).
Pipe a round "pot" on each cupcake. With a paintbrush, add gold powder. If you don't have any, yellow frosting or candy will do. OR you can use junior mints, cut the top off so a little white shows, and "paint" it with yellow food coloring.
Place a small strip (about 3" of sour striped candy on each cupcake with one end next to the pot of gold.
A little chewier than a soft pretzel, but not quite as crunchy as a hard pretzel, these beauties go perfectly with an ice cold beer. (Preferably green beer if you’re making them for St. Patrick’s Day.)
I know, I know…pretzels are German, not Irish. But “Irish Knot Pretzels” just didn’t sound as good. Pffft.
If you look at images of Irish Knots on your search engine, there are some great designs you can use. I made simple Trinity Knots and a slightly more complicated Celtic Cross. And by “slightly more complicated” I mean that if you have reasonably good spacial abilities, these will be easy. For you. I struggle with spacial concepts, so my learning curve was really, really big. Looking at a picture and deciding which part of the dough rope went over and which went under…well…let’s just say I should have made a video – just for laughs.
It took me a while, but I finally nailed it. The rest were much easier!
But YOU can do it! Of course, if you don’t want to, you can always just make pretzel bites or sticks. You could also dye the dough green, but the brown outside might have a funky hue to it.
I experimented this time with a lye bath and loved the results. Since I’ve been warned about liability issues, I can’t give you directions or advice about this. However, I will say that the pretzels were delicious. If you’re interested in using lye instead of baking soda, please spend some time searching for safety information and instructions.
Attempting to create a crunchy, hard pretzel was more challenging than I expected. I made a few small changes to my Pretzel Bomb recipe, and was pleased with the results. The pretzels pictured are slightly crunchy with a nice, chewy texture. But being stubborn, I was determined to get more crunch, and learned that putting them back in the oven for an hour at very low heat dried them out satisfactorily. For the record, The Man preferred the chewy version, liking them even more than soft pretzels.
1 egg whisked well with 1 teaspoon water (egg wash)
Heat oven to 350 F.
Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Heat beer until very warm - about 110 degrees.
In a large bowl (preferably using a stand mixer), combine warm beer, 1 teaspoon of the brown sugar, and yeast. Let sit for 6-8 minutes, or until bubbly.
Add remaining sugar, butter, salt, and 3 cups of the bread flour. Mix well.
Slowly add remaining flour. Dough should come cleanly away from the side of the bowl, and will feel slightly tacky. If it's STICKY, add a little more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Knead well - at least 5 minutes if you're using a mixer with a dough hook, or 8 minutes by hand. This will make the dough elastic.
Work with small amounts of the dough at a time, using your hands to roll out thin ropes - about 18 inches long, if possible. Avoid rolling on a floured surface; you need friction! Try slightly spritzing your work surface with water or lightly buttering your hands before rolling.
Create shapes with the ropes of dough. Use the blog photos to form Irish knots, or make your own creations. Set shapes aside until you have enough for one baking sheet.
Bring water and soda to a boil in a large pot. Drop pretzels into water, a few at a time, for 30-40 seconds. Lift with a slotted spoon or spider, and set on prepared pan. Brush lightly with egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 30 minutes, or until very dark brown. Repeat with remaining pretzels.
To achieve crunchier pretzels, return to oven set at 250 F for up to 1 hour. Test after ½ hour. If the pretzels are close to being dry, turn off oven and let them sit until cooled.
What else can I tell you? I don’t let the dough rise first for these pretzels, because I’m looking for more crunch and less puffiness. If you’re after a soft pretzel, let the dough rise once for about an hour, punch down, and form your pretzels. Let them rest for 30 minutes before dipping or boiling them.
Keep your extra dough covered while you’re working. A damp cloth is good – even over the pretzels you’ve laboriously shaped while you’re working on enough for a full baking sheet. If the dough in the bowl rises, just punch it down and use it. Or you can let it sit, covered, in the fridge. Work as quickly as you can, but if you’re falling behind, the refrigerator is your friend.
I hope you’ll have fun with these. They’re good any time, of course, not just for St. Patrick’s Day.
Yes, you read that correctly; I’m posting a recipe for Leprechaun Balls. There are so many jokes that will be left unsaid…probably.
These green confections are quite (ahem) firm – a cross between fudge and cookies. To make them you will need to bake a batch of green shortbread cookies, but trust me…the cookie recipe is very easy, and the balls are a slam dunk!
