Posts Tagged ‘oatmeal’

Meister

Honey Oat Pretzel

Honey Oat Pretzel

I never developed a taste for beer. This is kind of a shame, as I find the art of beer making fascinating. Why wouldn’t I? Beer making—the art of the brew meister—is really close to baking. They create recipes the same way I do. (That Autumn Pumpkin Pilsner didn’t just “happen” you know.) We both use yeast too, and I do love my yeast.

No, this blog isn’t about making beer at home. That brings to mind The Three Stooges, but there‘s only one of me (although clearly my barber and Curly’s went to the same school.) Supposedly my grandfather made his own root beer, something not uncommon in his day, so someday maybe I’ll give that a shot.  For now I will stick with what I know which is…uh, oh yeah: baking.

I was flipping through one of the many food magazines out there (I forget which) and saw an article about making pretzels. My immediate thought was that this would be a fun thing to do.

Then I read the article.

They were writing was about making “real” pretzels, and required boiling them in water spiked with food-grade lye (“…available in some Asian markets.”) Now, I don’t mind a complicated recipe (ok, within limits) and I don’t mind hiking down to an Asian market—not a tough chore here in New York—but I wanted and expected something more along the lines of, “Hmmm, I think I’ll make pretzels / abracadabra they’re done / break open some brewskies.”

Food-grade lye? Seriously?

I should explain my love of the pretzel. My dad was hooked on the big, unsalted ones that came in a box. They were hard as rocks, and for my Pop, I think the charm was in their granite crunch. I seem to recall that he also liked to chew ice cubes. Yes, his Dentist had battle fatigue. I think of my dad when I eat pretzels, and this is likely why I reach for pretzels when I have agita.

Then, there was The Great Pretzel Obsession of 1995. I remember it like it was yesterday: a couple of friends and I were hooked on honey oat pretzels, although I’m vague on the brand: Bachman’s, Rold Gold, or were they Snyders? They had just a hint of sweetness, and just a touch of salt. It was hard to not mindlessly eat a whole bag in one sitting. Hard, but not impossible. Ahem.

I thought it might be fun to reference that slightly sweet, slightly salty character in something I could make at home. No, my home kitchen cannot produce the crunch of a big commercial oven, but what I can do is better: something chewy and warm from the oven.

Soft, baked pretzels are a traditional big city item. Many years before food trucks my Mom bought me a soft, baked pretzel from a street cart on my first visit to New York. I actually remember that it was burnt and not very good. But its pull-apart chewiness had enough charm to last several blocks before the burnt parts and my undeveloped childhood attention span caused me to lose interest. (Thus, I was introduced to my first New York City trash can.)

A basic Fleischmann’s Yeast recipe for pretzels was my starting point; a bit of doctoring introduced a good shot of honey, and, because oats tend to dissolve into bread dough, I used oat bran for a bit of grainy texture.

I passed on anything even resembling a boiling step, and went straight to baking my little coiled delights. A little brush of egg wash helped them brown beautifully and helped the restrained dusting of sea salt stay put.

I’m not much of a drinker—this would perhaps disqualify me as a brew meister—but warm from the oven with a stein of Boylan’s Diet Root Beer these pretzels make a quiet night in front of the TV into a real party.

But, hey, that still makes me a beer and pretzels guy.

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Here’s the recipe for Honey Oat Pretzels

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Write to me at the email address below with any questions or thoughts you may have. Thanks!

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Angel

Coconut Oatmeal Nutella Cookies

Coconut Oatmeal Nutella Cookies

As this is a blog devoted to that magic mixture of eating/baking/cooking/eating I wouldn’t blame you for seeing the title of this story and assuming that it is about Angel Food Cake. Apologies: there’s none of that spongy, pure-as-the-driven-snow cake this week, although there is an egg-less cookie. But more about that in just a moment.

