Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Baking Frenzy

WARNING – this post is long.

I am a freak – that’s all that can really be said. I go through days of being so tired I can barely keep my eyes open, then flip-flop to days where I can’t sleep. I think my internal clock is broke – and the warranty was up a LONG time ago!

So why am I a freak? Well, I went on a baking frenzy last night. Don’t be fooled by how innocent that sounds – its not innocent at all hehe!

My evening started with dinner – chili dogs. I only mention this because it’s the first time in my 34 years of existence on this Earth that I had Hormel canned chili, or canned chili of any kind for that matter. Now, I prefer homemade chili – I am somewhat obsessive about how I make mine, I dice brisket and rump roast into small cubes, soak beans overnight, etc – yeah, I guess there are many reasons I am a freak, but I digress…. Hormel chili isn’t something I would eat on its own, however smothered on a hot dog sitting on a nice potato bun, topped with cheddar cheese, its pretty darn good!

Back to the topic, I recently joined the Daring Bakers, and looking back at past challenges, I thought it would be cool to make my dear hubby some hot buttered pretzels. At the same time I figured it would be nice to surprise one of my French co-workers with something other than Pain au Levain so I decided to try my hand at the recipe from the croissant challenge after getting seduced by the pictures from that challenge. So yeah, my hands were quite full. When my husband asked me what I was doing, and I told him what I planned to accomplish - he gave me the same type of look one gives a crazy person as they slowly back away from them...

I started with the pre-ferement for the croissants:

After mixing this up, it was time to throw together the ingredients for the pretzels. I like the fact that it all goes into the bowl at the same time, making it an easy surprise snack to fit into a multi-step/multi-day baking adventure like croissants! When the dough was ready to proof it looked like this:

While this was proofing away, I turned my attention to measuring out the ingredients for the croissant dough. I have made croissants before, but on an industrial scale, where we measured ingredients in pounds. Since I always had access to these crispy crusted-soft inside buttery pockets of heavenly delight, I never had a need to make my own. Since moving to AK, I tried to scale back the industrial recipe several ways, but couldn’t get it to work to my satisfaction. Seeing the results from this former challenge, I figured I would give it a try since the pictures of the completed challenge looked close to what we used to make at the bakery.

After 2.5 hours, I scraped the pre-ferment into the mixer bowl, added the yeast and mixed until combined, added half the milk slowly and mixed until it looked like something out of a bad science experiment. I mixed together the pre-measured dry ingredients, and added them slowly to the yeast mixture, alternating with the remainder of the milk. I had to resist the urge to add more milk, to incorporate the ‘cornmeal’ like bits at the bottom of the bowl, after the requisite mixing time had elapsed, but I let the dough rest for its 15-20 minutes and when I started up the mixer it quickly incorporated into the rest of the dough. I’d have pictures of this, except it was insanely late (or insanely early – I don’t remember). The finished dough proofed for an hour before getting pressed into a rectangle 2” thick, wrapped, and put in the fridge.

Meanwhile, back on the stove, the pretzel dough had finished its rise. I turned the dough out of the bowl, gently pressed it into a rectangle, then cut it into halves until I had 8 pieces. I rolled each piece, shaped, dipped (I used malt barley extract instead of sugar in the wash), and placed on the sheet pan.

They sat around basking in their pretzel glory for 15 minutes, waiting for the oven to reach 500º. I didn’t think until after I salted all of them about topping them with other tasty goodness – next time! After baking, each was lovingly brushed with melted butter and all but two were devoured by my husband. He didn’t even let the dog have a bite LOL! Here’s what I was able to grab pictures off before they met their fate.

Four pretzels wondering what happened to the 5th - do you think the one on the bottom right looks worried?:

The pretzels were soft, light, and had an airier texture than I had expected. The taste was pretty good, though it reminded me more of pizza dough than pretzel:

A close-up of the star snack of the evening (near morning - note the daylight still present at 11pm):

This morning (when I woke up 2 hours after I went to bed), I rolled out and turned the croissant dough – turning it 4 times. It now resides in my freezer, waiting for the 24 hours to pass, when they will reach the culmination of all their glory (hopefully). Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Michelle said...

The prezels are awesome and much better then mine were!