Soft Pretzels

Soft Pretzels

The end of an era has arrived: this month marks the last Secret Recipe Club exchange, ever.

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about this. I have been part of this group since I was pregnant with Jake (who just turned 4!) so the SRC has influenced a lot of my cooking and baking throughout the years. Forty-two recipes on this blog happened because of the SRC. When I joined, it was with the idealistic hope that I would make friends with like-minded bloggers and find some delicious, well-curated recipes to add to my repertoire. What I found was that my preferences and standards were quite different from most of the rest of the group. I’m sure I haven’t been alone in struggling to find that single recipe from an assigned blog that fits into my own tastes and cooking style.

The challenge of the SRC exchange was often truly a challenge, and honestly, not always something I felt excited or joyful about. But I have grown as a cook and baker because of it! Because of the SRC, I have learned to look for something good in unexpected places. I have cooked some dishes I might not otherwise have tried. I have grown in testing new recipes and tweaking them to work better, or to work better for me. I have also grown as a blogger in taking my posts more seriously and making sure I am proud of what I write about.

This month, the last month of the Secret Recipe Club, I am working from the blog I’m Hungry, written by Traci. Her great strength is semi-homemade foods: if you are looking for ways to get food on the table quickly and easily, she is your gal. I was originally looking for a good Thanksgiving side dish, since it is November, but I ended up settling on soft pretzels, something I’ve been planning to bake for almost as many years as I’ve been part of SRC.

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Glazed Cinnamon Buns Redux

Glazed Cinnamon Buns

Three years ago, I made cinnamon buns for the first time.

And the first time I made them, I must admit, it was a bit of a gory experience. Butter and sugar were all over the counters and my clothes and I was furiously beating confectioner’s sugar into glaze by hand at 2am.

Since then, I have made glazed cinnamon buns more times than I can count. Out of everything I bake, this is the recipe that friends and family request the most! But my first post about it is…well…awkward. Awkward photography and awkward ranting.

You deserve better.

So I’m dusting off the cinnamon bun recipe, sharing a few tips and tricks, and hopefully making your mornings more delicious!

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Challah

Challah

When I was in high school, my best friend and I liked to take walks through Carytown. We almost always started our jaunts at Montana Gold Bread Co., where we would snag a free slice of challah and slather it with butter before venturing out to a bench to people-watch and pretend we were cool.

Challah has always been a little amazing to me. It’s stunning, with an intricate braided pattern, as well as soft and chewy and a little sweet: everything that a great bread should be.

Until now, I’ve been a little afraid to try baking it on my own. I worried that braiding the bread would be messy and awkward and, well, hard.

But when I was assigned Oh! You Cook! for the June Secret Recipe Club blog exchange, I knew it was time to go for it.

Dena has devoted her blog to kosher cooking. I have only the barest grasp on what it means to keep kosher, but at its most basic level, it requires avoiding certain types of animal meats (famously, pork products, but also shellfish and a few others) and completely separating meat from dairy (both in what you eat when and in how you prepare foods). Dena has shared many traditional Jewish dishes that look interesting, but since I am a vegetarian and a baker, I knew immediately that I wanted to try her challah recipe.

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Yeasted Waffles

Yeasted Waffles

So it’s Spring, which is a beautiful thing.

Except that my children have been rising with the sun. The very early sun.

Before we go any further, I must come out as strongly against The Morning. Specifically, all of the hours before 8:00 am. I cannot get behind anything that causes me to get up during the 6:00 hour. Especially when that thing is hollering my name repeatedly.

I know all you more seasoned mothers are laughing at me. And the rest of you non-morning people might be sympathetic, or you might be laughing also, maybe a little maliciously, because I was lucky enough to be sleeping in until Spring struck this year, and now you want to welcome me greedily into this evil morning club and say it serves me right and this is only fair.

But whatever. We need a morning solution. We need something (besides children) to wake up for. And that thing is yeasted waffles.

We need these beautiful waffles because they are just waiting to be cooked when we stumble into the kitchen and blearily splash coffee into the enormous waiting mug. We need things that cook themselves with little oversight while we adjust to the daylight.

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Grandma’s Knotted Rolls

Grandma's Knotted Rolls

I really wish I had been one of those kids who stood in the kitchen with her grandmother, wearing a humongous apron and up to her elbows in flour. (Instead, I was generally quite preoccupied with the book attached to my nose.)

We love to eat, but my family wasn’t built on a long history of beloved food traditions. Except for these rolls.

These rolls are the stuff of legend. Thanksgivings and Christmases, as we piled into the car to drive to Grandma’s for dinner, we would start talking about these rolls practically before buckling our seat belts.

Because they are amazing.

Pretty much the best rolls in the universe.

And here’s the really important thing: these rolls are just made for salty butter. They are a little sweet and doughy, and most of their salt comes from the thick slab of delicious butter you smear on the top. They are a perfect complement for the thick flavors of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but before you take a big bite, don’t skimp on the butter. (And really, why would you?)

Thanksgiving dinner just isn’t Thanksgiving dinner without Grandma’s rolls!

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Grilled Mediterranean Flatbread with Pesto and Feta

Mediterranean Grilled Flatbread

Sarah and I have been meaning to grill together for ages. Inevitably, we gather all of the ingredients and our courage to cook with charcoal, and then it pours rain.

But this week we were determined, rain or shine, to grill some veggies and some flatbreads! Naturally, on the big morning, the rain clouds rolled in. But for once, we decided not to be deterred.

And I am so glad we stuck to our guns! This flatbread “pizza” was simple and tasty. Bright, fresh summer veggies were so easy to throw on the grill, and we even made a quickie no-rise flatbread dough and threw that on the grill as well!

With a little bit of chopping and stirring, and a few quick minutes on the grill, we turned out an absolutely delicious lunch!

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Lahey Pizza Crust

Jim Lahey Pizza CrustThis pizza crust is made out of flour and time and magic.

Every time I make it, a phrase from 1 Corinthians comes to my mind: “A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough” (1 Cor. 5:6). Whenever I hear that phrase ringing in my head, I feel tempted to tell you that this pizza crust is heavenly…but in fact, yeast represents sin in the Bible, so instead perhaps I should say this crust is so good, it’s almost sinful.

(Please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not making light of sin! Throughout the Old and New Testaments, yeast is used as a visual representation of how every sin, no matter how small we think it is, touches every part of our souls, just the way a small amount of yeast creates an airy and chewy bread. We need the grace of our loving God!)

Jim Lahey, creator of this amazing crust recipe, is no angel, because I seriously can’t stop making pizza now that I have this crust recipe in my arsenal.

If you have ever fretted about making pizza at home, ever resisted making your own crust or turned out with a flat, boring disc underneath your favorite pizza toppings, I implore you to try this recipe! It’s easier than easy and tastes phenomenal.

Trust me. You’ll thank me later.

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