Food Challenge Recipe 22: Soft Baked Pretzels

I hadn’t deliberately set out to make theme park food so much, during this challenge, but when you’ve got 52 recipes to make and you love eating park food, then why not?!

Gary and I decided we wanted to make pretzels a while back, and found a recipe (they’re all about the same anyway) but we saw it takes a long time to make them so decided to wait until we had a whole day free. Which was a good thing. Pretzels are HARD.

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You start with the dry ingredients

  • 600g of strong white flour (sifted)
  • 1 level tsp of fast acting yeast
  • 2 tbsp of soft light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

You mix this together. Then create a well and slowly add liquid (375ml warm water, with 1 tbsp of vegetable oil mixed into it)

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Mix this together to create a dough that’s not too dry and not too sticky. I had to add more flour as mine was way too sticky.

You knead this for 10 minutes by stretching it out and folding it back on itself.

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After the 10 minutes your dough should spring back when you push a finger into it.

The dough goes into an oil lined bowl and has to prove in a warm, dry place for 1-3 hours, or until it’s doubled in size.

We left ours near the airing cupboard, with clingfilm over top and a towel loosely wrapped around the bowl. After 2 hours it was almost spilling out of the bowl!

I lined two baking trays and set the oven to fan 210c.

Next the dough has to be split and shaped. I removed it onto a lightly floured surface and punched it down, and then knead lightly. I then divided it into 10 pieces which I covered whilst I shaped each piece. I think I should have cut it into 14 bits though, to make the pretzels a little thinner.

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To shape, you roll the piece into a long snake, no thicker than a pencil (I found this really hard because the dough kept springing back…)

Then you twist it around and stick the ends to the shape using a little water.

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Not the easiest task. Once they were all shaped, I had to leave them for 10-20 minutes (I think I went for 15!) sat on their tray and covered.

Next is a step I’m assured you must not miss out, because this is what gives the pretzels their shiny brown crust.

You bring 1 litre of water to the boil in a large pan, add 75g of bicarb and dissolve it. Then on barely a simmer, you carefully place up to 3 pretzels into the water for 30 seconds on each side, before removing to their tray.

This was really hard. The shapes fell apart on moving them, and then flipping them in the water. They looked like poops when they came out of the solution….

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Two trays of wet pretzel-ish shaped lumps later…. I sprinkled salt on top of one tray and left the other plain for sugar and cinnamon afterwards.

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The recipe said to bake for 8-10 minutes. My oven runs hot, so I always go for the shortest time and then test. The recipe also said to turn half way through, but this was impossible…..

After 8 minutes I could see the pretzels were mostly cooked, but still had a little raw dough in the very middles, so I carefully flipped them over as much as I could and left them back in the oven for about 2-4 minutes. I kept testing them until I got bored and decided they were cooked enough.

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As much as they had lost their shape somewhat in the dipping stage, they actually looked okay when they came out of the oven. Nice and brown, with a lovely crust.

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Somewhat thicker than we’d hoped though. We sprinkled the cinnamon sugar on top of the second batch and moved the whole lot to the cooling tray.

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We left them to mostly cool, and then both decided to try a sweet pretzel.

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The inside was soft and light, and it tasted like a pretzel! I was kind of impressed!

We left them to cool before putting them in tins, but here was where we discovered that these have absolutely NO shelf life. Even before we got them in the tins, the tops of them looked like they were wrinkling, almost curdling. It was so strange.

I took one to work the next day to eat as a snack, and it was definitely not the same as it had been the day before.

My verdict is, if you want a pretzel, pay the money for a pretzel. These are time-consuming and difficult and need a very specific level of skill to make them correctly. I don’t think we’ll be making them again, but I’m glad we tried even though they went weirdly bad very fast.

I give this recipe 6/10

Food Challenge Recipe 13: Flapjacks!

The week I made these flapjacks it was my other half’s birthday and I had a week off. And he happened to request I made them – he loves flapjacks and I’d never made them before, but they looked pretty easy so I said yes!

For my American readers (you probably already know this, but….) flapjacks in the UK are not pancakes, but a baked sweet rolled oat-based square.

Happily, these flapjacks ended up being Vegan!

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I started with 175g of Vitalite (vegan sunflower spread) which I melted slowly on a low/medium heat.

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Then I added 175g of soft brown sugar, and 175ml of golden syrup.

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You’ve got to heat and stir this until all the sugar grains are dissolved.

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Then you take this off the heat and stir in 350g of porridge oats.

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I stirred half the oats in to coat and then the other half, just to ensure everything was coated properly.

I then pressed the mixture into a 20×20 cm pan which has been lined and greased, and pop into an oven at 150c for 25-30 mins.

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The top will be turning golden brown. I left the bake inside the tray until it was completely cool. At which point lifted the whole thing out using the sides of the paper, and I cut it into squares. I made about 16 squares.

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These flapjacks passed my husband’s taste test, and he even took some into work for his vegan workmates to enjoy! Being dairy-free I know what’s like to have to pass on all the goodies people bring into work, so it’s always nice to be able to say yes to a sweet treat now and then!

