Because A Friday Treat is the Perfect Way to End the Week!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Soft Pretzels

This week we’re talking soft pretzels. I thought it would be nice to have a change from the usual cakes and biscuits, so as a result, have decided to venture into the world of savoury baked goods...for this week at least.

I personally was first introduced to the soft pretzel many years ago on my family’s first visit to the USA. We went to Disney World, Florida and it seemed as though it was compulsory for there to be a pretzel stand at least every 100 yards. We’ve visited more than a few times and we seem to enjoy a giant soft pretzel at least once every visit. Family pretzel time!

Saying all this though, I have since seen them in pretty much all of the major shopping centres at home too!

Saying all this though, I have since seen them in pretty much all of the major shopping centres at home too!

Crispy, soft, buttery and salty, these pretzels are sure to be a favourite with any carbohydrate lover (aka any normal human being). Traditionally eaten dipped in mustard, I’ve also included a sweet option for those who really have to have a sweet on their Treat Friday! 

Now there are quite a few different steps to this recipe but don’t let that put you off! I haven’t made them in a while and when I dug up the recipe for this week, even I had a moment of ‘well, I’m not sure if I can be bothered will all of that!’ BUT it is so worth and not that difficult when it comes down to it. Probably the most irritating and by far the most fiddly part of the recipe is the shaping of the pretzels themselves. Also, with having to wait for the dough to rise for at least an hour, they’re not going to be made in a hurry. If you follow the steps below however, they’ll be great in the end!

Some final tips before you get started:
  • If you have a freestanding mixer with a dough hook, your life is going to be so much easier with this recipe! It’s pretty much a case of putting it all in the bowl and just timing how long it needs to knead for. It can of course be done by hand, it just requires a little bit of effort!
  • Kneading your dough for at least 10 minutes is KEY. I speak from experience having tried to make this recipe at 9pm last night after just getting in from work and the gym. I was very lazy and couldn’t really be bothered to knead for that long....I ended up with a lump of dough that wouldn’t rise. It went in the bin and I had to get up at 6am this morning to have another go. You have been warned.
  • Traditionally, plain pretzels are left just salted. Lovely. As I said though, they’re great sweet with a cinnamon sugar covering. I’ve used that left over from the Jam Doughnut Muffins we made several weeks ago. You can find the recipe for the sugar here. Just brush melted butter over the baked pretzels and cover with sugar. 
Soft Pretzels (From Rachel Allen’s Bake)

600g Plain Flour
1 tsp. Fast-Acting Yeast
2 tbsp. Soft Light Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
1 tbsp. Vegetable Oil
375ml Warm Tap Water

75g Bicarbonate of Soda
1 Litre Water
1 Egg Mixed with 1 tbsp. Water

1)      Mix the flour, yeast, light brown sugar and salt together in a large bowl or in a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook.
2)      In a measuring jug, mix together the warm tap water and vegetable oil. If using a freestanding mixer, slowly add to the dry ingredients running the mixer at a low speed. If mixing by hand, make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, pour in the water and oil, slowly bring together until combined.
3)      Knead the dough for at least 10 minutes until you have a smooth, firm dough that springs back when pressed. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn until the dough is coated in oil. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave in a warm place for 1-3 hours until it has doubled in size.
4)      Preheat the oven to 230◦C and line several baking trays with greaseproof paper.
5)      Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, punch out the excess air and divide into 10-14 equal pieces.  Roll each one into a thin rope and shape into a pretzel (see pictures above). Place on the baking sheets, cover and allow to rise for another 10-20 minutes.
6)      In a large, shallow saucepan bring 1 litre of water to a boil and dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in it. Place each pretzel in the boiling water and poach for 30 seconds on each side (don’t poach more than 3 at a time, use a slotted spoon to turn). Drain and return to the baking trays. Brush each pretzel with the egg wash and sprinkle the savoury pretzels with sea salt crystals.
7)      Bake for 8 minutes, turning halfway so both sides are crisp, until golden brown. For the sweet pretzels, while still warm, brush with warm golden syrup or honey and sprinkle this with cinnamon sugar.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Lemon Drizzle Loaf Cake

This week we’re talking about lemons and how they seem to be one of the best ingredients available when it comes to baking. Several weeks ago we made lemon Viennese whirls which were lovely but also gave me a craving for something that I haven’t made in a long while – lemon drizzle cake. Now we all know that I love to include fruit in my baking wherever possible, with the combination of sweet and tart flavours being my favourite and let’s be honest, nobody does this better than the lemon.

Lemon drizzle cake however, does not just have excellent flavour. It also has the most amazing texture with the lemon syrup making it incredibly moist, sticky and just generally amazing. I’m really hyping this up today, aren’t I?

