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    Entries in homemade is best (62)

    Wednesday
    Feb012017

    It's Authors Kitchen's Birthday!!

    That’s right, Authors Kitchen is 6 years old today! And no, that’s not a picture of a cake. I know cakes are traditional fare for birthdays, but you know how I feel about traditions. Besides, my own birthday is on the 12th, so I’m sure I’ll be making something cake like between now and then. Also, as an added bonus, these pretzel bites are the perfect snack for your Super Bowl party this weekend.

    Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • 2 ½ cups flour
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1 packet instant yeast (1 scant Tablespoon)
    • 1 cup warm water 

     For Later:

    • 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
    • ½ cup hot water
    • Pretzel salt (or other coarse salt)
    • Melted butter 

    Into a mixing bowl go the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast.

    Stir those together and then pour in the water. You want the water to be bath water warm.

    I like to stir those together with a spoon just until it comes together into a shaggy mess.

    Then the stand mixer will take care of the rest. Give it a good 5 minutes with the dough hook. I like to use the third speed setting on my KitchenAid for that. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can always knead by hand. Just dump it onto the counter and go to town for probably 10 minutes, or until your arms give out. Whichever comes first. When it’s ready, the dough should be soft and smooth, but not really sticky anymore.

    Butter a medium sized bowl.

    Place your dough ball upside down in the bowl and turn it to coat the top side with butter.

    Then flip it over and turn it again so that the whole ball has a light coating of butter. This will keep it from drying out while it’s rising.

    Cover the bowl with a damp towel and set it aside to do its thing.

    While that’s rising, you can make the alkaline mixture. This is the secret ingredient. It’s what makes pretzels chewy on the outside. Measure about ½ cup hot water, then add 1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda. Stir until the baking soda is completely dissolved. If it won’t completely dissolve, just add a little more hot water.

    After about thirty minutes or so, the dough has probably risen enough for what we’re making. Go ahead and preheat the oven to 400°

    Punch the dough down and pat it out on an unfloured surface. Yes, I know there is flour in my picture, but it wasn’t necessary, and I ended up having to scrape it out of the way for the next step.

    Cut the dough into four pieces and roll each one into a rope. My favorite place for these is Wetzel’s Pretzels, so I was trying to copy theirs for size. Mine were probably about an inch in diameter, which was good.  

    Cut each rope into segments. Mine were probably about 1 ½ inches. Can you use this same recipe to make whole pretzels? Sure! Just roll the ropes thinner and shape them into a pretzel shape and then continue with the rest just the same.

    Dip each segment into the soda water solution and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. I dipped mine into the salt, which made for overly salty pretzels. I recommend sprinkling it over the top, instead. If you want to make sweet ones or if you just don’t like salt, you can also leave them bare at this point. Just make sure they all get a dip in the soda water.

    Into the 400° oven for about 10 minutes. When they’re done, they’ll be nicely browned.

    Melt a couple tablespoons of butter and brush it over each one. (If you do want to make sweet ones, you would just dip each one in butter and then roll them in a cinnamon and sugar mixture.)

    And that’s it! Did you know it was so easy to make your own pretzels? And aren’t they beautiful? You can serve them with whatever you like for dipping. Personally, I like good ol’ French’s yellow mustard.  

    What are you going to be eating during the Super Bowl this year?

     

    Tuesday
    May032016

    Chocolate Cream Pie Done Right

    Recently, I was having a serious craving for chocolate cream pie. Easy enough, right? Just drop into the nearest diner and pick up a slice. Yeah, not so much. After much googling and wracking of my brain, I eventually decided I would have to make my own. I couldn’t find a place locally that I could be sure wouldn’t disappoint. Since I’d never made a chocolate cream pie before, I needed to do some research. Off to Pinterest and Google, then. For some reason, every recipe I looked at had either cocoa or chocolate. When given the opportunity to use both, why on earth would you pass it up?? I mean, we’re making CHOCOLATE cream pie, after all. Now chocolaty pudding pie, or chocolate-ish custard pie. Well, I went all in, and boy did it pay off.

    Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • 1 pie crust
    • 1 cup sugar
    • ¼ cup cornstarch
    • ¼ cup cocoa
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 4 large egg yolks
    • 3 cups whole milk
    • 4 ounces dark chocolate
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla 

    Before you get started on the filling, you’ll need a pie crust. I used a frozen one form Trader Joes, and it was fantastic. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making your own, I highly recommend theirs. Either way, the crust needs to be blind baked until it’s nicely golden and then cooled completely. Once that’s done, go ahead and chop your chocolate. Once again, I turned to Trader Joes for that. I love their pound plus bars.

    Put that aside, and into a medium sized saucepan, sift the cornstarch and cocoa.

    Stir that together with the sugar and salt.

    Separate 4 eggs, placing the yolks in bowl. Give them a quick whisk.

    Here’s another place where I parted company from all the recipes I found. Even my own recipes, in the past, have always said to heat the milk and then temper the yolks before adding them to the mixture. At some point, my brain said, “if you’re going to bring it to a boil once the eggs are in anyway, why not just add them in the beginning?” It seemed like sound enough logic to me, so I did it, and it worked beautifully. So, go ahead and add the egg yolks to the milk and whisk that thoroughly.

    Pour that mixture over the dry ingredients. Stir everything together and turn the heat to medium.

    At first, it’s going to be a bit messy, but don’t worry.

    As it warms up, it will sort itself out. Just keep whisking and stirring. I like to alternate between a whisk and a silicone spatula.

    Continue stirring until it reaches a boil and becomes nice and thick, then turn off the heat.

    Add the chopped chocolate and stir until it’s completely melted and incorporated.

    Next, add the butter and vanilla. And yes, more stirring.

    Now, just to be safe, pour the pudding through a mesh strainer. This will ensure that you have no lumps (cornstarch, cocoa, curdled egg, whatever). It’s quite thick, so you’ll have to stir it to get it through the strainer.

    And don’t forget to scrape everything off of the underside. There’s lots of deliciousness stuck there.

    Now, pour the finished pudding into the prepared pie crust and level it out on top.

    Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface. Allow it to cool, and then refrigerate it for at least 3 or 4 hours. Overnight would be even better.

    When the pie is nice and cold, whip some cream. 

    • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
    • ¼ cup powdered sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla 

    Whip until it’s nice and stiff. Although, be careful not to go too far. I’ve never actually had it happen, but apparently it will turn to butter at some point.

    I piped the whipped cream onto my pie, but you can just spread it if you’d prefer.

    Now, to make it pretty, top it with some finely grated chocolate. Just warm the chocolate slightly between your hands, and grate it on the finest side of a box grater. How gorgeous is that?

    This pie is creamy, chocolaty, and delicious. Hubby said it was the best pie he’s ever tried. That’s a huge compliment, because he’s not a big fan of sweet things, and he’s also not shy about telling me what he really thinks of my cooking. I will definitely be making this pie again.

    What food do you have to make yourself if you want it done right?