I give this recipe 10/10!

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The Dark….. it’s Rather Dark

I’m aware I’ve been blogging less over the last month, and it’s mainly due to the move and my schedule changing due to having more to do. But the clocks changing has made such a difference. Every year I have a shock when they change and every year I’m surprised by how much I can’t get back into sync with my daily goings on.

Guys, the dark – it’s really very dark……. I don’t know why this has shocked me this year. I guess because for the first time I have a pastime which needs me to be outside. Once I get home and it’s dark I don’t wanna go back out. Plus – it’s cold! Running in the dark is one thing but when the air’s also dry boy does it make your chest hurt. We’re currently training for a 10k – Movember is upon us and my team at work are taking part in a charity 10k for the cause. Training has been much harder since the weather and clocks changed.

So G-Man and I joined a gym. We’re so excited. Not only does the gym have all the stuff we need to train, it also has tennis and badminton courts, indoor and outdoor pools and loads of free classes that I can’t wait to try out. Now we’re joined at the gym I can really see it being possible to train for the MK Half Marathon in March as part of Milton Keynes’ Festival of Running This year’s half marathon was run in the snow so I’m hoping that next year the weather will be a bit better! But 4 visits to the gym a week and I’ll be good and ready. We will also continue to do a long run outside at the weekend so we don’t get too used to the treadmill and can acclimatise to the cold!

Other than the cold weather and the dark, I appear to being coming down with a cold myself, or at least I do every weekend. I wake up on Saturday morning with a streaming and bunged up nose (how is that possible?) and sneezes and can’t shift it until Monday morning. I must be fairly run down, but it’s really making me fed up that my down time is manky. I want to be up and buzzing around and all I want to do is sleep!

The change in weather has also meant a change in eating habits. When it gets colder outside all I want is comfort food. For me that’s anything with potato in it. I made our first roast dinner in our new house with our new oven last weekend. It was super duper yummy. I’ve got a few recipes lined up to make. Things that are quick and filling for the week and then meals I can labour over a little more for the weekend. I’m very much looking at meals that can be made in large quantities that can be used as lunches or extra meals reheated on gym nights. I made this tonight:

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This is turkey and red pepper spiced rice bubbling down. Very tasty and it was enough for 4 people so it was tonight’s dinner and two lunches later in the week. Very nice.

Also, do you remember the cinnamon rolls I made a while back? Well me and a friend Hayley had a brain wave that they might be amazing with Nutella! So I tried them the other day and they came out alright. Not as good as the cinnamon ones but still tasty. I just got the same croissant pasty, slathered it with Nutella and sprinked toasted chopped hazlenuts on top. Rolled the pastry and sliced into the correct number I needed. Baked them in the oven as per the instructions on the pastry packet and they were done!

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Othet than all this I do have some ideas for future blogs, so keep ’em peeled for those. But until then, I’m very much enjoying reading yours – if you follow me and want me to read your blog, feel free to link it in a comment and I’ll hop on over 🙂
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The Big Chill Out

Saturday at 6.30pm began the Big Chill Out. Yes it included a 5k race on Sunday BUT that was my choice 🙂

After work on Saturday, which was my last shift at my current job, we went with some of my work colleagues to the pub over the road and got some food and drinks and had a good natter. It was really chilled and informal and relaxed. Exactly my style. Earlier in the day I’d been given and lovely card, some cookie cutters and a year’s subscription to Runner’s World magazine! They know me well 🙂

On my way home from the meal we stopped into my Mum and Dad’s house. My Dad had just come back home after his spell in hospital and it was so good to see him comfortable and relaxed in his own chair at home.

On Sunday, after our race (which you can read about in my previous blog post) we had to get home a for a bath and then we headed straight out to get some lunch. By this time it was almost 2pm and we were starving, both craving greasy food – bad news! We headed to Buddies Diner and I had sausage and mash with gravy. Perfect post run food – a massive plate of mashed potato was very welcomed! Then we had to do our week’s food shopping and we only had an hour by this time to do it before they shut! But we made it and we headed home and collapsed, both exhausted!

Monday was mostly taken up with the news that it was to be the hottest day of the year and that Kate Middleton was in hospital about to have her baby. The morning had actually been quite chilly but by 11am it was hot. Mum and I decided to have a wander around Woburn town and see what the little shops had to offer, but most of them had either shut down or were closed on Mondays. So after a little mooch we headed into Woburn Abbey. Here we had a scone and a drink and then wondered about the gardens.

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It was so pretty and really really hot.

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By the time we left it was about 31 degrees. On our way out we followed some amazing deer.

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Later in the day they announced that Kate had had a little boy – I was sure it would be a girl! We’re waiting to see them today and hear what the baby is called, but I have my money on Alexander (Alex).  We had some amazing rain for all of 2 minutes last night and so far we’ve had a little thunder and lightning and rain. It’s still humid so I’m hoping for more!

Just before I sign off I want to mention some cakes I made last week, Cinnamon Rolls, using a recipe from Pinterest.

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This was the first time I’ve made them and they were totes amazeballs. You must try them!

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