Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pretzels & Pretzel-Wrapped Sausages with Whole-Grain Beer Mustard

Homemade Pretzels & Pretzel-Wrapped Sausages with Whole-Grain Beer Mustard

Soft pretzels were one of the first things I ever baked. Going through my mom's old recipe box was a favorite childhood pastime, and therein I found a handwritten card for pretzels and asked her if I could try them. After she warned me about the many steps and somewhat dangerous water bath, and I was still game, she conceded, and the twisted, boiled, and baked malted breads became a personal favorite. A few years later in middle school, I made them for a special final project in my Home Ec class, and that year most of the comments in my yearbook referred to those pretzels. 

So when my pals at MUTINY DC suggested making some for an Oktoberfest post, I was ready, and was promptly sent into a nostalgic Midwestern reverie--but now with beer! It's no surprise, though, that ale & pretzels are a perfect pairing, as both have monastic origins. Pretzels are said to have been invented in the 7th century by an Italian monk-- the twists are thought to resemble hands praying.  But throw a Meats & Foods sausage and some whole-grain beer mustard into the mix, and you've got yourself a meal--one that feels more decadent than ascetic.

Homemade Pretzels & Pretzel-Wrapped Sausages with Whole-Grain Beer Mustard

Homemade Pretzels
Adapted from The Kitchn

Makes 8 pretzels or pretzel-wrapped sausages

1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 to 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 cup baking soda
1 Tablespoon barley malt syrup, rice syrup, or dark brown sugar (I used the latter)
1 large egg, whisked
Coarse kosher salt or pretzel salt
Vegetable oil, for coating the bowl

1. To make the pretzel dough, in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine warm water and yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk by hand to dissolve the yeast. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour, sugar, and sea salt. Stir with a wooden spoon to form a stiff and shaggy dough.

2. Using the dough hook of a stand mixer, knead the dough on low for 5 minutes. If the dough is very sticky after 1 minute, add 1 Tablespoon of flour at a time until it forms a ball and is soft, slightly tacky, and holds its shape in a ball.

3. Clean out the bowl, coat it with oil, and return the dough to the bowl. Cover with a dishcloth and let rise in a warm place until the dough is doubles in bulk, about 1 hour. (After this step you can refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days before boiling and baking the pretzels. Make sure the dough is wrapped tightly in plastic wrap before refrigerating).

4. Once dough has risen, turn it out on a lightly floured surface, and divide into 8 equal pieces. To shape the pretzels, roll each piece of dough into a long, skinny rope, about 20 in. long. Bring the ends of the rope toward the top of your work surface and cross them. Cross once again to form a twist, and then fold the twist over the bottom loop to make a pretzel shape.

5. Place each pretzel on a parchment-lined baking sheet and set aside while you form the rest. When all pretzels are shaped, cover them loosely with a dishcloth and let rise until puffy, about 30 minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and place oven rack in the middle-bottom. While pretzels are rising, prepare the water bath. Pour 8 cups of water into a tall, wide pot and place on high heat (make sure pot is tall as water will bubble when you add the baking soda). Once water is at a rapid simmer, add the baking soda and barley malt, rice syrup or brown sugar. Stir to dissolve, then reduce heat to medium to maintain a simmer.

7. Once pretzels have risen, lower 2-3 pretzels into water bath at a time. Simmer for 30 seconds on one side, then flip using a slotted spoon or metal spatula. Simmer for 30 seconds more, then remove from water and return to baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pretzels. They should be puffed, doughy, and slightly puckered.

8. When pretzels have simmered in the water bath, brush them with egg was and sprinkle them with coarse kosher salt. Bake in the oven until they are deep brown and glossy, 12-15 minutes.

9. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool until they're cool enough to eat. Serve fresh 'n' hot with homemade whole-grain beer mustard (see below) and Dogfish Head Punkin Ale!

Homemade Pretzel-Wrapped Sausages

Pretzel-Wrapped Sausages

Makes 8

4 large sausages (we used Meats & Foods' andouille sausage)
Pretzel dough (see above)

1. Cook sausages in a skillet, let grease drain, and cut in half. Let cool.

2. Prepare pretzel dough as indicated above, but instead of shaping dough ropes into pretzel shape, coil them around each sausage, starting at one end and finishing at the other. Seal edges so entire sausage is covered and dough will stay wrapped during the water bath.

3. Follow steps above for simmering. When it comes time for the egg wash and salt sprinkle, you may also want to sprinkle on some fresh cracked black pepper. Follow instructions for baking--the bake time is about the same for regular pretzels.

4. Remove from oven and let pretzel dogs cool on a wire rack. Serve with homemade whole-grain beer mustard and Dogfish Head Punkin Ale.

Homemade Pretzel-Wrapped Sausages & Whole-Grain Beer Mustard

Whole Grain Beer Mustard
Adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon

Makes 1 1/2 cups

1/3 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/4 cup brown mustard seeds
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (or Gordy's Sweet Chips brine!)
1/2 cup pale ale (I used Port City Monumental IPA as per Mitchell's recommendation)
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon local honey
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1. Pour mustard seeds into a medium-sized mixing bowl and whisk together until combined. Add vinegar and beer and stir just until incorporated.

