Thursday, October 2, 2014

Soft Pretzels - Plain, Cajun, Chat Masala & Gigantic! ... with Alien Mustard and Louisiana Remoulade

     The Octoberfest & Halloween Game Plan At This Food Website
     Some interesting simple café style Octoberfest recipes will be published this month.  A few classy German style fine dining style entrees are also on the list.  Many of these recipes have been cooked during the last few months and they have been in a holding pattern awaiting the right time for publication.  The right tim for German food is now, while Octoberfest is going on!  
     Halloween is also approaching and now is the time to unleash more crazy trendy recipes that are best suited for the Halloween party animal crowd.  Spicy appetizers with catchy name and spooky morbid food creations will be published during the next few weeks.  The recipes will all be fun food for a fun creepy holiday.  
     Beer fans will also like what is in store for October.  During the last few weeks I have collected several craft beers and international beers that were brewed specifically for autumn and Halloween.  The labels have creepy Jack-O'-Lantern style artwork and these brews are perfect for those who host a Halloween party.  The recipes that the Halloween beer will be paired with will be just as spooky.  
     Soft Pretzels:  
     There are a few types of soft pretzels.  The old traditional German or Bavarian soft pretzels have a dark color.  The color is achieved by briefly poaching the pretzel shaped dough in a solution of boiling Lye Water (Sodium Hydroxide).  
     Lye Water for culinary use is not easy to find in common grocery stores.  I found Lye Water at a Chinatown food market in Las Vegas recently.  Asian cooks use Lye Water to make specific types of noodles and salad dressings.  
     Now that I have Lye Water in my home kitchen, the next soft pretzel cooking project will be Dark Brown German Style Traditional Soft Pretzels!

     A second style of soft pretzel is made by shaping pretzel dough and baking the pretzels.  The pretzels are not poached before baking.  Cooks that are new to the pretzel making game will like this easy to make kind of soft pretzel.  Soft pretzel fans that demand the chewy outer surface of a soft pretzel, usually do not really prefer soft pretzels that are only baked, because the texture is like plain bread.  By just baking the pretzel dough texture is sacrificed, but like I said, this style of pretzel is good for beginners.  

     Today's soft pretzel recipe involves poaching the shaped pretzel dough in boiling salted water, before baking.  This is the style of soft pretzel that a high percentage of Americans know best.  This style of soft pretzel is what is sold at County Fairs and Ball Parks nationwide.
     Salt Water Boiled Soft Pretzels can be made any size.  I made one in the photos above that was more than one foot wide!  The only limiting factor is the size of the pot of boiling water.  The bigger the pot, the bigger a pretzel can be.
     Soft Pretzels can also be dusted with herbs and spices to create unique flavors.  A few different pretzel flavors are included in today's recipe.
     Condiments and sauces for soft pretzel dipping can also be creative.  German Mustard Sauce is always a classic choice.  Remoulade is perfect for a Cajun Spice Soft Pretzel.  Alien Mustard is, well, umm ... unique, to say the least!  Alien Mustard actually is Spicy Mustard combined with Alien Honey.  Alien Honey is a brand name of naturally sweet agave nectar.  Retaining the Alien word in the name of the mustard sauce adds to the fun!   

     Beer Pairing:  
     Double Daddy!  Big Daddy is the big boss in Mob Era lingo.  
     Not long ago, Prohibition gave rise to the bootlegger market.  Bathtub Gin, Everglade Bootleg Rum, Moonshine Whiskey and Prohibition Beer were all marketed by friendly neighborhood Mob providers.  Yes, the Mob provided services that were in public demand and during prohibition, bootleg beer was in high demand, especially in Speakeasy Nightclubs.  

     After prohibition came to an end, many of the great tasting, strong, full bodied, prohibition style beer recipes were set aside, because the newly enacted alcohol laws limited the alcohol content of beer.  In recent decades, the beer alcohol content limitations were cast aside in many states.  Many craft breweries now offer Prohibition Era Style Beer.  So, the good old days of strong Speakeasy Style Mob Beer have returned!  

