Pretzels

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If you love big, soft, chewy pretzels, this is the recipe for you!  They’re straightforward to make, especially if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, and they’re delicious.

Original recipe

Pretzels
Adapted from Alton Brown

Yield: 10 large pretzels

For the dough:

  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115º F, or warm to the touch) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 4 1/2 cups (22 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 2 oz unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil or cooking spray, for coating bowl

For the bath:

  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda

For the topping:

  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel or other coarse salt

 

  1. 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.
  2. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined.
  3. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 4-5 minutes. (Alternatively, you can knead by hand until the dough is smooth.)
  4. Remove dough from bowl, clean bowl, and then oil it well with vegetable oil or cooking spray.
  5. Return dough to bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit in a warm place for 50-55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
  6. Preheat the oven to 450ºF.  Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper.  Set aside.
  7. Bring 10 cups of water and baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
  8. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 10 equal pieces.  (It’s easiest to weigh the dough and use kitchen shears to cut off appropriately-sized pieces.)
  9. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope (or longer, depending on how distinct you want the openings in the pretzel to be).
  10. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope.  Cross the ends over each other twice, and press them onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto parchment-lined half sheet pans.
  11. Place pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds.  Press them down into the water from time to time.
  12. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula.
  13. Return to the half sheet pans, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture, and sprinkle with pretzel or coarse salt.
  14. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12-14 minutes.
  15. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.
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Apple Pie

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This recipe makes a delicious, classic apple pie.  You can use butter instead of shortening, but I find that shortening produces a flakier crust.  In fact, I sometimes add a little extra shortening just to boost the flakiness.

Apple Pie
Adapted from Betty Crocker

Yield: One 9-inch pie

Crust

  • 2/3 cup + 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water

Filling

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Dash of salt
  • 5 cups thinly sliced, pared tart apples (about 5 medium apples – I like using Granny Smith)

 

To make the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 425ºF.
  2. Mix flour and salt in a bowl.  Cut shortening into the mixture until pieces are the size of small peas.
  3. Sprinkle in water 1 tablespoon at a time while tossing with fork to moisten the flour.
  4. When the pastry almost cleans the side of the bowl, divide it in half.  Gather each half into a ball.
  5. On a well-floured surface, flatten the first ball, flour a rolling pin, and roll out the pastry until it is 2 inches larger than the inverted pie plate.
  6. Fold pastry into quarters and move into the plate.  Unfold it and press it firmly against the sides and bottom.
  7. Trim overhanging edge of pastry 1/2 inch from rim of plate.

 

To make the filling and assemble the pie:

  1. Mix sugar, flour, nutmeg (if using), cinnamon, and salt in a bowl.
  2. Stir in apples, tossing with fork to coat them with the sugar mixture.
  3. Turn filling into the pastry-lined pie plate.
  4. Roll out the other ball of pastry.  Fold into quarters and unfold again over the filling, cutting slits so steam can escape. (Alternatively, if you’re in a fancy mood, you can cut the pastry into thin strips and make a lattice pattern.)
  5. Trim overhanging edges of the top crust 1 inch from the rim of plate.
  6. Fold and roll top edge under lower edge, pressing on rim to seal it.  For a pretty pattern, press the tines of a fork into the edge of the pastry all around the rim.
  7. Put pie plate on a foil-lined baking sheet to catch any juice overflow.
  8. Bake 40-50 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and juice begins to bubble through the slits in the crust.

Big Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies

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The name of these cookies says it all – they’re big and fat and better yet, in this hot summer weather, they go perfectly with a generous scoop of ice cream.

Original recipe

Big Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from All Recipes

Yield: 18 cookies

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup white OR brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

 

  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat together the melted butter and sugar until creamy.
  3. Beat in vanilla and eggs until light and creamy.
  4. Beat in baking soda and salt.
  5. Mix in flour until just blended.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon.
  7. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.  (You can make the cookies a little smaller, if you’d like.)
  8. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until the edges are lightly toasted.
  9. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Guacamole

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I’ve tried different guacamole recipes, but this one remains my favorite.  The blend of flavors is perfect.  Just make sure there are plenty of people to help eat it, because guacamole doesn’t keep well and it would be a shame to waste any of it!

Original recipe

Guacamole
Adapted from Alton Brown on the Food Network

Yield: 1 batch (serves 4-5 hungry people)

  • 3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded, and peeled
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or a little over 1/4 teaspoon regular salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)

 

  1. In a large bowl, place scooped avocado pulp and lime juice.  Toss to coat.
  2. Using a potato masher or a large spoon, mash in the salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper.
  3. Fold in onions, tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro and jalapeno if using.
  4. Eat immediately.