2. Cover mixture with plastic wrap and set in a cool, dry place for 12 hours (overnight) or until most of the liquid has been absorbed (a little remained in my batch, but extra food processing time took care of that).

3. Stir remaining ingredients into the mustard seed mixture and pour into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse processor 5-6 times before running the motor for 1-2 minutes.

4. Once mustard has thickened to your desired consistency, pour into a sterilized glass jar(s) and refrigerate. For an even spicier mustard, leave out at room temperature for 1-2 days before refrigerating.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale in a Boot

Find MUTINY DC's original post here and our previous collab here.

All photos by Justin T. Gellerson

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Italian Plum & Port Crostata

Italian Plum & Port Crostata

I grew up going to the farmers' market most Saturdays. Now this was not the farmers' market we know today, with its hip, young farmers, high dollar artisanal products, and serenading folk musicians (not that I have anything against with those things--in fact I'm quite fond of all of them), but this market was old-school. Housed in a red barn with individual stalls occupied by Indiana old-timers, Amish, and organic farmers alike, with the smell of homemade danishes in the air, and cuts of meat hanging from rafters, the South Bend Farmers' Market first opened at its current site in 1928. Though part of the building was destroyed by a fire in 1971, it was the market where my mother grew up going to with her mother and grandparents. Every time we'd walk the long aisles, our baskets full of produce, I'd be inundated with stories about the old farmers who were still around or used to be, and be retold which stall would give my mom a piece of Claey's candy while she waited for her mother to finish socializing.

Aside from the times when I was working on a farm or was in one place long enough to maintain a weekly CSA, I've maintained that ritual of a Saturday trip to the market for fresh veggies and fruits, and sometimes eggs, bread, and meat (and oh yeah, the occasional Farmers' Daughter sunshine bun) for the week. 

Italian Plum & Port Crostata Slice

A few weeks ago, Dalila from a new D.C. business From the Farmer, reached out to me and asked if I might be interested in trying out their farmbox delivery service. Never one to turn down fresh & local produce, especially when it's delivered to your doorstep, I thought I'd give it a whirl. Of course, I was immediately hooked.

As the basket arrives in the night, it felt a bit like Christmas to wake up the next morning to a bundle of colorful goods-- honeycrisp apples, bok choy, shitake mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes, fingerling potatoes, fall raspberries, and more. Similar to a CSA, but customizable, week-to-week, and drawing from multiple local farms, farm bundles like From the Farmer can be an advantageous outlet for small, specialty farms that may not be big enough to offer an entire diverse CSA. I also appreciate having my week's selection of produce picked out for me, as I'm not great at conjuring up recipes on the spot at the market. Though I'll always relish my Saturday market trips, I could get pretty use to this.

One of the offerings that was included in my first box were Italian prune plums-- the small oblong variety that are darker and sweeter than the more common round plums. I remembered a recipe for an Italian Plum & Port Crostata in Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts, and had some leftover homemade puff pastry in the freezer, so this tart came together quite quickly (even without pre-made crust, it's pretty simple). I LOVE the dark complexity the port reduction adds to the sweet plums, and you can experiment by adding other spices like ginger, cloves, peppercorn, or black cardamom. I brought it to the DC Square Dance and even had a slice left to share with my friend Mike, who was stopping through town on Monday with his band Hiss Golden Messenger

Italian Plum & Port Crostata and Slice

Italian Plum & Port Crostata

Homemade Puff Pastry or Nothing in the House pie crust, halved (I used puff pastry, as I had some frozen)

1 1/2 cups ruby port
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 Thai chile, seeded and minced (optional, I couldn't find any so opted out)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 pounds Italian prune plums, halved and pitted
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon heavy cream or beaten egg, for brushing
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling 

1. Prepare whichever crust you're using as per the directions (find links to them in the ingredients list above). Chill dough at least 1 hour before rolling out into a 12-inch round and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Do not flute edges. Place pie plate in fridge while you prepare the filling and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2.  Simmer port and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a saucepan until reduced to about 1/2 cup, approximately 25 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add chile, if using. Cover and let cool, 10 minutes.

3. Stir together remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt, plums, cornstarch, cinnamon, and port syrup. Pour into the chilled pie shell and fold over overhang to make a rough edge. Brush dough with cream or egg wash, and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar. Bake 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees F and bake 45-60 minutes more (Martha calls for 90 minutes more, but in my case this would have been too long), until crust is golden and filling is bubbling. Let pie cool completely and serve with honey ice cream, if desired.

Italian Plum & Port Crostata Slice with Ice Cream

Related recipes:

Friday, September 05, 2014

The Friday Pie Slice: North Carolina Edition

Butterscotch Pie with Meringue Top and Butter & Lard Crust

Alright. Gonna try to get this little segment goin' again.

1st slice. My friend April McGreger's new book Sweet Potatoes from UNC Press' "Savor The South" series just arrived in the mail. I can't wait to make sweet potato-habanero hot sauce, sweet potato sonker, sweet potato donut muffins, etc. etc. etc...

