“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

compost cookies

I recently made white chocolate macadamia nut cookies (recipe soon!), and the recipe called for 2 cups of chocolate chips.  I carefully measured 2 cups of white chocolate chips… and was left with a sad little quarter cup left in the bag. 
My pantry is overflowing with similar crumbled bags with just a smidgen of their contents left. 

  1. Just under a 1/2 cup of butterscotch chips (a.k.a. not enough to make butterscotch bars)
  2. A rolled up bag of potato chips from my dad’s lunch at Subway. 
  3. The bottom half of a roll of Ritz crackers (no longer crunchy).
  4. A handful of craisins leftover from my cranberry bliss bars.
  5. A half eaten box of animal crackers

The list goes on and on… and my kitchen cabinet seems to get smaller and smaller.  There’s nothing I hate more than wasting perfectly good ingredients… but I’ve also never experienced frustration quite like having no room to put the sugar away when my hands are covered in butter. Behold the compost cookie. 

Throw all of your potato chips, corn chips, cereals, candies, crackers, and all other snack scraps  into this cookie.   Sounds gross perhaps… but trust me on this one, these are delicious!  The serendipitously sweet and salty combination is both sophisticated and snacky.  My friend Emelia and I happily munched on these before a concert a few weeks ago — it sure beat Chex-Mix. (and that’s saying a lot, because I adore Chex-Mix…)

Plus the word “compost” makes me feel so good about myself, like I’m saving the world, one cookie at a time. So raid your kitchen cabinet and save the world today!

With love,
Erica

Ingredients
 

Ingredients:

1 cup butter (that’s two sticks, unsalted)

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

2 tsps baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsps Kosher salt

1 1/2 cups your favorite baking ingredients (options: chocolate chips, Raisenettes, Rollos, Cocoa Krispies)

1 1/2 cups your favorite snack foods (chips, pretzels, etc.)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment,
beat the butter and sugars together for 3 minutes, until light and
fluffy. Add in the honey and mix to combine. Add in the egg and
vanilla, mix and scrape down the bowl as necessary just until combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and
salt together. Add dry ingredients mix to the butter mix. Mix in the
sweet and salty add-ins of your choice.
DO NOT BAKE your cookies from room temperature or they will not hold their shape.  Pop in the fridge for at least an hour.  Heat the oven to 400 F. Roll cookies into large, tablespoon-sized balls and place on a baking sheet. Bake
9 to 11 minutes. While in the oven, the cookies will puff, crackle and
spread. At 9 minutes, the cookies should be browned on the edges and just
beginning to brown towards the center. Leave the cookies in the oven for
the additional minutes if these colors don’t match up and your cookies
still seem pale and doughy on the surface.
 Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pan before
transferring to a plate or an airtight container or tin for storage. At
room temp, they’ll keep five days

nutella pretzel brownies

I can’t think of a better snack than butter pretzels dipped in Nutella. The pure awesomeness of this snack is captured perfectly in these brownies.

There is no question that this recipe is going to become a new staple in my “bake sale repertoire.” I mean, it involves a butter pretzel crust and almost an entire jar of Nutella! The real question should be: why weren’t these in my repertoire before?!

Recently, I joined the Freestyle Rap Club at my school, and they are having a bake sale this coming Tuesday to raise money to buy some pretty great sweatshirts.  I am not a very good rapper…  in all honesty, I really should not even refer to myself as a “rapper.”  But some of the members of the club are very good, and I love to listen to the other raps and attempt to rap myself.  I mean how many kids can say they go to a school with a Freestyle Rap Club? Not many, so I take advantage of the opportunity. YOLO as they say…

What clubs were/are you in at your high school?

With love,
Erica

Ingredients
FOR THE CRUST
1 1/2 cups pretzels
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
FOR THE BROWNIES
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup nutella hazelnut spread
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
More Nutella spread for frosting the brownies
Extra pretzels for garnishing

To make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat an 8 x 8 inch baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
Place the pretzels in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until
broken up into tiny pieces. Add the sugar and pulse until combined, then
pour in the butter. Continue pulsing until combined.
Press the pretzel mixture firmly into the prepared pan. Bake for 12
to 15 minutes, until the edges are golden and the crust feels firm.
While the crust is baking, make the brownies: In a medium saucepan,
melt the butter. Once melted, remove from heat and whisk in the sugar
until combined.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.
Whisk in the dry ingredients until combined and pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle
comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it. Allow brownies to cool for
at least 45 minutes before frosting with Nutella spread and garnishing
with pretzels.

 From Bakingdom

best ever brownies

Everyone needs a favorite brownie recipe.


I fell in love with Ina Garten’s “Outrageous” brownies. But found them impractical for sharing because of their super gooey constancy. Then, I came across David Lebovitz’s recipe for the “Absolute Best Brownies” (these celebrity chefs sure are modest…). And I fell in love.

{dense, fudgy center}

These only have a tiny bit of flour in the batter — which results in a chocolatey, moist center.

I am a generally open-minded person, but I really don’t understand the people who go crazy for a cake-like brownie. Why not just bake a chocolate cake? A brownie should be fudgy and dense — and that is exactly what these are — all the way up to the thin, shiny, tissue-paper crust on the top.

{crinkle-y tissue-paper thin crust}

This is also the perfect fool-proof recipe to experiment with different add-ins. I had bought a bag “Sweet and Salty M&M Trail Mix” (almonds, M&Ms and pretzels), and mixed that in. (I picked out the raisins).

