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Octoberfest Feast: Schweinshaxe, Rotkohl, & Spaetzle + Soft Pretzel Bonus It was time to do an Octoberfest meal even though the weather here in North Georgia is not yet cooperating with fall like temperatures. This meal has a lot of moving parts on the execution and is a great opportunity for team cooking and lends itself to several different German beers – as you will see. The result as you see was graded as 100 % perfection! The final beer selection for the main meal was a Hacker Pschorr – Original Octoberfest Amber Marzen. A picture definition of Schweinshaxe. That skin is so good. And a nice soft pretzel to enjoy. Time to cook So let’s get on with it - as this meal will take about 5 hours plus of preparation, cooking, an occasional detour for having a beer and perhaps even a pre-meal snack. It is a truly a two person cook for best efficiency unless several of the meal elements (pretzels and cabbage) are prepared ahead of time. My favorite saying, with voice of experience to back it up, is that a person cannot cook outside and inside at the same time and not have some element of the cook lack the proper attention. My son and I teamed up for this cook and just let the division of work fall out on its own as we progressed. The whole family cooks together enough that we have a really great kitchen dynamic together. Wife and daughter got to sit this one out. In case you are interested, the interleaved 5 hour time flow works about like this: Take a pre-shift “union break” – have a beer Prepare and get hocks on the boil. Get Big Joe set up for indirect cooking and stabilized at 375 degrees (Of course at this point, I realized I needed to do an ash clean out for this longer higher heat roasting) Prepare pretzel dough and put to rise Take another “union break” – have another beer Prepare red cabbage and get it cooking Remove boiled hocks, do final roasting prep and get cooking on Kamado When dough is ready, make pretzels and put to the bake When pretzels are ready to serve, have a pre-meal appetizer Take another “union break” Make the gravy from the pork stock About 30 minutes before the meat is anticipated to be ready, prepare the spaetzle batter When meat is removed and resting, boil the spaetzle, then do the final pan sauté in butter THEN EAT!!!! The Schweinshaxe This task I adopted in the cook. My biggest pressure challenge to myself was to get the skin perfectly cooked. I hit it 100%. Got these nice knuckles at a local Korean/Asian market. The 4 hocks were just over 12 pounds and were $1.19 a pound. They looked really nice - what a deal! Without starting a religious, regional, or cultural war, I choose the boil, then roast method. I like the ability to impart flavor in the meat with the boil stage. As a starting point this recipe is a good one: https://craftbeering.com/schweinshaxe-bavarian-roasted-pork-knuckle-recipe/ FYI. Instead of placing the aromatics in cheesecloth, I like to put them in a tea ball. In addition to the seasonings indicated in the recipe, we added some dried thyme and juniper berries. First beer up in the rotation both for the cooking pot and cooks treat was a Paulaner Hefe-Weizne. One bottle went in the boiling pot. Since these were larger hocks and fight tightly in the pot (I thought I was going to need my outdoor cooking pot but managed to get them into my large Magnalite) they were boiled for about 1 hour 20 minutes. Then removed and cooled on a sheet pan. After scoring the fat with my Japanese deba, I used a medium sprinkling of Koscher salt on the skin to aid initial drying and crisping on the Kamado. It will get rinsed off a bit with the basting anyway. Reserve the stock for basting and gravy making. Lets's get roasting. I treat the pork interior meat cook like a pulled pork. Probe until tender which is right around the 200 degree mark (give or take). The skin should be hitting the perfect crisping and cracklin texture at about the same time. The cracklin skin will have a sharp click sound when tapped with the tongs as opposed to a dull sound on softer not yet well crisped skin. Move the hocks around in the grill and rotate inside to outside surfaces to get even cooking on skin. I basted the hocks about three times during the cook with the pork stock. After I pulled