Soft Pretzels

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Now I have been baking a bit this year, but I have been in comfort baking mode. What’s that mean? It means I’ve been spending time on classic favorites of mine. Oatmeal raisin cookies. Chocolate chip cookies. Banana bread. Matcha mochi. Pretty much just those — things I’ve made plenty of times before, so I haven’t had new recipes to share. Hence my excuse for not posting.

But with these pretzels here, well, it was my first time baking pretzels, and I’m so happy that I have something new to bake and share about.

The idea sparked when I ran into an old coworker not too long ago, someone I get along well with because of our mutual love for baking. So naturally, our conversation led to baking, and she mentioned how every now and then she’ll treat her family to homemade fresh baked pretzels. Wow, a treat indeed. My mouth instantly salivated at the sound of that, so I had to try it myself.

And despite my amateur pretzel rolling skills, I have to say, they turned out pretty darn well. They weren’t too fussy of a recipe, and I can see this making its way into my list of comfort baked goods.

This has rekindled my desire to continue baking new things! Now I’m brainstorming all the wonderful things I can do with yeast. For a huge bread lover like me, this journey of bread making is gonna be fun.

Soft Pretzels

Ingredients:
2 packets (4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (about 100 degrees F)
5 cups flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
1/4 cup kosher salt, for topping

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in the warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes.
2. Prepare stand mixer with dough hook attachment. In the mixer bowl, mix together dry ingredients — flour, rest of sugar, and salt.
3. Add the oil and yeast mixture, then turn on mixer to low speed (2/4) and let the mixer do the work for you. Make sure the mixture isn’t too dry. You can add in tablespoons of water if it is. Let mixer knead for about 7 minutes until dough is smooth.
4. Lightly oil a large bowl, and place the dough in the oiled bowl, turning to coat with oil. Cover this with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size. When in a warm place, this should take about an hour.
5. After dough has risen, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line baking sheets with Silpat.
6. In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in 4 cups hot water.
7. Take risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. (See this video for pointers! I made mine without the middle twist, but I’m also a pretzel newb.) After all the dough is shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda-hot water solution and place pretzels on baking sheets. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
8. Bake in preheated oven until browned, about 7 minutes.

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Categories: Recipes

Lemon Curd Matcha Cake

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Y’all must know by now how I can’t resist helping with parties, especially showers. Last month Cheryl and I threw a joint baby shower for two of our friends expecting within a month of each other, and it turned out to be simple get-together sharing small bites among good company. Cheryl’s DIY decorations were a lovely touch for the relaxed event, and she’s posted tips on making floral arrangements like the ones seen here.

Originally I planned on purchasing all the food for the shower, but my hands itched to make something, and I gave in. I based this cake off a recipe I found on the back of a box of cake flour my mother-in-law gave me to try, and the lemon and matcha pairing was inspired by the mothers-to-be. Both May and Tina love matcha flavored desserts, and Tina is a huge fan of the color yellow. Remember her sunny bridal shower? Can’t believe that was already two years ago!

So how did the cake turn out? I’m typically extremely critical of my own baked goods, but this cake I loved. Between its fluffy texture and the marriage of flavors, it’s a definite keeper of a recipe. Well, except for the chunky frosting (notes on the frosting below say that it will appear curdled if there’s not enough butter), the cake still tasted great.

Congratulations to all our friends having babies! Among our friends, it feels like we’ve been averaging a birth a week! It’s such an exciting time, and it’s so much fun seeing your families grow.

p.s. And Happy Anniversary to my dear husband Tim. Four years ago, we shared a matcha cake similar to this one, and to this date, that day is still the best day of my life. I love you!

[continue for Lemon Curd Matcha Cake recipe]

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Categories: Recipes

Kolaches

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Being March 2.. y’all must be excited for today! Why? Well, it’s Texas Independence Day! It’s been a tradition of mine to celebrate the day, which really just means proclaiming it to the world. And occasionally I’ll bake some Texas-themed things too.

This year I’m proud to share with you this kolache recipe. Kolaches are pillowy pastries of dough wrapped or filled with fruits or some kind of sausage. The ones I’ve had growing up in Houston are almost always savory, but since then my view of kolaches has expanded to include the traditionally sweet Czech version. I’m accepting of the sweet kind, but I’m still quite partial to the savory version.

Just like beignets, I can’t seem to find kolaches readily available in the north outside of the south. And also like the beignets, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make them myself. After reading through several recipes, I chose one that was featured in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times back in 2001. With an article named “Perfect Kolaches” and a recipe called “Grandma Rosie’s Kolaches,” how could I not? Turns out they’re mighty close to the kolaches I’m used to eating back home, and I’m ever grateful for Grandma Rosie for sharing her secret recipe with us. This recipe worked out wonderfully as a savory pastry, and I’m sure it’d be just as great for a sweet kolache too.

[continue for kolache recipe]

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Categories: Recipes

Beignets

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Happy Mardi Gras! In honor of Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, I made beignets straight from the box! Even though it’s from a box, I assure you this is completely legit stuff since I brought it back from New Orleans just last month.

On my recent visit to New Orleans, I sampled some great eats, including my own tasting of beignets from Cafe Du Monde and Cafe Beignet. Maybe it was the time of day of the visit that made the difference, but Cafe Beignet’s beignets were immensely better than those of Cafe du Monde. That made it easy for me to choose whose mix I would bring back to make at home.

Beignets aren’t hard to make nor even time-consuming, so I wonder why there aren’t more beignet offerings up here in the north. Now I can make them whenever I get the craving, and whenever my stash of beignet mix runs out (probably not too long from now), I’ll follow up with a beignet recipe made from scratch.

[continue reading for beignet recipe]

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Categories: Briefs, Recipes

Persimmon Mochi

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I often wonder how my blogger friends do it. Juggle all the responsibilities they have in life with managing a successful blog posting beautiful and creative material frequently as well as keep up socially with friends/culture/news. And working out? Sigh. I’ve tried to do it all, but I know I can’t. I don’t think man or woman was created to do it all, but that doesn’t stop us from trying.

So what have I been up to lately? I’m going through a transition at work due to an exciting acquisition, I’ve been cooking and baking using old recipes, and I finally finished roughly 10 months of deaconate training. Yes, this Sunday I will be installed as a member of my church’s Deaconate Team. It’s crazy because I initially didn’t want to accept the nomination. I didn’t want the title because I enjoyed serving as I had already been doing. But I was challenged by the elders and deacons to consider the accountability and responsibility that comes with the title not as a burden but as a means to grow in my faith. Blimey. Couldn’t argue with that. So I said yes to the training, and now, 10 months later, I do feel God calling me to this position. I learned so much through the training process, and I’m sure I’ll learn even more by serving alongside a great group of people. I’m definitely looking forward to it.

This persimmon mochi fits in with the thought I started with. It never amazes me when bloggers consistently produce new baking or cooking material. I post a variation on another recipe, and I feel so unoriginal. But in the end, it’s still part of my journey in experimenting with recipes and applying tweaks here and there. I added in a cup of persimmon puree to my butter mochi recipe, and here’s what came out. I couldn’t make up my mind about adding in spices until after it was already in the oven, so I dusted the mochi with cinnamon and powdered sugar for added flavor. Fortunately, the mochi recipe turned out well, and I’m happy to share it with you now.

[continue for Persimmon Mochi recipe]

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Categories: Recipes