Oktoberfest Pretzels!

Pretzels1Every year, my in-laws have a themed BBQ in August to celebrate my husband and father-in-law’s birthdays. Last year, the theme was tiki, and I made these tropical tiki cupcakes. This year, the theme was Oktoberfest, so I thought soft pretzels would be perfect.

I have never found a pretzel recipe that I really loved, and especially one that tastes good the next day. But, I found this recipe online from one of my favorite blogs, Brown Eyed Baker, and I figured I would test it out. I have to say, these are the best tasting pretzels I have ever made, and they were still great the next day. I just put them on a foil-lined cookie sheet and warmed them up in the oven for 15 minutes at 375.

I’ve also never found a pretzel recipe that browned as beautifully as these did!

Pretzels4This recipe comes out so puffy and golden, it’s amazing how big they get after being boiled. I thought I would have these tiny pretzels, but they ended up being a great size.

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The dough was also great to work with. Just make sure to really flour your hands before rolling the dough.

It really did double in size after waiting an hour. I never had that happen before. Usually the dough rises, but not all that much.

pretzels-dough

Pretzels2I will definitely be making these again. They went like hotcakes! I made 4 batches, or 32 pretzels. Every single pretzel was gone within a few hours.

So here’s the recipe! The real Oktoberfest is next month, so this is a great way to celebrate.

Soft Pretzels (from Brown Eyed Baker
 
One batch makes 8 pretzels
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups warm water
  • 1 TBSP white sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 packet of active dry yeast
  • 4½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
  • 10 cups water
  • ⅔ cup of baking soda
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 TBSP water, whisked together for egg wash
  • kosher salt for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 or 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper and brush on vegetable oil all over the paper.
  2. Mix the water, sugar, and salt in a bowl and sprinkle yeast on top. Let sit for 5 minutes until foaming.
  3. Add in the flour and butter and mix with a Kitchenaid mixer using the dough hook. Mix on low speed until the ingredients are combined. Then increase the speed so the dough comes together.
  4. Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. You may want to flour your hands when doing this so the dough doesn't stick. Place the dough in a warm place in the kitchen and let rise for about an hour. It should double in size.
  5. Combine the water and baking soda in a dutch oven and bring to a boil.
  6. In the meantime, divide the dough into 8 pieces. With floured hands, roll the piece of dough until it is long and skinny, about 24 inches long.
  7. To make the pretzel shape, make a u-shape with the dough, cross the ends, and them down on the body of the pretzel.
  8. Once the water is boiling, place 2 pretzels in the water and let boil for 30 seconds. Remove with a spatula and place on the parchment paper.
  9. Combine the egg yolk and water to make the egg wash, and brush on the two pretzels. Then sprinkle kosher salt on top.
  10. Continue this way, boiling two pretzels, then brushing on the egg wash, and lastly sprinkling salt on top.
  11. Bake pretzels for 12-14 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

 

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Another bridal shower display of cake pops

Bridal-pops1A few years ago (wow, I can’t believe it’s been that long!) I made cake pops displayed on a wedding cake for my sister-in-law’s bridal shower. Well, she hired me to make the same thing for her sister’s shower, which was this past weekend. This was a fun project, so I was happy to do it again, and play with different colors and decorations.

Her main color was teal, so I tried to go for an ombre effect, with different shades of teal. I found this great sequin flower trim at M&J Trimming in the city (this store is crazy fun if you like crafts), and cut the flowers out individually to glue them on the Styrofoam cake. They really tied in all the colors.

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I made the same flavors as last time, except that I substituted the vanilla flavor with my new favorite, sugar cookie. Each tier was a different flavor.

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One other great thing I recently found in my travels is clear crystal sugar. My new favorite cake store, The Chocolate Duck, has all different colors and textures of sugar in little baggies. They were quite reasonably priced, which prompted me to experiment a bit. The crystal sugar still lets the color of the pop show through, and the texture and sweetness is perfect, especially for the sugar cookie flavored pop. And they look so pretty!

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Bridal-pops7Everyone needs more cake pops in their life, don’t you think? ;-)

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Sugar cookie cupcakes with cookie dough frosting

cookie-cupcakes2Hello there! Hope everyone is having a great summer. It’s been a bit slow for me on the baking front, but I have a project coming up next month that I can’t wait to do. To prepare, I needed to test out some new flavors, so I made these cupcakes for my friend’s birthday gathering. I wanted something other than garden variety vanilla, so I went on Pinterest and found cookie dough frosting. I must be behind in the times, because apparently it’s a thing, and I had no idea. The genius part is that you actually put flour in the dough to make it the right consistency. Paired with sugar cookie cupcakes made with half and half, the combination is to die for!

Sugar cookie cupcakes with cookie dough frosting
 
Cupcakes from Creme de la Crumb; frosting modified from Tidy Mom; makes 12 cupcakes
Ingredients
For the cupcakes
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup half and half
For the frosting:
  • 1½ sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup of light brown sugar, packed
  • 1¾ cups confectioner's sugar
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1½ TBSP milk
  • 1¼ tsp vanilla
Instructions
To make the cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line muffin tins with cupcake liners.
  2. In an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk together.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix.
  5. Add the half and half until completely incorporated.
  6. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, until ⅔ fill. Bake 18-20 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
To make the frosting:
  1. Beat the butter and brown sugar in an electric mixer until fluffy.
  2. Mix in the confectioner's sugar until smooth.
  3. Add the flour and salt and mix until incorporated.
  4. Mix in the milk and vanilla until you have a nice spreadable consistency.