the smaller ones, I need a bit more skin cook crisping time on the larger ones, so I opened the vent to get more hot air flowing and monitored the temp which eventually climbed to about 425 before I removed the meat. About 5-8 minutes after opening the vents was enough to finalize the skin. I used no flavoring wood – just let the KJ charcoal do its thing. In this case, they roasted about 1H40 minutes for the smaller ones and 1H50 or so for the larger. Don’t forget to make the gravy later from the pork stock. The Soft Bavarian Pretzel Bonus Son is the self-proclaimed baker. So he adopted this task. He had not done pretzels before so he said his challenge was to get them just right in texture and baking. He felt at the end he hit his challenge 100% also. All agreed. What would Octoberfest be without good soft pretzels. This is the bonus in the cook. Take a few minutes and make these pretzels. Here is the recipe we selected: https://whatshouldimakefor.com/bavarian-soft-pretzels/ When they are baked and ready to eat later in the cook they fill a nice niche as an appetizer. The pretzel course demanded a Warsteiner Dunkel as the beer selection. The Rotkohl (Braised Red Cabbage) This was a joint task. This red cabbage, onion, and apple dish to me is a wonderful accompaniment with the pork. Here is a good recipe. Just follow it and you are good to go: https://www.quick-german-recipes.com/recipe-for-red-cabbage.html The cabbage needs an hour or so to cook, thus now is a good time to get it underway. Not much else to say other that don't let it burn in the pot as the liquid disappears.. The Spaetzle I adopted the spaetzle task, but it was easy and less messy in the actual boiling portion with my son loading the batter into the cup on the spätzle maker. This is another excellent traditional accompaniment. Easy to make. Use this recipe https://thestayathomechef.com/grannys-german-spaetzle/ As I had some really jumbo farm-fresh eggs from my neighbor’s relatives, I just used 4 eggs and added a bit more milk. I also double the fine minced parsley. Don’t forget to heavily salt the water. For a homemade spaetzle press, my son suggested the flat cheese grater which we used smooth side up. Perfect hole size and spacing. Needing a ‘cup’ for the batter, I cut a 2 ¾ in long piece of 2 inch diameter PVC pipe. Works quite well. Fill the cup and away you go. When the spaetzle batches are all boiled, rinse and drain. Then sauté in a frying pan in butter with a bit of salt and pepper. Serve with the gravy. Ready to Serve. Happy Octoberfest! Time to enjoy a great family meal. Don't worry, I expect there will (hopefully) be some leftovers.
With Oktoberfest about to start up next week I decided to try my hand at making Soft Pretzels. I was wanting to try this even before Blair (Oly Smokes) and shmick posted theirs but their cooks pushed me even more as these will go great with my “Cook Your Heritage!” Entry. Here are most of the Ingredients: 1 cup Milk (warmed to approx. 105 degrees) 2 tbsp. Sugar 2 tsp. Active Dry Yeast 2 tbsp. Butter Softened 2 1/2 Cups AP Flour 1/2 tsp. Salt + 1 cup Water 1 1/2 tbsp. Baking Soda Pretzel Salt (To Taste) 2 tbsp. Melted Butter YouTube Recipe can be found here: (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYewgtCpmsI) Here are the dough ingredients mixed and proofing. Here it is after proofing for 90 minutes. (Easily doubled in size) Now on my pastry mat pressed down and kneaded for a minute. Formed into a ball and divided into sixth’s. First piece rolled into a rope approximately 22” long. Formed into a U shaped. Twist once and then again and finally take the 2 ends and bring them up to meet the top of the pretzel and lightly pinched. I put the 6 completed pretzels on a tray with parchment paper and took them out to my gas side burner which the water and baking soda solution with I had boiled. I dipped each pretzel in the solution for 10 to 15 seconds per side and then put them on a greased sheet and then placed them on my pizza stone. If I had placed them closer I could’ve gotten all 6 on at once but I wanted some space between them so I only got 5 to start. After they had cooked for 7 minutes I then moved them around a little to make space for the 6th pretzel. And here it is plated with some Horseradish Mustard. Das Wunderbar!
