Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cub Scout Pretzels

This week, we made pretzels in Cub Scouts. And anyone who knows me is probably thinking right now, "I bet Brig just watched an episode of Good Eats on pretzels." And anyone thinking that would be right.

Overall, it went really well. The pretzels browned nicely. They were chewy and soft in the middle and firmer on the outside. The Cubs were able to form their own pretzels, which was fun for them. But...they stuck to the waxed paper that I put on the cookie sheet. And not just a little sticking either. So don't forget to grease your sheet pan.

NOTE: Don't skip the baking soda bath. It helps to make the outsides soft and brown when cooked.

Here's the recipe:

Alton Brown's Soft Pretzels
1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt (You may be able to find this at your local store. Don't use table salt or rock salt. We used Kosher salt due to a lack of pretzel salt, and it worked okay.)

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Making Rope from Plastic Bags

For my first video tutorial, I demonstrate how to make rope out of plastic grocery bags.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hawaiian Sandwiches

This afternoon, a friend asked for ideas on making a can of tuna taste good. I'm probably too late, but I thought I'd share a quick, easy recipe we use tuna for: Hawaiian Sandwiches. Credit for this one goes to my wife and her family, although our family has adopted it heartily. Sometimes though, my boys just eat the cheese on top and leave the rest.

Hawaiian Sandwiches
5 oz can tuna
approx 1/2 c mayo
approx 1 Tbsp mustard
8-10 slices bread
20 oz (approx) can pineapple slices
8-10 slices cheddar cheese

Preheat the broiler to 500F.

In a small bowl, mix the tuna, mayo, and mustard. Place bread slices on a baking sheet. Spread the tuna mixture on 8 to 10 slices of bread. Place one slice of pineapple on each slice of bread, cover with one slice of cheese.

Put sandwiches under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 5 minutes.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Cooking Bread in the Outdoors

Daniel Edwards asked me about my Sourdough AFB: "Do you know how to do this in a Dutch oven? I need to make some of this at a big scouting event (out in the wilderness), and so naturally, we don't have any conventional ovens out there to use..." Unfortunately, he didn't leave an email address in response, so I've put my reply in a new post.

You could do AFB in a dutch oven, but it would take at least two weeks of prepwork just to make the starter. Plus, if you're going to have dough rising overnight anyway I recommend making No-knead Pseudo Sourdough. It has a nice thick crust and a great, but subtle, sourdough taste without the hassle of starters. At the bottom of the linked post, it has directions for outdoor cooking in a dutch oven.

Edit: You could also check Mark's blog for an actual sourdough recipe cooked in a dutch oven.


I recently acquired The Scout's Outdoor Cookbook, and it has a fantastic recipe for "Hungry Hunter's Basic Bread." I've made it several times in the last month or two in both a 12" and a 10" dutch oven in my conventional oven. Here's the recipe, although I highly recommend getting the book:

Hunter's Bread


If you're going to make this outdoors, I recommend mixing all the dry ingredients into a gallon-size zip-top bag while still at home. Don't forget to bring about two cup's worth of extra flour for kneading, or just in case the dough is too wet.

Note: Ingredient list is for a 12" DO)
8 cups all-purpose flour (6 cups for 10" DO)
3 tsp salt (2 tsp for 10")
5 tsp rapid-rise yeast (or two packets) (3 1/2 tsp for 10")
2 cups water, 120 to 130 deg. F (it's pretty darn hot!)

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add water. Stir until too stiff to mix, then knead by hand for 10 minutes. When finished, the dough should be soft and a bit sticky. Add small amounts of flour while kneading to adjust if the dough is too sticky.

Form dough into a smooth-skinned ball and place in a greased 12-inch dutch oven. It is important that the dutch oven isn't cold. Preheat, if required, but only enough to take the chill out of the metal. Turn dough over so the entire dough ball becomes oiled. Cover the oven and place two coals on lid near the edge.

Let dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 45-60 minutes depending on ambient temperature and wind conditions. During this time, keep the oven warm but not hot. The dough ball should fill the oven. Once the dough ball has risen, gently press it down to de-gas it. Remove the dough and carefully reform it into a smooth ball.

Return the dough ball to the warm oven, replace the lid, and replace the two coals with fresh coals. Allow the dough to rise again to about twice its bulk--about 30-45 minutes. It should now fill the oven nearly to the lid. Don't be tempted to add coals to hurry the process.

Once the dough has nearly reached the lid, place 11 fresh coals under the oven in a ring, just inside the edge of the base. Place 21 briquettes on the lid in a ring along the outer edge. Place two more coals in the middle of the lid near the handle. (For a 10" DO, use 9 under, 19 over + 2 in the middle.) Once you can smell the bread, it is almost finished baking. It should take about 35-45 minutes. Take a peek at 35 minutes to see if the top is browned.

Once the bread reaches an internal temperature of 185F it is finished; however, the top may not be as brown as you like. To brown the top, add up to 6 coals to the lid and bake another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the bread and allow to cool on a rack for at least 45 minutes.

Slice and serve with copious amounts of butter.

This loaf was baked in a 12" dutch oven.