Thursday, January 12, 2017

Soft Pretzels Like Auntie Anne's and Wetzel Pretzels

My name is Malisa and I have a problem. I occasionally go through food obsession periods. My current obsession is:

I've been buying quite a few of them at the mall. Pretzels are easy to make so I lugged out the old Zoji, dumped in the ingredients and pressed a button.  I started off shaping them and decided pretzel nuggets were perfectly tasty and required very little skill and effort.  I even made cinnamon-sugar and sprinkled it over one of the pretzels.  The other advantage to eating a mall pretzel at home is washing them down with frozen pina coladas straight from the old Margaritaville machine.  

The recipe below was adapted from Food Network and simplified using the dough cycle of a bread machine.

1 cup milk (I never have whole milk at home so I always make my own using 3/4 cup 2% milk plus 1/4 cup half and half)
2 1/4 teaspoons SAF instant yeast
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt

Rest of ingredients:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
coarse sea salt
2 cups water
1/4 cup baking soda

1. Add all ingredients to bread machine and select the dough cycle.  The dough cycle of my Zojirushi bread machine preheats ingredients to temp before kneading and proofing so softening or melting butter is usually not required.  I think the Zoji does a great job but it's not perfect.  I usually help it along during the cycle to make sure all the ingredients get evenly mixed.  

2. At the end of the cycle, pour dough out onto a floured surface, forming an even mound. Cover the dough with a wet towel and let the dough relax approximately 15 minutes.  

3. Cut down into six even pieces.  Using your palms, roll each piece into a long rope.  If you want your pretzels to resemble the pretzels from Auntie Anne's or Wetzel Pretzels, you will have to roll your dough very long and thin because after shaping, the dough will retract and shrink back a bit.  The shaping part doesn't have to be perfect. 

4. Mix water and baking soda in a bowl.  The size and shape of bowl you will need depends on how you decide to shape your pretzels. Gently dip each pretzel in baking soda solution and place on lined baking sheet.  You will want to line your baking sheet.  Trust me. Either a silpat or parchment paper work. Sprinkle each pretzel with coarse sea salt.  Bake in preheated 450 degree oven for approximately 10-15 minutes.  

5. Transfer pretzels to wire rack and brush with melted butter.  Dunk or sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar if you are feeling a little adventurous.  I am pretty boring and pretty my pretzels with just butter or cinnamon-sugar.  I never order the "gourmet" pretzels covered with fancy cheese, pepperoni, or crunchies. I also always decline the dips.  

This recipe produces a soft mall-style pretzel. It uses a baking soda bath rather than a lye bath so the pretzels it will be very light in color.  It is best eaten the same day. If you're looking for a movie theater or ball park pretzels, buy a box of frozen pretzels and reheat them.  They come in a black box with a picture of a pretzel on it.

I just downloaded photos from my phone.  Below are random photos.  Some are recent.  Some are not. Some are photos of food and some are just random.

That's a salad.  There's spring mix under the mangos, apples, roasted tricolor fingerling potatoes, medjool dates, feta, and my own glazed walnuts.  I made it to take over to my department holiday dinner.

Hiking at Red Rocks Canyon.  

I wanted to make a gingerbread house. I took a picture instead.

Boyz II Men.

Another Vegas trip.  This time we stayed at a different hotel. The Encore gets a thumbs up.

Centerpiece at our company Christmas lunch.

Breakfast in Cabo.  That's fresh squeezed OJ.

Christmas Eve dinner on the beach.  That's a Princess cruise ship in the Sea of Cortez.

Divorce Beach on the Pacific Ocean side.  The waves are pretty rough and very dangerous for even the most experienced swimmers.  I turned around for just a second and was knocked down. Fortunately I was not pulled out into the ocean. 

Lover's Beach is in the background.  Lover's Beach is safe for swimming.

I chose to climb up the rocks because I thought it would look cool.

I had to find a way back down.  I jumped and hoped for the best.

Cabo Beach Club on a small stretch of swimmable stretch of Medano Beach.

Menorah in the Marina district.

 Right next to the menorah was this sign.  I did enough climbing on the beach and did not attempt climbing into the "C" like other tourists.

 This taco shop was recommended by several people and was our original destination our first night in Cabo but we took a wrong turn and ended up at a restaurant we would rather forget about.