My shortbread recipe makes a little more than you’ll need, so you should end up with 6-8 extra cookies to munch on. I tried rolling the dough out on a cookie sheet and baking it in one piece, which worked pretty well, but it’s harder to get the center of the dough cooked completely that way. So…I recommend you make cookies, even if they’re just squares of dough. You’ll be crushing most of them, so the shape doesn’t matter.
Green shortbread is baked and crushed, then blended with Irish Cream Liqueur and Whiskey for a tasty adult treat. Makes about 36.
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
green food coloring
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon milk (if needed)
3 cups crushed green shortbread (recipe above)
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
¼ cup Baileys (or other Irish Cream Liqueur)
2 tablespoons Jamesons (or other whiskey)
powdered sugar and green sugar for rolling cookies in
Heat oven to 350 F.
In a large bowl (use a stand mixer if possible; this is very stiff dough) beat the butter until soft and creamy.
Add powdered sugar and mix well.
Add egg yolk and enough food coloring to create a deep green color, beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl often.
Add dry ingredients. (If using a stand mixer, you may want to switch to your dough hook.) The mixture will be very dry and stiff, but should come together into a dough. If it isn't cooperating, add milk a little at a time until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and you can form it into a ball.
Roll dough out to about ¼-inch thick and cut into cookie shapes. (You can also form into small balls and press with a cookie stamp if you prefer. ) Place close together on baking sheets and bake for approximately 10-12 minutes. If you see a tiny bit of brown along the bottom edges, they are done. Don't overbake them, because green cookies turn an unpleasant color if they brown.
Cool cookies on a rack and crush in a bowl until you have 3 cups. Eat the rest!
Combine the crushed cookies, nuts, and powdered sugar in a medium bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.
Roll scant tablespoons of dough into balls and roll them in a dish of powdered sugar and colored sugar.
Refrigerate until firm. These can be served chilled, which will give them the texture of fudge, or at room temperature, which will make them a little softer.
I'm sure you know this, but just for the record: DO NOT SERVE TO MINORS.
Combine dry ingredients, then stir in wet ingredients.
Roll the balls gently in your palms, then dust with sugar.
By all means, improvise. Use walnuts instead of pecans, switch the booze around and use 1/4 cup of whiskey and 2 tablespoons of Irish cream (you may have to add a little more crushed cookie in this case), or roll them in coconut or sprinkles. Pop Rocks? Hmmmm.
Enjoy! And…hello? Keep ‘em out of the reach of kiddies, of course.
For each petal on the shamrock this brings a wish your way. Good health, good luck, and happiness for today and every day. (Irish Blessing)
Hooo boy. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and I am just now getting this post up. Of course you can run to the store right now, cussing me out under your breath, or you can just adapt the recipe for St. Patrick’s Day or Easter. Or…you can take a shortcut or two, using a store-bought pound cake and even (I can’t believe I’m saying this) canned frosting for the filling. In a pinch you can skip the filling entirely; just cut the cake into cubes or hearts, dip in fondant icing, and decorate!
Yep…Sara Lee works just fine, but there are more crumbs and more waste.
Note: if you cut shapes for your petits fours, they will be a little harder to coat smoothly; baking the cakes in heart shaped pans keeps them from getting crumbly around the sides. Either way, the freezer is your friend! Freeze the little cakes before you slice and fill them, and then freeze them again before dipping.
I tried three icings for the coating: white ganache, melted white chocolate, and a poured fondant enhanced with white chocolate. Each had pros and cons, and what you choose will depend on your expectations. I wanted a thin, white icing with a little “snap” to it. I like it when the coating pops a little when I bite into a petits four. Here’s how the three options rated:
The white ganache looked lovely, but it didn’t have the “snap” I was looking for. I used Wilton’s bright white candy melts for this, and wasn’t too crazy about the taste, but the pastries looked very pretty. If you aren’t after a firm shell-like coating, this would be a good option.
Pretty and white, with fairly good coverage, but not firm enough for me.
For the melted white chocolate, I used Ghiradelli melts. They taste so much better than candy melts, and I really wanted this to work for me. I added a little coconut oil to thin the chocolate for dipping, and it went beautifully. There definitely was a satisfying “snap” when I tried one (or two). But…the color is more ivory than white, and it just didn’t look as pretty.
Nice and smooth, but ivory colored.
The third time’s the charm, right? The poured fondant was just what I wanted. It wasn’t quite as firm as the melted chocolate, but it was very pretty, tasted good, and covered well. ***DING DING DING*** – we have a winner!
Mmmmm. Just right!