2nd slice. Last weekend I trekked down to Asheville, NC to hang out with pals at Harvest Records' Transfigurations II Festival. I made a little country-ish mix for my road trip and thought you might enjoy it too. Find it here.

3rd slice. On that trip I got to finally visit Tara/Smoke Signals Baking's beautiful little enclave in the hills of Marshall. If you're in the area, check out her upcoming pie classes and Saturday PIZZA NIGHTS!

The tasty crumbs. I also got to hang out and make pie for & eat pie with one of my favorite musicians and long-time pen pal Michael Hurley! Check his Nothing in the House post from a few years back.

Find past Friday Pie Slices here

Pictured above: Butterscotch Pie with a Meringue Top and Butter & Lard Crust

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Campfire Skillet Crisp

Campfire Skillet Crisp with Strawberries and Bananas

One of the drawbacks of shooting film, and multiple cameras* at that, is that there can be so much lag time between shooting, finishing the roll, and getting the developed photos back. Here it is September and I'm finally sitting down to share some photos, words, and a campfire recipe from a canoe trip back in May. But there are a few weeks of summer yet, so hopefully this will come in handy for your summer and fall camping trip cuisine.

Campsite and Canoes on Debsconeag Lakes, Maine

This spring at NELP, I co-lead a canoe trip to the Debsconeag Lakes, just under the shadow of Mt. Katahdin in northern Maine. I jumped on the trip last minute--I thought I'd be leading a "Rough 'n' Tumble New Age Lumberjack Road Trip" to Rangeley, ME, but when not enough students were compelled by the promise of orgone accumulators and chainsaw collections, I joined up with my friend and co-worker James to even out canoe numbers and do a little tracing of Thoreau's footsteps (and paddle "steps") in the Maine woods.

Because we were paddling and staying at the same campsite for the three days, we didn't have to be concerned with backpacking weight. So I snagged our skillet from the kitchen and started imagining all the campfire cooking and baking possibilities.

Campsite on Debsconeag Lakes, Maine

The first day we paddled to our campsite among pine trees on a white beach, set up tents, and then paddled to the other side of the lake which boasts an ice cave along its shores. It was a hot day, especially for May in northern Maine, but when we entered the cave, it felt like we were descending back in time to the cold of winter. Judging from the ice stalactites dripping from the ceiling it was probably just above freezing.

That night we took the students out for a night paddle with no lights. It was a magical surrealist experience, seeing the stars almost perfectly reflected in the water (or as Thoreau calls it, "Sky water") which felt strangely thick and dense--like paddling through oil-- but somehow safe and comforting. We read them the passage from Walden in "The Ponds" when Thoreau describes his night fishing, "It seemed as if I might next cast my line upward into the air, as well as downward into this element which was scarcely more dense. Thus I caught two fishes as it were with one hook," and asked them what might be that second fish. 

Campfire on Debsconeag Lakes, Maine
Strawberry Banana Skillet Crisp on Campfire

The next morning for breakfast, I sliced up some strawberries and bananas into the skillet, scattered on a flour and sugar mixture I'd prepared back at camp, put on a lid, and stuck it on the hot embers of the fire. After about 25 minutes, we had a breakfast crisp, warm and bubbling, with a buttery, crispy top.

Dishing out Campfire Skillet Cobbler

You could make this with any fruit you have on hand. I'd recommend mixing the flour mixture at home and storing it in a plastic bag until you're ready to use, then cut in the butter at your campsite (don't forget your pocket knife). It makes a fine camp breakfast or dessert and it fueled our mile-long portage and day of exploring waterfalls and lakes, through a rainstorm and all. 

Strawberries and Bananas in Cast Iron Skillet

Strawberry-Banana Campfire Crisp

3 large bananas, cut into 1/2-inch slices
12 oz. strawberries, sliced (instead of strawberries & bananas, you can use about 2 1/2 lbs. of any fruit)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour, oats, sugars, spices, and salt. If you're preparing the crisp at camp, pour into a gallon-sized ziplock bag and bring along with you (along with butter and fruit.).

2. If preparing at home, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut butter into the flour mixture (if preparing at camp, you can do this with your hands in the ziplock bag). Slice fruit and arrange on the bottom of the skillet. Pour butter and flour mixture over top of fruit.

3. If preparing on a campfire, cover skillet with a lid or tin-foil and place on the hot embers of the fire. If preparing at home, place in the preheated oven uncovered. Bake for 25-30 minutes until fruit is bubbling and topping is golden and crispy. Serve and enjoy!

Canoeing on Debsconeag Lakes

Related recipes:
Peach-Blackberry Cobbler
Plum-Cherry Crumble

*Camp photos shot on an expired disposable film camera (didn't want my good camera to get wet, so excuse the grainy lo-fi!) and close-up crisp photos shot on my Canon 20D.

Cranberry Chess Pie

Fig Pistachio Tarte Tatin

Peppermint Pattie Tart

Whiskey & Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake

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