I don’t think of myself as angelic; does anyone? But I have a friend who just made it easy for me to be an angel – and I’m still very much alive (last time I checked, anyway.) My friend Brian Hampton is a playwright of some note. He has written two plays which have been successfully produced all around the country. His first, a play named “Checking In” is about a small group of high school friends who reunite for a weekend in Atlantic City ten years or so after graduation.

This play is kind of like his first born child, so he feels a great deal of attachment to it. That’s why he wants to adapt it for the screen and produce it as an independent film. I told him years ago to sell it to Lifetime Movies for TV, but I think he just doesn’t have the stomach to sign away control of his baby and watch Valerie Bertinelli play a 28 year old.

(Who am I to judge? If they made a Butter Flour Eggs movie they’d try to cast Richard Deacon as me – if he weren’t, shall we say, otherwise engaged. But I think if the script is good enough, perhaps Matt Damon would be available? Why are you laughing?)

ANYWAY, I am now an angel, but in the old show biz meaning of the word: a backer, a patron of the arts, a philanthropist. Stereotypically these folks were old ladies who thought of themselves as artistically astute, but as with so many other things, the internet has not only flattened the playing field, it has built a whole new stadium. I am speaking of Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is a new venue for artists and entrepreneurs to put their ideas in front of the public and get them the funding they need to turn their ideas into reality. This is the link to Brian’s Kickstarter profile if you’re interested, but I also recommend the site as a good read.

His other fundraising idea – and the reason we’re here today – is that he is throwing a Prom. Yes, a prom as in: rented tuxedos and sneakers. Like any good benefit there is a raffle planned, and that’s where I (and the cookies) come in. I’ve been asked to prepare a Butter Flour Eggs sweets basket that will go to the highest bidder. Cookies for sale! Going, going, gone…

Keeping with the prom / high school theme my mind went to school lunch – my high school held its proms in the cafeteria, decorated for the night with a special theme. (I think the theme my year was Venice, as I have a foggy memory of one of my less graceful classmates puncturing the cellophane “water” that filled the canals with her stiletto heel. Doh!)

My usual brown bag lunch was some kind of sandwich, so I’m rolling out the sandwich cookies for the prom. Among the planned choices I’m making are PB&J’s, a simple square shortbread cookie filled with the obvious. Kitschy, yes?

The other cookie idea is inspired by a recent walk around midtown Manhattan when I happened on the Street Sweets truck , one of the great trucks roaming New York with upscale sweets that, during my walk, I couldn’t resist. One “Macarella” later I was hooked. Yes, the “Macarella” sounds like a late nineties line dance, but actually it’s a cookie. Two crunchy, pancake-flat coconut macaroons with a layer of Nutella in the middle. That is my inspiration for the second sandwich cookie.

Copycat? Not quite. I wanted a softer cookie to go with the oozing smoosh of Nutella. The big, crunchy macaroons made the Nutella leak all over my hands. A softer cookie will keep the Nutella off the raffle winner’s fancy Prom clothes. The actual cookie recipe – as previously mentioned made without eggs – is an old World War One recipe called ANZAC Biscuits (ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps.) The lack of eggs helped the cookies stay fresh longer.

No, smart aleck, I wasn’t around then, I found the recipe in a cookbook. My contributions? Baking a slightly smaller cookie to use as a sandwich, and substituting sweetened coconut for the original recipe’s dried coconut to make the cookies soft and chewy.

Nutella is very cool again, and yes, it’s good stuff, but I just saw a TV commercial for it that claimed it can be part of a healthy breakfast. Listen, it’s yummy, but let’s be honest: nutritionally it’s not much better than frosting in a can. Don’t give it to your kids for breakfast.

Save it to stuff my cookies.

By the way, I do have a groovy After Prom Party planned. It goes something like this: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

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Click here for the recipe for Coconut Oatmeal Nutella Sandwiches.

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Write to me at the email address below with any questions or thoughts you may have. Thanks!

Let me email you when the blog has been updated! Opt in by clicking the biscotti at right or by sending your email address to michael@butterfloureggs.com

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