Since it's football season and game day food is definitely on the minds of grill owners, I have decided to show you a game day treat that will absolutely surpass anything you have ever bought in a ball park! You gotta try these pretzel wrapped cheddar brats! Recipe: Pretzel Wrapped Cheddar Brats Pretzel Dough Ingredients: 3 cups all purpose flour 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1 package of active dry yeast 2/3 cup beer 1/2 cup water 1/4 cup vegetable oil Other Ingredients: Johnsonville Cheddar Brats (up to 12 for this recipe) Freshly grated asaigo cheese 6 cups water 2 tablespoons baking soda 1 beaten egg 1 tablespoon water Kosher Salt Directions: Preheat your grill to 400°F. In a saucepan, warm up the beer, water and vegetable oil to about 120°F and set aside. In your mixer bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add the wet ingredients and install the dough hook on your mixer. Mix with the dough hook for about 5 minutes on a medium speed until a dough ball forms and pulls away clean from the side of the mixer bowl. Transfer dough ball into a greased bowl. Cover with plastic and let rise for 60 to 90 minutes until doubled in size. Remove from bowl to floured work surface. Cut dough in half. Cut each half into six equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a rope about 18" long. Wrap the dough rope around each of the cheddar brats. Dissolve the baking soda into the 6 cups of water and bring to a boil in a sauce pan. When you reach a boil, reduce the heat and bathe each wrapped cheddar brat in the water for 60 seconds and set aside. Mix the beaten egg with 1 tablespoon of water and baste each of the cheddar brats with the egg wash mixture. Sprinkle each brat with kosher salt. Grill for 15 to 17 minutes until the pretzel dough is golden brown. During the last two minutes of the cook, grate some fresh asaigo cheese on top. Serve these with some dijon mustard and a cold beer on the side!
Laugenbrezel Cook Time: 20 minutes Total Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes Ingredients: • 1 T. yeast (or 1 package) dissolved for 5 minutes in 1/4 c. warm water and 2 tsp. sugar (proofed) • 4 1/4 c. bread flour • 11/4 c. warm water • 2 tsp. salt • 2 1/2 T. salted butter • Plastic gloves & Safety goggles • 1 oz. food-grade lye, dissolved in 1 quart of water • Salt, large flakes like Kosher salt Preparation: Lye, or caustic soda burns skin and eyes and gloves and safety glasses are recommended when making this pretzel recipe. Not recommended for baking with children (kinder). USE EXTREME CAUTION: Lye is caustic and a 3% solution is considered corrosive. Always use gloves and safety glasses. Wearing long sleeves, pants and close-toed shoes is recommended. Measure the flour into a mixing bowl, add the salt and the proofed yeast and 1 cup of warm water. Mix by hand or with a stand mixer with dough hook until flour mixture comes together into a stiff ball. Add water as needed to form dough. Knead for 5 minutes, let rest for a few minutes and then add the butter and knead for at least 5 more minutes, or until butter is fully incorporated. At this time, the dough should be firm and soft, velvety to the touch. Form into a ball, butter all surfaces and let rise until double, about 1 hour in a warm spot. Wipe up spills with paper towels and dispose immediately. Rinse with water or vinegar. Rinse all utensils and gloves with large amounts of water and wash arms and hands after working with the solution. If you feel anything burning on the skin, rewash with soap and water, rinse and dry. Place wax paper on a baking sheet. Degas the dough (punch down) and divide into 12, 2 ounce pieces. Form into balls. Using very little flour, form balls into 1-foot long strands, thicker in the middle and tapering towards the ends. I use water to make the dough slightly sticky. This helps with shaping. Take each strand and roll out again to form 2-foot strands. Twist into pretzel shape, using a little water again to make the ends stick to the loop. Pretzel bakers can flip pretzels into shape, but I have to coax them. A good, German Brezel is thick and soft in the middle, thin and crunchy but not dry on the arms, or ends and splits the loop of dough into three equal parts. The picture shows amateur pretzels lacking these traits. Place the pretzels on the baking sheet and refrigerate for 1 hour. This dries out the surface and makes them easier to handle. Make the lye solution: Don gloves and goggles. Place 1 quart of water in a plastic or glass container, weigh 1 ounce of food grade or reagent grade sodium hydroxide into a bowl and add slowly to the water, stirring with a plastic spoon or similar object. ALWAYS ADD THE LYE TO THE WATER! For scientists: The lye solution will be approximately 0.75 M NaOH (FW 39.99g/mol) or almost 3% w/w. Remove from refrigerator and dip each for 30 seconds in the lye solution. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on greased or parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle pretzel with salt. Make a deep cut through the thick part of the pretzel horizontally with a razor blade or lamé. Let pretzels rest for 15 minutes. Heat BBQ to 375°F. Bake pretzels for 20-25 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Dispose of lye solution according to county and state hazardous waste regulations.