Bring these to bake sales, stuff these in your purse, share them at work, eat them for breakfast. People love them.
Do you have a favorite brownie recipe?

With love,
Erica

{these transport beautifully}

Adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris
 David Lebovitz

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted or salted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

optional: 1 cup add-ins (nuts, trail mix, candies etc.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 8-inch square baking dish with a sheet aluminum foil that
covers the bottom  up over the sides. If it doesn’t reach all the way up
and over all four sides, cross another sheet of foil over it, making a
large cross with edges that overhang the sides. Spray the bottom and
sides of the foil with cooking spray.
In a saucepan melt butter, add the semi-sweet chocolate, stirring
constantly over very low heat until the chocolate is melted. Remove from
heat. Add in eggs one at a
time, then stir in the sugar, vanilla, then the flour and nuts if using.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow cool completely.
.

Storage: These brownies will keep well for up to 4 days and can be frozen for 1 month.

Variation: This recipe
takes well to mix-ins. I’ll sometimes add 1/3 cup (45 g) chopped dried
cherries or 1/3 cup (45 g) cocoa nibs to the batter.

To make minty brownies, crush the contents
of one 50-g tin of peppermint Altoids in a sturdy plastic bag. Add the
crushed mints to the brownies along with the nuts (or omit the nuts). If
you like very minty brownies, add 1/2 teaspoon mint extract along with
the crushed mints.

mall-style mini pretzel dogs

Nothing screams summer like baseball games, giant pretzels, and hot dogs.  Since we’re in the height of summer right now, I thought I’d share this yummy, kid-friendly, all-American recipe with you. It’s
an all-beef hot dog wrapped in a soft, homemade pretzel and sprinkled
with just the right amount of coarse salt. I served mine for dinner with some gazpacho and potato salad. These would make such a fun appetizer for any summer picnic — plus they’re so darn cute!

When I was little, I remember loving “pigs in a blanket” — hot dogs wrapped in pre-made crescent dough. These take those little piggies to a whole new pretzel-twisted level. Plus, I made mine a little more wholesome by adding some whole wheat flour, and using beef hot dogs from Applegate Farms, which are made with USDA certified organic beef, and are lower in fat than your average beef hot dogs.

There is something so irresistible about a warm, soft pretzel straight from the oven. A crisp, salty crust surrounding a perfectly soft, chewy center. Homemade pretzels must be difficult to make right? Wrong. You can have these addictive little bites in less than an hour and a half! My favorite way to eat these is with some ketchup and spicy mustard. If you want to replicate that “mall pretzel” taste, brush them with melted butter after taking them out of the oven. You could also try them sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, stuffed with garlic and cheese, or even the infamous pizza pretzel. Get creative!

What’s your favorite mall-style pretzel?

With love,
Erica

*Note: These are delicious! One note, my dad said as a meal these would be much better with “more dog, less pretzel.” So they could be improved by using full length hot dogs, and less dough. 

Pretzel Dogs
makes 16 pretzel dogs

1 ½ cups warm water (between 110 and 115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
about 14 cups of water
1 cup baking soda
1 large egg, beaten, with a splash of water
salt and pepper for topping

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix warm water and sugar.  Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water
and set aside for 5 minutes.  The mixture will begin to foam and froth. 
If it doesn’t, throw the mixture away and start again with new yeast.
Once the yeast and water is frothy, add the flour, salt, and melted
butter.  Using the dough hook, mix on low speed until well combined. 
Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough until it is smooth and
pulls away from the side of the bowl, creating a ball of dough around
the dough hook.  Beat on medium speed for approximately 4 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl.  The dough will be soft, pliable, and
just a bit sticky.  That’s perfect.  Scrape any residue out of the bowl
and coat the bowl with a bit of vegetable oil.  Place the dough back in
the bowl, sprinkle with flour, cover with plastic wrap, and store in a
warm place to rise.  Allow dough to rise, until doubled in size, about 1
hour.
Place baking racks in the center and upper third of the oven. 
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment
paper, and lightly brush the paper with oil.  It’s important to brush
the parchment paper or the pretzels will stick!
Combine water and baking soda in a large pan (8 quart is fine) saucepan and bring to a boil.
While the water comes to a boil, turn the dough out onto a clean,
slightly oiled work surface.  Divide dough into 8 or 16 pieces,
depending on how large you’d like your pretzel dogs.  8 pieces of dough
for whole hot dogs.  16 pieces of dough if you’re doing to slice the hot
dogs in half.
Start with the fingers of both hands in the center of the dough, and
roll, moving your hands outward as you roll.  Roll the dough along the
oiled surface until you have about a 24-inch or 12-inch piece of rope
(depending on how large your piece of dough was… the more dough the
longer the rope).
Wrap pretzel around a hot dog, making sure to seal the ends.
When water has come to a boil, gently lower a few pretzel dogs into
the boiling water.  Boil for 30 seconds.  Remove carefully, using a
flat, slotted spatula.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Brush boiled
pretzels with beaten egg, and add coarse sea salt and fresh cracked
black pepper.
Bake until deeply golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack for a few minutes before serving warm. I love mine with mustard or ketchup 🙂
If you’re not going to enjoy all your pretzel dogs, double wrap them
in plastic wrap and store in the freezer.  When ready to serve, transfer
out of plastic and into a piece of foil.  Wrap well and bake in a 350
degree oven for 12 minutes, or until heated through.

Adapted from Joy the Baker