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Garden Vegetable Cupcakes

Veggie-cupcakes7Spring is in the air, which means lots of parties and gatherings! A few weeks ago I attended a first  birthday party the day before Easter. The theme was Peter Rabbit…how perfect is that? So I decided to make garden cupcakes since Peter Rabbit loved to go in the garden of Mr. McGregor and eat all his vegetables. Yeah, I looked it up on Wikipedia. Could not for the life of me remember whose garden it was.

Since it was close to Easter, I thought it would be great to use the grass that usually goes in Easter baskets, to make it look more like a real garden. The grass usually comes in long strands, so I cut it nice and short so it looked more grass-like. Once I covered the bottom of the tins, I placed the cupcakes in. I moved the grass away where I was going to place the cupcakes, so they would lay flat.

The cupcakes are vanilla buttermilk filled with strawberry mousse. I used fresh strawberries, and everyone loved it! It tasted really fresh, which is perfect for a garden theme. For the topping, I frosted as usual with buttercream and then topped it off with crushed Oreo cookies for the dirt.

Strawberry-mousse

Veggie-cupcakes5Lastly, I made the vegetable toppers using Runts candy and royal icing. The peas are my favorite. I placed an oval of green royal icing about an inch and a half long on wax paper and placed three green apple runts on top. then I gently folded the wax paper along the long edge and clipped it together, so the pod would dry curving slightly upward.

Veggie-cupakes3The cabbage also used the green apple runts.

Veggie-cupcakes2The radish used the red runts that I dipped in white royal icing and added a green stem.

Veggie-cupcakes1For the corn, I used the banana runt and made green leaves. The carrots are 100% royal icing.

Veggie-cupcakes4I used some leftover royal icing to attach the veggies to the dirt. Otherwise, they will just slide off. And there you have it! These were really fun to make, and definitely fun to eat! The packaging is great too, because it looks like a garden, but they you can just throw everything away when you are done.

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Strawberry Mousse Filling (adapted from The Smart Cookie Cook)
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups of strawberries
  • 2 cups chilled heavy cream
  • 2 cups of confectioner's sugar (*see my note at the bottom)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Wash and cut the strawberries into small pieces.
  2. Puree strawberries in a food processor or blender.
  3. Add strawberry puree, cream, sugar, vanilla, and salt to a bowl and use a hand mixer to mix until stiff peaks form.
Notes
* The original recipe calls for 1 cup of confectioner's sugar, but I kept adding sugar until the mousse could stand on a spoon held upside down. I wanted it to be fairly thick before putting in the cupcakes.

 

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Tulip Pie for Parkinson’s Awareness Month

Tulip-pie1April is an important month at work, because it is Parkinson’s Awareness Month (PAM). This is only my second PAM while working at the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, but I’m trying to make it a habit to show my spirit by bringing tulip-themed baked goods into work during the month of April. Last year, I made these tulip-shaped sugar cookies. This year, I decided to make a pie, since I recently learned a great technique for rolling out dough–roll it between two pieces of plastic wrap! It comes out perfectly and there is no sticking to the rolling pin.  I brought my pie in yesterday (the last day of April) and it was a big hit! Why tulips? Read about the tulip as a symbol for Parkinson’s disease here.

I saw this photo online using star shapes, and thought it would be perfect to make using my tulip cookie cutters. I love the idea of the inverse shapes, and would have done this if I were making two pies.

Tulip-pie-inspirationI decided to do a mixed berry pie (strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries). While it tasted great, I think the effect would have been better with just one berry (probably blackberries since they are dark). But, overall I was happy with the end result.

Tulip-pie2Basically I rolled out the dough for the  bottom crust and placed in the pie dish. Then I filled the pie and rolled out the top crust. Before putting the top crust on, I gently made an indent with the cookie cutter in the middle of the dough, but did not go all the way through. After placing the dough on top, I put the cookie cutter in the same spot and pushed down all the way. Then I gently removed the tulip-shaped dough and went around the edges with a butter knife to smooth it out.

Tulip Pie for Parkinson's Awareness Month
 
Ingredients
For the dough (recipe from Audrey's apron; double recipe to make top and bottom crust):
  • 1¾ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1½ sticks of butter, cut into pieces
  • ¼ cup water
For the filling (adapted from Allrecipes):
  • 1 package of strawberries (1 lb)
  • 2 packages of blackberries (pint)
  • 1 package of blueberries (pint)
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
Instructions
To make the dough:
  1. Mix together the flour and sugar
  2. Add the butter slowly and mix until you have course crumbs
  3. Add water slowly until dough balls together. It will be fairly soft
  4. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but can be left in the fridge overnight.
For the filling and pie assembly:
  1. Mix together the sugar and flour
  2. Sprinkle ¼ of the mixture onto the bottom of the rolled out pie crust in the pie dish. Reserve another ¼ of the mixture for the top.
  3. Mix the remaining flour and sugar with the berries and place in the bottom crust.
  4. Sprinkle the reserved flour and sugar over the berries and place the second pie crust on top. Cut away excess dough and crimp the edges of the top and bottom pie crusts together.
  5. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes and then turn down the oven to 375 degrees F and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes.

Parkinson’s Awareness Month may be over, but it is always a good time to show your support. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects movement and currently has no cure. If you would like to learn more about Parkinson’s, or donate to the Foundation’s efforts, please visit www.pdf.org.

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