     The Speakeasy Ales & Lagers Brewery is located in San Francisco.  This company started up in 1997.  The brewmasters at Speakeasy certainly are well respected leaders of the craft beer industry.  Their beer products are very consistent and the quality is superb.  Each beer style is designed to suit traditional guidelines and the hops selection is within the realm of good taste.
     The first time that I tasted a Big Daddy IPA Speakeasy beer, I was impressed.  By far, Big Daddy is the cream of the crop as far as western craft IPA beer goes.  

     Double Daddy is basically a Double IPA.  Double Daddy is referred to as being an Imperial Pale Ale and not just an India Pale Ale.  The hops flavor is stronger than a regular IPA and the malt body supports the extra hoppy flavor while achieving great balance.  
     The malt gravity of Double Daddy is moderately high, yet it is still relatively light on the tummy.  For a heavy duty double IPA, Double Daddy is actually refreshing and it does note create a weighted down feeling.   
     Double Daddy is a great craft brew and it is meant to be savored.  Double Daddy is best paired with anything other than spicy food, chile pepper cuisine or good old fashioned Octoberfest style food.  Double Daddy with a variety of Spicy Soft Pretzels is an ideal Octoberfest match!  

     Octoberfest prohibition?  Never!  Double Daddy and the Organization will never let that happen!  Those who are planning on hosting a Prohibition Era Halloween Costume Party this year can really wow the guests by stocking the ice beer coolers with Speakeasy Brews.  The bottle artwork is crafty and this makes for a good conversation starter.
     Double Daddy?  Highly recommended!  Here is a hyperlink to the Speakeasy Brewery website: 
     • Speakeasy Ales & Lagers   
     Soft Pretzel Dough:
     This recipe yields about 10 medium size soft pretzels or 1 giant soft pretzel +2 medium size pretzels!  
     This dough recipe can be doubled, but the more dough that is made, the stronger the mixer has to be!
     The soft pretzel dough recipe is a standardized recipe that has very little variation.  There are many soft pretzel dough recipes in books and the internet, but they are all nearly the same.
     Todays recipe is written for a steel gear driven high capacity mixer with a dough hook.  A big heavy kitchen countertop model Kitchenaid Mixer or Hobart Mixer is best.  Pretzel dough is thick enough to strip plastic gears on a cheap mixer.
     Salt controls yeast production in a dough recipe.  The higher the amount of salt, the more that the yeast will be tamed.  Pretzel dough requires a higher than average amount of salt, in order to produce a dense texture. 
     Combine 3/4 cup of water with 3/4 cups of whole milk in a sauce pot.
     Heat the liquid to 112ºF.
     Pour the liquid into a high capacity electric mixer bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of dried yeast or 2 tablespoons of fresh yeast.
     Allow the yeast to activate.
     Add 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.
     Add 4 1/2 cups of bread flour.  (All purpose flour can be used too.)
     Allow the flour to float like an island on top of the liquid. 
     Place 2 teaspoons of fine ground Kosher Salt on the flour island.
     Let the mixture stand for about 5 minutes, till the yeast starts to feed on the flour and sugar.  Gas bubbles will appear.
     Place the mixer bowl on the mixer.
     Place a dough hook on the mixer.
     Add 3 tablespoons of melted unsalted Plugra Butter or Irish Butter.  (Plugra and Irish Butter contain no water.)
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil or a flavored oil of your choice.  
     Set the mixer to a medium low speed.
     Let the mixer do the work!
     When the dough achieves a thick heavy texture and the dough is pliable, tit will gather on the dough hook and it will pull away from the mixer bowl. 
     Turn the dough out onto a flour dusted countertop.
     Knead the dough for 1 minute.  
     Gather the dough and place it in a sealed container.
     Chill the dough for 1 to 2 hours.  This will slow the yeast and it will help to elasticize the dough.  Pretzel dough is easier to work when it is chilled.
     Follow the Soft Pretzel Making Steps below to finish the pretzels. 
     Alien Mustard:
     This recipe yields about 1 cup!  
     Place 1/2 cup of Smooth German Deli Style Mustard in mixing bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of wasabi powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/2 cup of agave nectar.  (Alien Honey!)
     Mix the ingredients together.