I was so full from eating, I barely managed to finish my two tacos.

My shrimp ceviche tostada Las Tres Islas. I also have crab and flan.

We've been getting quite a bit of rain in San Diego.  We took a drive up to Laguna because we miss snow. It does snow in San Diego County. I couldn't find my snow boots. Uggs are usually my first choice for snow but it was either my really old Uggs, old Uggs, new Uggs, Fryes, or heeled boots. Since the decision to drive up to see snow was not planned, I put on my really old Uggs. My toes got a little wet even though they were treated with a water repellent spray. I didn't pick the best pants either. They are made from recycled plastic water bottles but were not very warm.  I thought about putting on snowboarding pants but felt a tad silly.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


We went camping at Palomar Mountain few weeks ago.  I kept the menu fairly simple since we were only camping for one night.

On the way up to Palomar Mountain, we stopped at Pink's Hot Dogs located inside Harrah's Casino. We walked around looking for Pink's. The casino is huge and appears to be quite the weekend destination. We looked a little out of place in the fancy resort/casino. I walked up to ask where Pink's was located and ran into a friend.  He pointed us in the right direction.  (He actually was surprised that we came all the way to Harrah's for hot dogs.)  I ordered a turkey dog and onion rings. We ordered way too much food.

We checked in at the park entrance. The woman working was less than thrilled to be working.

Since we were a little early, we stopped off at the pond and the urgent care.  Someone found a lure in his hand.  The closest urgent care was about 45 minutes from the campgrounds but I refused to go with Plan A. Lets just say Plan A involved pliers and a wire cutter. The park ranger also refused to have anything to do with Plan A. We ended up at Graybill Urgent Care. The folks at Graybill were great.

The pond was small but it was really pretty.

I sat at the edge of the pond and tried to soak in all the nature around me. A little kid walked by and said, "look daddy! He caught a log!" 

After a quick stop at the urgent care, we made it back before the park closed and pitched a small tent. The tent is not that small. It is a lot smaller than the two-room tent we had in Colorado. This tent is large enough for a single high queen air mattress with a little room to spare.  For this weekend, I wanted less fuss so I was fine with a smaller tent. It would have been nice to sleep a little higher off the ground and be able to stand up to change inside the tent.

I kept dinner pretty simple with shrimp fajitas. I sliced the bell peppers and onions ahead of time. We have a few camp stoves and grills.  I decided to leave the grills and larger stove at home and packed a smaller two-burner camp stove. I heated a 10-inch fry pan on the stove, added a little olive oil and added the onions. Once the onions started browning, I added the bell peppers and cooked a few minutes longer. I finished the onions and peppers with a little salt and black pepper.

I almost bought a cheap pan for camping but decided to just pack one of my All-Clad pans instead.

I peeled, deveined, and froze the shrimp a few weeks before our camping trip. They were still pretty frozen when I took them out of the cooler that evening. I was afraid they would defrost and be unsafe to eat so I put a pack of frozen Nathan's hot dogs in the cooler just in case. We didn't have to resort to Plan B for dinner.

I sautéed the shrimp in a little olive oil and seasoned them with a salt, pepper, chile powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder, dried onions, cumin, Mexican oregano, and lime juice. I made the seasoning mix a few days before the trip.

Shrimp is great for camping because it cooks up so quickly. I had dinner ready in about 15 minutes. I used 26/30 size shrimp. 26/30 is my favorite size for most dishes. I bought several bags of U15 and they are still in the freezer because they're a little larger than I like.

Dessert included cinnamon crescent rolls and s'mores cooked over the campfire. I wasn't very hungry so I didn't eat either.  I didn't even finish my fajitas.

By the time the cinnamon crescent rolls and s'mores were finished, it was pretty dark out. The days have been shorter and with the unplanned urgent care trip, we didn't start cooking until a little later.

It was a long day so we didn't end up playing any games we packed. We tested out the air mattress, tandem sleeping bag, and down blanket and fell asleep with the lights on. These solar string lights from Amazon were pretty awesome. I thought they would run out of battery and turn off but after several hours, I had a search for the off button.

In the morning I got up and made breakfast. I cooked up some maple bacon in a large rectangular cast iron dutch oven.  I cooked diced potatoes in the bacon grease until crispy then added onions, bell peppers, and eggs. I ate mine without tortillas.  The hubby made a breakfast burrito and doused everything with Tapatio sauce. 