The hardest part of this post is determining how much coating you might need. There are so many factors! The size of your pans determines how many pastries you will have to fill and coat. If you choose to buy a pound cake and cut it into shapes rather than baking your own, you will probably have a lot fewer petits fours to work with. I did my best, but you may have to adjust a bit, so it might be prudent to buy enough ingredients for a second batch if necessary. If you don’t need it, well…you can never have too much powdered sugar or white chocolate in your pantry, right?
I used small silicone heart-shaped pans with 24 cavities in each. Filled approximately 2/3 full, my cake recipe made about 72 hearts. Traditional petits fours are approximately 1-inch cubes, so if you want the finished hearts as tall as they are wide, you may choose to a) use more filling, b) use two hearts for thicker layers, cutting off the domed top of each, or c) cut thin slices and make three layers.
WHATEVER YOU DO, FREEZE THE CAKES BEFORE SLICING. It will make things go much more smoothly.
Here’s the recipe I used, but any pound cake or sturdy, dense cake will work well.
1 teaspoon strawberry flavoring and a few drops of red food coloring.
Heat oven to 350 F.
Lightly spray silicone mini-heart pans with a non-stick spray. (I prefer a flour/oil mix like Baker's Joy.)
In a large bowl, beat the butter well until light and creamy - at least 2 minutes.
Add sugar gradually and continue beating for 2 minutes.
Add eggs one at a time, beating very well and scraping the sides of the bowl between each egg.
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together.
Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk alternately, one-third of each at a time, beginning with the dry ingredients and ending with the buttermilk. Scrape the bowl well with a rubber spatula as you go.
Stir in the flavoring and food coloring until combined.
Fill the cavities of your pans ⅔ full. Lift and drop the pans a few times to settle the batter, or smooth lightly with a knife.
Place the silicone pans on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. If a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of a cake, and the top has begun to brown slightly, the cakes are done. Place pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before turning the cakes out.
For the filling, I used a couple of cups of fairly stiff buttercream icing, with a heaping tablespoon of strawberry preserves stirred in.
Slice the frozen hearts (cutting off the domed tops so they are level), generously add filling, and press the two layers together firmly. Use a knife to clean off any filling that’s pressed out, spreading it in a thin layer around the heart if you like; it will act as a crumb coat. For a clean line, it’s important not to have filling bulging out the sides, or gaps where there wasn’t enough filling.
Spread with a generous amount of filling.
Smooth for a clean edge.
After filling the hearts, place them back in the freezer while you make the coating.
For the GANACHE COATING: melt 1 package (12 ounces) of Wilton Bright White candy melts in the microwave. Begin with 30 seconds, stir, and then heat at 15 second intervals, stirring each time, just until melted. A few small lumps are fine – they’ll continue to melt in the bowl. In a small pan over medium heat, bring 1/2 cup of heavy cream almost to a boil, stopping when you see bubbles around the edge of the pan. Pour slowly over the chocolate, a little at a time, stirring constantly. Stop when the texture seems right for dipping. (You may not need the whole 1/2 cup.)
For the MELTED CHOCOLATE COATING: melt 1 package (12 ounces) of Ghiradelli White Melting Wafers in the microwave. Begin with 30 seconds, stir, and then heat at 15 second intervals until most of the wafers are melted and just small lumps remain. Add 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or shortening) and stir slowly until the chocolate is completely smooth. If necessary, put the bowl back in the microwave for a few seconds.
For the POURED CHOCOLATE FONDANT: place 1 pound powdered sugar, 1/4 cup light corn syrup, and 1/3 cup water in a medium pan over medium-low heat. Stir well until mixture is very warm but not bubbling. Remove from heat. (You could use it at this stage, as a poured fondant icing…but I wanted it whiter.) Add 1 package (12 ounces) of Wilton Bright White candy melts and stir until melted. This should be just right for dipping, but if it is too thick, add a little hot water and stir well.
I had better luck dipping my hearts than pouring the icing over them. Still, you’ll want to use a baking sheet with a cooling rack (sprayed lightly with non-stick spray) over it to keep the coating from puddling up around each pastry.
Dip, shake, turn over and slide onto rack. Repeat.
Poke a toothpick in one frozen heart and dunk it in the coating. Don’t try to completely cover the area around the toothpick; this will be the bottom of the petits four! Gently shake off excess, turn the heart over so you’re holding the toothpick like a flower stem, and use a fork to lift the heart off the toothpick and deposit it on the cooling rack to dry. Repeat many, many times.
