“gourmet” auntie anne’s pretzels

Today I went shopping with my friend Tessa.  Exams are starting on Monday, and after hitting the chemistry book for hours on end, we both deserved a little bit of retail therapy.  A few peplum tops and lululemon sports bras, and my woes of homogenous mixtures were far behind me!  
While we were shopping around, I realized how much I love mall food.  That fruity smell of self-serve fro-yo, the basil and oregano wafting out of Sbarro pizza, freshly popped buttery popcorn filling the air from the cinema — it’s the aroma of retail therapy! The smells and tastes of the mall remind me of that inexplicable joy that comes with finding the perfect pair of shoes for half-price, or finding the perfect jeans, or getting a complimentary hand massage at one of those little kiosks. 
There is not a mall in America that doesn’t have a Cinnabon and Auntie Anne’s (I made the infamous Cinnabun a while back).  Today, I tackled Auntie Anne’s big, buttery, twisty mall pretzels.  Except these are better (take that Anne!).  I topped mine with some delicious, gourmet ingredients that elevate these from the standard sprinkle of kosher salt.  I dipped some in truffle oil and sprinkled them with truffle salt, I sprinkled some asagio cheese on some, and even did a maple-butter glaze!  Of course, I had to make a few plain cinnamon-sugar ones. 😉
With love, 
Erica


Ingredients

1 cup milk
1 packet active dry yeast
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoons fine salt

1/4 cup baking soda
1 1/2 cups warm water
Coarse salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted in a shallow dish 



My “gourmet” toppings:

  • Instead of dipping in butter, dip in truffle infused olive oil, and spinkle with truffle salt
  • Mix in some Vermont Maple Syrup with the butter for a maple-glazed version
  • Sprinkle with some grated Parmesan and Asagio 
  • When all else fails, roll ’em in cinnamon sugar

Warm up the milk in the microwave for about 1 minute. It should be about 110º. If it’s too hot it will kill
the yeast.  Stir in the yeast and let it sit for about 3 minutes. Add the butter and
sugar. Add the flour about 1 cup at a time and the add the fine salt.
Kneed for about 10 minutes with a stand mixer, or by hand. Put it in a
greased bowl and cover with greased cling wrap. Let rise for 1 hour in a
moist, warm place until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 450º.
Punch down dough and divide into 8 chunks. Roll them all out as thin as you can. Combine the warm
water and baking soda in a wide bowl. Form the dough into pretzel
shapes, then dip in the baking soda water. Place on a greased baking
sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for about 7-11 minutes or
until browned. Dip each in the melted butter while hot and roll in desired toppings. 

Adapted from Yammie’s Noshery

baked brownie

I believe that there is no such thing as a bad brownie, nor is there such thing as “the best” brownie. But there is such a thing as an extremely moist, perfect, delicious, melt-in-your mouth, oh-la-la brownie. Say hello to the Baked brownie.

The recipe comes from Baked NYC, a bakery specializing in All-American baked goods. They make pies, cakes, granola, confections– however, they are most famous for their brownies. They describe their brownies a  “hovering blissfully between ‘cakey’ and ‘fudgy’.” 

I brought these in for the Club Fair to promote the Baking Club (everyone who signed up got to take whatever they wanted from our array of baked goods). Guess what went first? Not the double espresso cupcakes, not the pumpkin bread,  not even the gooey butter cookies! These brownies. My friend Erin ate three before I could even finished putting our poster up! Bewildered little freshman boys started asking for the recipe.  Even my merciless P.E. teacher cracked a smile after taking a bite out of these.

These are a favorite of Oprah, America’s Test Kitchen, my school’s soccer team, and the security guard on level 2. They are soon to be a favorite of yours too.

Do you have a favorite brownie recipe?
With love,
Erica

Ingredients
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a
9×13-inch glass or light-colored baking pan. Line the pan with
parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together.

3. Put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a large
bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring
occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and
smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the
sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the
pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add
the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir
until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your
brownies will be cakey.

5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a
rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate
until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in
the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through
the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the
brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the
brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pan using the
parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve.

7. Store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrap with plastic wrap for up to 3 days. They also freeze quite well.

Recipe adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

baked donuts

Baked donuts — I’ve attempted them before, and they have always been a disappointment compared to their deep fried counterpart… until now! These are moist and dense– with a cake-like texture that comes pretty close to that of an old fashioned donut, and absolutely delicious no matter how you  decide to top them.
The glazed varieties looked absolutely adorable — but my personal favorite was the “cinnamon toast crunch” donut (although I may be a bit biased due to my cinnamon obsession!). I dipped the soft donut in melted butter, and then quickly rolled it in a mixture of cinnamon, sugar, and crushed up Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. Really the possibilities for toppings are endless — I’d love to see what some of you all dream up! (and now that I’m officially a baked donut convert, expect to see more posts… things are gonna get crazy!)
The dance ensemble at my school had performances this weekend, and I brought these to sell at the bake sale that they hold at intermission. These were perfect for the occasion, as unlike their fried counterparts, they kept really well in an air-tight container overnight and transported beautifully. In fact, they taste even better the next day because the flavor and moisture really sinks in. So keep these in mind for your next bake sale or potluck!
With love,
Erica

 Ingredients
         1/2 cup butter + 2 tablepoons (or margernine)
    •    1 cup sugar
    •    2 eggs
    •    3 cups flour
    •    4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    •    1/2 teaspoon salt
    •    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
    •    1 cup milk
    •    1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease your donut pan.
Blend 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter with 1 cup of sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Add to the butter and sugar mixture. Blend in the milk and mix together thoroughly.
 Put batter in a large ziploc bag and cut the corner to a 1/2 inch hole. Pipe the batter into greased donut pan about 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 17 minutes, or until doughnuts are golden. Top/decorate as you please — here are a few suggestions:

“Cinnamon Toast Crunch” 
  Combine 1/4 cup of sugar 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon. Add about a half cup of crushed Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter.
  
While doughnuts are still warm, roll them in melted butter; then in Cinnamon Toast Crunch mixture.

Classic Vanilla Glaze:

  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Gel paste food coloring (if using)

Warm the milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan set over low heat.
Add the confectioners’ sugar and whisk slowly until well combined.
If tinting glaze, using a toothpick, add a drop of gel paste at a time, whisking to combine well, until you’ve reach the desired color.

Dip the donuts into the glaze while warm (or cool).
Add sprinkles or other extras at end as desired.
Classic Chocolate Glaze:
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon water

In a small microwave-safe bowl, mix the chocolate chips, oil, corn syrup, and water. Microwave for 30 second increments, stirring in-between, until melted.

Dip the donuts into the glaze while warm (or cool).
Add sprinkles or other extras at end as desired.