Anyway, lemon drizzle cake is generally a huge favourite in my house and has been requested several times over the past few weeks. So here it is! I did consider writing some recipes for edible gifts considering its Valentine’s Day but thought that 1) this will automatically just annoy some people and 2) that my boyfriend would then know what I’m making for part of his gift. So yes, I’ve avoided that but if you do plan on making something there are plenty of great gift recipes available online at the typical addresses; BBC Good Food, Delicious Magazine, Food Network etc. Yes, it’s a lot easier to go out and buy for example, a box of chocolates but making them yourself just adds that personal touch.

Back to the lemon drizzle cake however, I make mine in a loaf tin because the shape and size of it really allows the syrup to distribute evenly throughout the cake. I’ve made it as a sheet cake before and it was basically just a bit too soggy once the syrup was added. This recipe obviously has the temperature and cooking time appropriate to a loaf tin so I suggest you use the same!

Some final tips before you get started:
  • When it comes to zesting any kind of fruit, the only thing you need is a flat, mini-grater, such as that in the picture above. I’ve used all kinds of kitchen gadgets for this purpose before and this really is the most effective. So if you haven’t got one, invest! It’s worth it.
  • When it comes to lining a loaf tin, don’t bother messing around with trying to get the baking or greaseproof paper to fit all sides of the tin exactly. I just cut out one long strip that just covers the base of the tin and the two short sides. Make sure there is an overhang of paper at each end so that once your cake has cooked and cooled, you can just run a knife along the long edges and use the flaps of paper at the end to lift out your cake. Simple.
  • I use a BBQ skewer to puncture the holes in my cake to let the syrup do its drizzly thing but anything sharp and pointy will do. Just try not to get carried away and tear the thing to shreds.
Lemon Drizzle Loaf Cake

225g Unsalted Butter, softened
225g Golden Caster Sugar
4 Eggs
Zest of 2 Lemons
175g Self-Raising Flour
50g Ground Almonds

For the Syrup:
Juice of 2 Lemons
85g Icing Sugar

24cm loaf tin, greased and lined

1)      Preheat the oven to 180◦C. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs and mix until combined.
2)      Sieve the flour into the butter, sugar and egg mixture, add the ground almonds and lemon zest. Stir to combine.
3)      Spoon the batter into the tin and level the top with a spoon. Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
4)      Immediately mix together the lemon juice and icing sugar in a saucepan and warm over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Insert a skewer into the warm cake to create multiple holes before pouring the lemon syrup over the top of the cake. Leave in the tin to cool completely.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Oat and Raisin Cookies

This week you’ll notice that it’s biscuits again. I know we’ve been a little biscuit-heavy recently but these were specifically requested and I always aim to please. You’ll probably also notice that this week, it actually is a Treat Friday, rather than last week’s Treat Saturday. Well done me!

So on to the biscuits themselves – they have to be one of my all time favourites. While I’m a big biscuit fan in general, these are just the ones for me. If it came to a competition between oat and raisin cookies and chocolate chip cookies, I’d say “get those chocolate chips out of my face” every time. So I like them. Got that?

When it comes to the practicalities of making and baking them, they’re pretty much straight forward! No piping techniques or fillings required. You could get picky and try to make them all exactly the same size and shape but let’s be honest, no sane person ever said no to a cookie because it was the wrong shape! I’ve used raisins in my recipe but if you’re not a huge fan then you can definitely substitute for the dried fruit of your choice; cranberries would be good, as would dried apple. My point is that again, it’s one of those recipes you can adapt to your taste as long as you stick to the measurements provided. The only thing that I would say on the topic really is that I’d probably avoid substituting for chocolate. Once again, I know I have very little (no) control over what you do but a sweet, chocolate cookie is just not what we’re trying to do here.

Right, I’m off to pack for a weekend in the North...while eating the majority of these cookies. I’m technically supposed to be taking them up with me but when it comes to these, I have no self control. Oh well!

Some Final Tips Before You Get Started:
  • The end mixture is fairly dry so don’t panic if you think it’s gone wrong. I just smoosh it together a bit when I’m making the mounds for the cookie sheet. If the mixture was any wetter, the biscuits probably wouldn’t hold together as well, seeing as they’re fairly gooey once cooked anyway.
  • I’ve given a suggested cooking time of 12-15 minutes. As you would guess, cooking for 12 minutes gives you slightly gooey-er cookies whereas 15 minutes make them crunchy. Again, it’s all about your preference.

Oat and Raisin Cookies
Makes 20

175g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
160g Light Brown Sugar
130g Caster Sugar
1 Large Egg
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 tbsp. Golden Syrup
170g Rolled Oats
160g Plain Flour
¾ tsp. Baking Powder
¾ tsp. Bicarbonate of Soda
¼ tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Ground Cinnamon
170g Raisins

1)      Preheat the oven to 190◦C, line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Cream together the butter, light brown sugar and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the egg, vanilla extract and golden syrup until well combined.
2)      In a separate bowl, combine the oats, flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
3)      Stir the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture and stir until just combined. Add and stir in the raisins until evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
4)      Drop evenly sized mounds of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between mounds. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.