If you have trouble removing the petits fours from the cooling rack, slide a thin metal spatula under each one. No one will look at the bottom! Also, if you set the finished petits fours on a little bed of sprinkles before you plate them or put them in paper cups, the sprinkles will stick to the bottom for a pretty effect and fun texture.
Decorate with conversation hearts, sprinkles, buttercream flowers, or chocolate designs. Store the petits fours in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
I thought that while you were waiting anxiously for me to produce my promised Valentine’s Day Petits Fours, I’d pacify you with a collection of past V-Day treats. While you’re making all of these, I promise I’ll be working on a new post for you.
Try these delicious deep chocolate cookies! Chocolate Oatmeal Raisin Cookies have a little kick of espresso and are filled with chocolate covered raisins.
For a delicious homemade version of Mallomars, put your apron on and make a batch of Vallomar Cookies. They’re a little time-consuming, but soooooo good.
Valentine’s Day is on a Saturday this month, so you’ll have time to surprise your sweetie with these filled doughnuts. Sugared, glazed, plain…there’s nothing like a fresh doughnut! Jelly Doughnut Hearts
Cinnamon Spiral Bread is great when toasted, used for special sandwiches, or made into french toast. Bake it in a heart shaped canape pan and slice into thin hearts.
I tend to like making complicated creations, even though they aren’t very popular with people who work, have kids, or have a life. But today I made something easy.
Easy and unspeakably delicious, if I do say so myself!
I gave some to my guinea pig neighbor, Pam and she called them Chocolate Raisin Puffs because they were so light. I don’t know if they qualify as “puffs”, but it was a very nice compliment.
These chocolate oatmeal cookies are made with espresso powder and chocolate covered raisins, and when baked for precisely twelve minutes, have a slightly crispy outer layer (like the edge of a brownie) and are very tender inside. Seriously, I’d rather have these than brownies any day!
I made some in a silicone mini-heart pan, and they popped right out in a very cooperative manner. They may not be the prettiest cookies I’ve ever made, but in this case I truly believe it’s what’s inside that counts.
I really think that the combination of Special Dark cocoa and espresso powder took the flavor over the top. And unless you have a real aversion to raisins (in which case you could use chocolate chips) don’t skimp on the chocolate covered raisins. The cookie dough isn’t overly sweet, so the sweet, chewy raisins add important texture and sweetness. Here are what the drop cookies look like inside:
Makes 36 average cookies, or 72 small heart-shaped cookies using a 24-cavity silicone heart mold. These cookies are SO addictive, you may want to double the batch.
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon espresso powder
¼ cup Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups quick-cook oats
11 oz (about 1¾ cup) chocolate covered raisins
Heat oven to 350 F
If you are making drop cookies, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and creamy - at least 2 minutes.
Add the eggs and beat 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl often. It will lighten in color and look just a little curdled; that's fine!
Add the vanilla, espresso powder, cocoa, flour, salt, and baking soda. On low speed (cover the bowl if possible, or stir by hand first to avoid a mess) mix together until well blended.
Stir in the oatmeal and chocolate covered raisins.
Drop by rounded tablespoons onto parchment. The cookies won't spread much, so an inch and a half between each is fine. If you are using a silicone heart mold, fill each cavity ¾ full. (No need to grease the mold.)
Bake for 12 minutes. Move baking sheet or silicone mold to a cooling rack and allow the cookies to cool. Cookies may be moved to the rack when barely warm. If you are making hearts, let them cool completely in the pan before turning them out.
Last week I told you my next post would be Valentine’s Day related, but that was before the Seattle Seahawks won the game that will send them to the Super Bowl. Again.
Valentine’s Day will just have to wait. I have footballs to make!
Beer is a must for the big game of course, and beer and pretzels just go together. Since filling these little football-shaped pretzels with cheese sounded good, I decided that filling them with ham and cheese sounded even better.The nice thing about this recipe is that it’s so flexible. Add hot sauce or onions, skip the ham, try different types of cheese. Make the filling your own!
Of course, the bombs can be made in nice little round shapes – but for the big game I wanted footballs. In my first batch there were about half that would be easily recognized as footballs, and half that were…well…deflated. (Dare I say that? Sorry, Patriots fans! The deflated ball jokes have been flying all week.) Cheese will ooze, and personally I love the crispy bits of baked cheese that stick to the bottom of the footballs. For the sake of appearance, however, I experimented. A lot.
