Mini Whole-Wheat Parmesan Pretzels

imgp3090

A Daring Baker’s rewind! Way back in November 2006, the two founders of The Daring Bakers decided to make pretzels and post their results: Cream Puffs in Venice and La Mia Cucina. Now there are over 1000 members from all over the world.

imgp3085

The pretzel recipe they used came from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion. I’ve changed the recipe a bit, substituting some whole-wheat flour for some of the all-purpose flour and adding some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. I also made the pretzels smaller and decreased the butter used in the topping.

imgp3088

If you have never made pretzels before, I encourage you to make these. They are so soft and tasty and easy to make.

Mini Whole-Wheat Parmesan Pretzels

Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion

Note: The original recipe is called Hot-Buttered Pretzels

Dough

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons regular instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Topping

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • coarse, kosher or pretzel salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat till well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, till it’s soft, smooth, and quite slack. Dust the dough with flour to prevent sticking and place the dough in a plastic bag. Close the bag, leaving room for the dough to expand, and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 500°F. Prepare two baking sheets by  lining them with parchment paper.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into sixteen equal pieces (about 1 1/4 ounces, each). Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the 1/2 cup warm water and the sugar, and place it in a shallow bowl.

Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 14 inches long), and twist each rope into a pretzel. Dip each pretzel in the sugar wash and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them lightly with salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they’re golden brown, reversing the baking sheets halfway through.

Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you’ve used it all up; it may seem like a lot, but that’s what gives these pretzels their ethereal taste. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave. Yield: 16 mini-pretzels.

imgp3094



{DB} A French Polynesian Yule Log

imgp30261

Sometimes, more often than not, I still fall under the delusion that having all the right tools will help me make great desserts. In my head, I know it is about technique and balance and the right flavor combination.

I had a moment of panic when I discovered this month’s Daring Bakers challenge: A French Yule Log or Bûche de Noël.  I was out of town for most of December and just got home a couple days before Christmas. I wanted to make it for our annual Christmas Eve dinner, but time was short for this seemingly overly-complicated dessert. I took a deep breath and remembered the point of joining this group was to challenge myself.

imgp3028

This month’s challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and  Blueberry and Marion from Il en faut peu pour etre heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand. The website is in French and the recipe is six different components and variations and not located in one link.  In order to successfully complete the challenge, I needed to make and assemble the six elements in whatever shape.

The first step I took was to run out and buy (see my first rambling up above) a traditional Bûche de Noël mold.

I decided to make a French Polynesian themed yule log because I just got back from the South Pacific with vanilla beans and French lacy crepes I bought at a grocery in Papetee.

imgp3015

For my yule log I decided to make:

1. Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)–the basic recipe. I had trouble with this cake. It broke apart when I tried to insert it into the mold. I created a patchwork cake layer–luckily no one could tell in the final product. Because it broke apart and because I ate a lot of the broken pieces I didn’t have enough cake for the top of the mold (or bottom of the cake).

imgp3017

2. Vanilla Mousse–instead of the traditional dark chocolate mousse. I wanted to showcase my Tahitian vanilla beans.

imgp3010

3. Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert–the basic recipe.

imgp3019

4. Coconut Crisp–instead of the traditional praline feuillete crisp. I wanted to use coconut for tropical flavoring. This recipe called for the use of lace crepes, which you can’t buy or are hard to find in the US. The choices were to (1) make your own or  (2) use rice krispies or corn flakes. I planned on using option (2) until I happened upon lace crepes in a grocery in Tahiti.

imgp2344

imgp3008

5. Vanilla Crème Brulée Insert–the basic recipe worked here, showcasing the vanilla beans.

imgp3013

6. Dark Chocolate Icing–the basic recipe

imgp3020

Naked yule log

Although this wasn’t the prettiest yule log (cake decorating is not my strong suit), it was definitely a hit at our Christmas Eve dinner. Everyone loved it.

imgp3032

{DB} Do you want some caramel with your caramel?

imgp2208

Fleur de Sel Caramels

I love caramel as much as the next person. Or maybe I love it even more than the next person. Caramel sundaes, caramel macchiatos, creme caramel, caramel apples, chocolate covered caramels, caramel candy. You get the picture…

imgp2253

The Daring Bakers

This month marks my initiation in The Daring Bakers, an online baking group. The purpose of the group is to once a month challenge bakers by selecting recipes or baking techniques that are seemingly difficult, non-traditional, or unusual. Over 1,000 bakers from around the world are members and each month rotating hosts select the recipe(s). The recipe is known only to the membership until the posting date for the month. In addition to traditional bakers, the group also supports a large contingent of alternative bakers–vegan and/or gluten-free bakers.

imgp2255

And its a good thing I like caramel. Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, along with Alex of Brownie and Blondie and Jenny of Foray into Food were the hosts of November’s Daring Baker’s challenge and they chose a cake which showcases  caramel and a bonus dessert which is, well, caramel. Assisting the hosts with alternative baking is Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go.

imgp2254

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting

The hosts picked Shuna Fish Lyndon’s infamous Caramel Cake for November’s DB Challenge. -You can find the recipe here.  I decided to make cupcakes instead of a cake because they are easier to share.  I made the caramel syrup needed for the batter and the frosting. It tasted great but looked like–well, I’ll just say a specimen collection.

Caramel syrup or specimen collection?

Caramel syrup or specimen collection?

The cake batter came together fine with no issues. I used an ice cream scoop to place the batter into the muffin tin. I had left over batter after making 12 cupcakes. I baked the extra batter in my madeleine pan. Although my caramel cake madeleines didn’t look pretty, it was a great way to taste the finished product without tearing into a cupcake.

Ugly Caramel Cake Madelines

Ugly Caramel Cake Madeleines

And we tore into the cupcakes. I made the frosting as directed but 1/2’d the recipe and ended up using only about 6 oz of powdered sugar. P, my husband, loved them. He said they were pure cupcake joy. Not only was the frosting moist, he said, but the cake was moist too. His big complaint about cupcakes is when the cake is dry and the frosting is moist.

imgp2256

I sprinkled the cupcakes with grated caramels to tie the recipes together. Actually, I tried to make caramel ribbons like I do with chocolate and it didn’t work. So, sprinkles it is.

imgp2259

I bought the cupcake liners at Crate and Barrel. They’re from their holiday line and are not too “christmas”, so you can use them after the holidays.

Update: I just had a co-worker walk into my office with a crazed look in his eyes saying: “I just had one of your cupcakes. It was like a religious experience. OMG. I thought you should know. I broke down and had one. OMG. It was a religious experience.” I think that means he liked it. 😉

Golden Fleur de Sel Vanilla Bean Caramels

imgp2211

The hosts picked an additional recipe for extra-credit from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert. This was a great choice because (1) I’m never one to back away from a challenge and (2) I bought this book a while ago and haven’t had the opportunity to make something from it.

The recipes in the book highlight flavors in pure and simple forms–milk, sugar, chocolate, nuts, and flours. The pictures are amazing and the recipes sound delicious. The caramels were great and relatively straightforward to make. A candy thermometer is a must. I know of people who don’t use a candy thermometer and it amazes me.

imgp2202