I made coffee using a Moka Pot and drank it out of a "vintage" Starbucks paper cup.

We sat by the fire for a few hours before tearing down camp and heading back to civilization. It was nice to get away from the city even if it was only for a day.

We stopped on the side of the road on our way down. It's not quite Colorado but still very beautiful.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Pain de Mie or Pullman Loaf

The recipe for this pain de mie is from the King Arthur flour website.  I made it a few times before when I lived in Denver. I had to adjust the recipe a bit to get the recipe to work at altitude.  It oozed out of the lip of the pan, right under the cover, onto the oven.  I’m now at sea level so this time around I made it as written.  The amount of dough is perfect for a 13”x4”x4” (1.5 pound) pullman pan.  
The recipe does include items that are not commonly stocked in most kitchen pantries. When I made this before, I had a difficult time finding potato flour so I used mashed potato flakes as a substitute. It turned out fine. This time I searched my pantry and found some potato flour.  I must have grabbed it because I made a mental note that I needed it. I don’t use powdered milk all that often but I purchased some for another recipe. I did not use King Arthur flour for this recipe. I usually buy the King Arthur bread, white whole wheat, and cake flours but for all purpose I usually buy the unbleached Gold Medal or Trader Joe’s brands. This loaf was made with Trader Joe’s all purpose flour. 

When I first started experimenting with yeast, I bought the Red Start and Fleischmann's brands but after reading Bread Baker's Apprentice, I started using instant yeast. I now use SAF instant yeast (the red bag) almost exclusively. There was a time when I used both the regular SAF and the SAF Gold but I found the Gold made a negligible difference for sweet dough so most of the time I only have the regular SAF in my freezer. 
I used to knead dough in a Kitchenaid mixer but I found that I get better results using the dough cycle of a bread machine.  I have an older model Zojirushi Bakery Supreme BBCCX20 that I feel does a terrible job of baking but does an excellent job of kneading and proofing dough. The recipe includes mixer, bread machine, and hand methods.  I’m sure you can even knead the dough in a food processor. 
When I was looking to buy a Pullman pan, the only brand I found was the USA brand.  It has a clear coating that I didn’t originally want but now love. Today I forgot to grease the pan and the loaf slid right out after baking. I was a little nervous but I decided to go ahead and bake it rather than scoop out the dough and disrupt the rise.  
Pain de Mie or Pullman Loaf
Makes 1 13”x4”x4” loaf
2/3 cup (5 3/8 ounces) milk
1 cup (8 ounces) water
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/4 cup (1 1/8 ounces) Baker's Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) potato flour
4 3/4 cups (20 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Bread Machine Method: Place all of the ingredients into the pan of your machine, program the machine for Manual or Dough, and press Start. When the cycle is finished, remove the dough and proceed as follows.

Manual Method: In a large bowl, combine the milk, water, butter, salt and sugar. Add the dried milk, flours and yeast, stirring till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead it for 5 to 8 minutes, or until it's smooth and supple. Because of the relatively high fat content of this dough, it's a real pleasure to work with. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, and allow the dough to rise till puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

Mixer Method: Combine the ingredients as above, using a flat beater paddle or beaters, then switch to the dough hook(s) and knead for 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, and allow the dough to rise till doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.

Lightly grease a 13 x 4-inch pain de mie pan. Transfer the risen dough to a lightly greased work surface, shape it into a 13-inch log, and fit it into the pan. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise until it's just below the lip of the pan, 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the warmth of your kitchen (it may rise even more slowly in a cool kitchen; don't worry, this long rise will give it great flavor).

Remove the plastic, and carefully place the cover on the pan, let it rest an additional 10 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350°F. Bake the bread for 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, carefully remove the lid, and return the bread to the oven to bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until it tests done; an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will register 190°F. Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely. 

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Women's Bean Project Chili and Cornbread Mix

Many people assume that everything I cook is from scratch and are often embarrassed to admit to me that they use mixes. Just because I'm crazy enough to make my own soy sauce does not mean I don't have a bottle of Kikkoman in my house.