I thought that maybe a longer boil would toughen the outside, keeping the cheese in as they baked. I seemed to have at least as many blow-outs, so my assumption was flawed. Because there was no “give” as the footballs baked, the cheese simply found a weak spot and broke through.
I tried a very short boil, with the theory that the footballs would remain more flexible, and give when pressured by the cheese. The cheese still blew out. Stiffer dough, softer dough, hotter bake temperature, lower bake temperature. Vent holes. I found that mozzarella is a little more explosive than cheddar, and using half of each helped a bit. I think I tried it all – at least everything I could think of.
The bottom line is this: CHEESE OOZE HAPPENS. Embrace it. Leave the crispy bits attached to the bombs…people will still love them.
They ain’t purty, but they taste just fine!
Beer and brown sugar add a little extra flavor to the pretzel dough, and an egg wash adds a pretty sheen. This recipe makes about 64 small bombs. Remember, that’s going to be about 30 attractive footballs. The rest should be immediately eaten for quality control purposes (wink wink). The bombs can be wrapped in foil and popped in the freezer after they’ve baked and cooled; they reheat beautifully. Or make 32 larger two-bite-size bombs.
It would be ideal if you had a helper, because two people would make this process a lot easier. One can be forming footballs while the other is boiling and baking. I did it by myself, so it’s do-able, but if you can bribe or enlist someone, I recommend it!
The dough is so easy to make. It’s a nice, sturdy dough that can be manhandled without causing any problems. Here’s the recipe:
Delicious little pretzel bites filled with ham and cheese. Don't expect them all to be pretty; they will ooze cheese, and some will take on interesting shapes! Embrace the crispy escaped cheese - that's the best part! Makes 60-64.
1 can (12 oz) beer
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 package active dry yeast
3 tablespoons softened butter
1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups bread flour
6 ounces grated cheddar cheese (about 1½ cups)
6 ounces grated mozzarella cheese (about 1½ cups)
1 ounce cream cheese, softened
1 5-ounce can cooked ham chunks, drained, OR ½ cup (or more to taste) finely chopped cooked ham
½- 1 teaspoon Sriracha hot chili sauce
8 cups water
½ cup baking soda
1 egg whisked together with 1 teaspoon water (egg wash)
Pour beer into a small pan and heat until very warm - about 110 degrees.
In a large bowl (a standing mixer with a bread hook is best) combine the warm beer, white sugar, and yeast. Allow the mixture to sit 6-8 minutes, or until bubbly.
Add softened butter, brown sugar, salt, and 3 cups of the bread flour. Mix well.
Slowly add remaining flour, a little at a time, until the dough comes cleanly away from the side of the bowl and is not sticky to the touch. You are looking for a fairly stiff dough, but not dry. Dry dough is very hard to seal when you're making the footballs.
Knead for 6 minutes by machine, or 8 minutes by hand on lightly floured surface.
Shape dough into a ball and place in a large greased bowl, turning several times to coat the dough. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled - about 1 hour. WHILE THE DOUGH IS RISING:
Cover two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
Combine the cheese, ham, and hot sauce. Mix together very well. Go ahead and use your hands to knead it into a solid mass. Since your hands are already messy, save time later by rolling 64 balls of cheese mixture, about 1 teaspoon each. You may have a little left over. Save it for topping a casserole or for a grilled cheese sandwich!
When dough has doubled heat oven to 400 F.
Work with half of the dough at a time, leaving the other half covered. Separate dough into ½ ounce pieces (approximately 1 tablespoon). Roll into balls and flatten into rounds with the bottom of a heavy glass or a rolling pin.
Place one cheese ball in the center of each piece of dough and bring the edges up over the cheese. Pinch the dough firmly. Really....pinch the heck out of it! Roll briskly but gently between your hands. If you see a crack, pinch it and roll again. Roll either side of the ball firmly to create pointed ends if you are making football shapes.
Bring water and baking soda to a boil in a large tall saucepan and then lower the heat a little to get a gentle boil
Drop 8-10 footballs into the boiling water at a time. Allow them to boil for 30-40 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon or spider, and place onto prepared cookie sheets.
Using a razor blade (I used an X-Acto knife) or a very sharp paring knife, cut two short parallel lines in the top of each football, with a line in between. (Imagine a capital letter "I", laying on its side.) This will represent the laces. (If you want to get fancy, you can cut little laces too.) Be careful not to cut all the way through the dough or you are certain to have the cheese blow out the top! Note: If you are making round shapes instead of footballs, Cut a shallow "X" in each ball.
Brush with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt.
Bake approximately 10-12 minutes, or until a rich brown.