     Rémoulade Louisiane:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups! 
     Place 3/4 cup of mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/3 cup of organic catsup.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely minced gherkin dill pickle or cornichon.
     Add 6 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 3 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced shallot.
     Add 1 teaspoon of worcestershire sauce.
     Add 2 tablespoons of Creole Mustard or dijon mustard.
     Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Add 2 tablespoons of French Herbs de Provence.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of Spanish paprika.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced curly leaf parsley. 
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Chill the sauce for 20 minutes before serving.

     Cajun Spice Mix:
     This recipe yield enough Cajun blackening spice for about 5 medium size soft pretzels!  
     All of the herbs should be dried herbs!
     Place 1/2 tablespoon of onion powder into a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder.
     Add 4 tablespoons paprika.
     Add 4 tablespoons of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of black pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of white pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sea salt.
     Add 1 teaspoon of thyme.
     Add 1 teaspoon of tarragon.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of basil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of marjoram.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of ground celery seed.
     Mix the ingredients together.

     Garam Masala Spice Mix:
     This recipe yields enough to flavor about 5 medium size soft pretzels!
     Place 1/4 cup of Garam Masala spice mix in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of onion powder.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ground ginger.  
     Add 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.
     Mix the ingredients together.

     Egg Wash:
     Place 3 large eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of water.
     Whisk till blended.

     Follow These Soft Pretzel Making Steps:  
     1.  Pretzel Dough must be chilled, before shaping. 

     2. Soft Pretzel Dough is very forgiving, so it can be reworked several times.  Practice makes perfect, when shaping pretzels.

     3. The dough is rolled into long thick rope shapes by hand.  A dough rope that is almost 1/2" thick and 16" to 18" long is enough for 1 medium size soft pretzel.  A 2 1/2" wide rope that is 3 1/2' long is enough for a giant pretzel.

     4. The standard Ribbon Bow Shape is best for pretzels.

     5. After the pretzel dough is shaped, every point where the dough overlaps must be firmly pinched together, so the pretzel shape does not separate or fall apart when the pretzel os boiled.  

     6. There is a trick to boiling soft pretzels that makes this process easier.  It is best to shape the pretzel dough, then place the shaped pretzels in a freezer till the dough nearly becomes solid.  This will help to retain the pretzel shape when the pretzels are boiled for a brief time!

     7. Bring 2 to 3 gallons of water to a gentle boil in a wide deep pot or braising pot.  The water for boiling pretzel should be moderately salted.  Baking Soda is a salt.  A little bit of baking soda can be added, but Kosher Salt does the same thing.  About 1/2 tablespoon of Kosher Salt per gallon is plenty.  The water should be at a gentle tepid boil.

     8. Only poach 1 or 2 pretzels at a time or 1 giant pretzel at a time.  Poaching individually is the best way to maintain control.

     9. After boiling, a long handled wide flat wire screen fryer net skimmer is best for removing the pretzels from the hot water.  Wielding a giant pretzel requires some improvised ingenuity! 

     10. Place the boiled pretzels on a parchment paper lined baking pan.  Be sure to brush the parchment paper with vegetable oil.  

     11. While the poached doughy pretzels are hot, any damage can be repaired.  If the dough shape shrank in size, it can be gently stretched back out.  

     12. All excess water must be drained off of the baking pan.

     13. The pretzels can now be brushed with egg wash.  

     14. After the egg wash just starts to dry and the pretzel surface becomes sticky, that is the time to sprinkle Coarse Kosher Salt, Cajun Spice Mix or Garam Masala Spice Mix over the pretzels.

     15. Baked the pretzels in a 450º oven till they turn golden brown and the internal temperature reaches at least 190º.  A giant pretzel takes more time to bake.    

     16. Allow the pretzels to cool for a few minutes on a cooling rack.
     17. Pop the pretzels off of the oiled parchment paper.

     18. Arrange the soft pretzels on serving platters.  Garnish the platters.  Serve the Remoulade and Alien Mustard in wide ramekins. 

     19. Serve the soft pretzels while they are warm! 

     Viola!  Hand crafted soft pretzels for Octoberfest!  

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