I love Women's Bean Project mixes.  The cornbread mix is my favorite. I keep several in my pantry for times when I'm too busy (lazy) to make my own cornbread. I know cornbread from scratch is not very difficult and requires just a few additional steps. But there are times I just need to turn off my brain. Just the other day I was making brownies and I doubled the recipe in my head. When the brownies finished baking I thought something was off.  I read over the recipe and instantly I realized I forgot to double the butter! I just wasted a cup and a half of my coveted high fat dutch process cocoa powder.

Just before the holidays I placed an order to replenish my WBP stash.  

The first time I tried WBP mixes was at a Bean Party hosted by a friend (who is a former board member of the WBP). I fell in love with the cornbread. It is seriously the best cornbread mix ever. I love it so much I buy it to give to people because I want to spread the yumminess

Today I made the cornbread to go with their old fashion mild chili. WBP also has a firehouse #10 hot chili mix but the mild was spicy enough for me.  I usually add diced jalapenos and shredded cheddar cheese. I realized I forgot the cheese as the cornbread was baking in the oven.

I soaked the beans overnight and cooked in them in a crock pot while I was at work.  When I got home, I browned a pound of ground turkey and sauteed some onions, garlic, and bell pepper.  I added two cans of Rotel (10 oz each) and one small (8 oz) container of tomato sauce instead of one large (28 oz) of diced tomatoes.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Kellie's Chicken Khao Pune (Laotian Curry Noodles)

I was craving some Laotian Khao Pune (curry noodles) so I texted my friend Kellie to see if she could send me her “recipe.” She texted me back and said she will email it later. The recipe below is pretty much Kellie’s version.

I use a whole chicken because it’s what Kellie uses. I think it makes a more flavorful broth. Some people simply use boneless breasts and augment with chicken broth or bouillon but I think the flavor payoff is well worth the extra step of having to deal with bones. Chicken feet and chicken wings are also great for making yummy broth. (Chicken feet is my secret ingredient for making the perfect matzo ball soup broth.)

Kellie's Chicken Khao Pune (Laotian Curry Noodles)

Ingredients for Sauce:
1 whole chicken
1 pound chicken feet (optional)
1 stalk lemon grass
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 knob dried galanga root
water to cover
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 shallot, finely diced
1 13.5 ounce can Chaokoh coconut milk
1 4 ounce can Maesri brand Namya Noodle Curry Paste
2 tablespoons red curry paste (or use about ¼ cup red curry and exclude the namya curry paste)
MSG, to taste
Fish sauce, to taste
1 disk palm sugar (or about 2 tablespoons regular sugar)

Ingredients for Serving:
Rice vermicelli noodles, boiled
Cabbage, shredded
Bean sprouts
Banana blossom, sliced (optional)
Long beans, finely sliced
Cilantro, chopped
Green onions, sliced

1. Cut up a whole chicken into pieces and add to a large stockpot. Add chicken feet (if using), lemon grass, lime leaves, and galanga root to stockpot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer until chicken is cooked. Remove chicken pieces and allow to cool. Continue to simmer broth.
2. When chicken is cool enough to handle, separate out the chicken meat, discarding skin and bones. Pound chicken meat with a mortar and pestle until chicken is shredded. (I think you can use a potato masher is you do not own a mortar and pestle. The goal is a finely shredded/mashed chicken without getting it too pasty.) Set mashed chicken aside.
3. In a medium saucepan, sauté shallots in some oil. Add curry pastes and sauté a few minutes until fragrant. Add coconut milk and sauté a few minutes longer. (Kellie doesn’t think that this step is necessary but I went ahead and followed it since it’s the way Kellie’s mom taught her to make the sauce.)
4. Add the curry coconut milk to the simmering broth. Add the reserved mashed chicken, MSG, fish sauce, and palm sugar. Return to a simmer until sugar is melted.

Maesri brand namya sauce, coconut milk, an assortment of rice vermicelli noodles and banana blossom.

To Serve:
1. Boil the rice vermicelli. Soak the noodles in cold water and create little bundles of noodles by grabbing a handful and laying it down on a colander. (This makes it easier for everyone to grab a bundle or two when assembling their bowls so make small serving size bundles.)
2. Layer the noodles and the various topping in a large “pho” bowl and ladle boiling sauce on top. Enjoy.

Plate of vegetable toppings:

Layer noodles and vegetable toppings in a large "pho" bowl.

Ladle hot sauce over noodles.

Creative Commons License
Malisa's Food Blog by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at