Sunday, November 9, 2014

Buttermilk Soft Pretzels

Welcome back, guys! Earlier this week, I posted my recipe for potato leek soup and paired it with a delicious buttermilk soft pretzel. The creaminess of the soup with the salty bread was truly amazing! As promised, here is the recipe for the pretzel. Enjoy it with a bowl of soup, some artisan mustard, some jalapeño cheese sauce or just shove it in your face straight from the oven, without ceremony. Good luck resisting...I think I ate two of these before plating it with the soup for the picture.


1 1/2 Cups warm buttermilk (about 110º-115ºF)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 package active dry yeast
4 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
4 Tablespoons Unsalted Sweet Cream Butter, melted
2/3 cup baking soda
Water for boiling
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Coarse Sea Salt or pretzel salt

Step One: Warm buttermilk in a microwave to  110º-115ºF. This should only take about 45 seconds on high, depending on the power of your microwave.

Step Two: In a large bowl, whisk the sugar into the warm buttermilk and then sprinkle the yeast on the surface of the buttermilk/sugar mix. Let stand until the yeast is foamy (usually about 5 minutes). This is a very important step...the foaminess of the yeast will be a sign of the success of your bread or in this case, pretzels. During this step, you are "activating" the yeast. Yeast is what makes bread rise but it won't rise if it isn't activated. And if your buttermilk is too hot, you can kill the yeast. So be careful not to get the buttermilk too hot.

Step Three: Mix together salt and flour in a separate bowl and then add to the buttermilk/yeast cup-by-cup. If using a stand mixer, use the dough hook, otherwise, just use a wooden spoon or a silicone spatula to form a rough dough.

Step Four: Wash your hands and dig in! Knead the dough to form a smooth dough. You can effectively knead your dough in the bowl. If you don't feel you have enough space to form a smooth dough, turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead. 

Step Five: Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil into a bowl and roll the ball of dough in it, coating evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit until doubled in size (about an hour).

Step Six: Divide dough into two balls and roll into ropes on a floured surface. Next, cut ropes into 8 even pieces each (for a total of 16 pieces).

*The surface I am using is a baking mat. This is a silicone sheet that I can roll out, coat with flour and use for working dough. It is a super-useful tool, easy to clean and something you should definitely add to your arsenal! 

Step Seven: Roll the 16 sections into ropes. Try to form the ropes into even strands. The OCD in me likes evenly shaped pretzel twists. If you don't care, then don't worry about it. You might save yourself some sanity. After all, the shape won't effect how delicious the pretzels turn out.

* Cover the pieces with plastic wrap while you're rolling out the ropes. This will prevent the pieces you still need to roll from drying out.

Step Eight: Twist together the ropes to form a make sure to pinch the ends together so they won't separate when boiled and baked. Make sure to cover the twists with plastic wrap while rolling out/twisting the next set. Again, you want to prevent the dough from drying out.

Step Nine: Cover dough twists with plastic wrap and let rise for about 15-20 minutes. 

Step Ten: Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Step Eleven: Add about 12 cups water and 2/3 cup baking soda to a large sauce pan and bring to a boil. Add the pretzel twists, one-by-one, to the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds, flipping over halfway way through with a spoon or spatula and transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheets.

Step Twelve: Brush with beaten egg yolk/water mixture and sprinkle with sea salt/pretzel salt.

Step Thirteen: Pre-Heat oven to 450º and bake for 15-20 minutes or until browned. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cook about ten minutes before serving.

Hope you enjoy this recipe! Make sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook for all the latest 8-Bit Cook news!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Potato Leek Soup

As we have previously established, Fall is here! Time for delicious dishes that warm the belly and the soul. One of my favorite soups is potato leek. There's a pub here in Las Vegas that used to serve the most amazing potato leek soup with Irish soda bread. I would visit with my friends at least once a month and no matter what I ordered, it was always with a side cup of potato leek soup. That pub has since become completely homogenized; their menu filled with more generic fare...stale, boring...more cheeseburgers, less authentic cooking and that soup, a wistful memory. Well...a memory until I decided to just re-create the stuff myself! The results took me right back to that dimly lit pub, the music and best of all, the memories of hanging out with my friends, drinking Guinness and having a laugh. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!


4 Cups Yellow Potatoes (peeled & cubed)
3 Leeks (cleaned and finely chopped)
1/2 White Onion (finely diced)
4 Tbs Butter
2 Cups Water
2 Cups Milk
2 Cups Half & Half
2 Tsp Salt (or to taste)
1 Tsp Ground Pepper
Crumbled Bacon & Parsley to garnish

Recommended extra equipment: Immersion blender.  Immersion blenders are not very expensive and come in extremely handy in the kitchen when making soups, sauces or even if you want to make a quick smoothie or shake without getting out a full-sized blender. They are also easy to use and easy to clean. You can get a good one for around $35. Trust me, it's worth it!

Step One: Prep your veggies! Peel your potatoes and dice them into small cubes. I recommend yellow potatoes because they have a delicious, naturally buttery flavor. They just make better soup. Period. Peel and finely dice your onion. The smaller the pieces, the better. Most importantly, when you're prepping your leeks, peel them apart and wash them throughly! Leeks are layered and lots of dirt likes to hide in those layers. If your leaks aren't clean, you might as well just be making dirt soup. Because the flavor will say the least.

* If you're garnishing with crumbled bacon, don't forget to cook it! Or you can just cheat and use bacon bits.

Step Two: Sauté your onion & leeks! In a skillet, add two tablespoons butter, pinch of salt and sauté leeks until tender (about 5-6 minutes). In a large, deep pot, add 2 tablespoons of butter, pinch of salt and diced onion. Sauté until slightly transparent and tender (about 5 minutes).

Step Three: Add potatoes to onions! Allow the potatoes to cook with the onions for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step Four: Add leeks & water to onions and potatoes! Add cooked leeks and two cups of water. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until potatoes are completely tender.

Step Five: In a separate pot, combine milk and half & half and heat to a slow boil. Stir frequently and be very careful not to scorch the milk mixture.

Step Six: Using an immersion blender, blend the cooked potatoes, onion and leeks until smooth.

Step Seven: Add hot milk and half & half to blended potatoes & leeks. Mix together completely and add remaining salt and pepper. Simmer, UNCOVERED, for about 30 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. I stress "uncovered" because if you cover the soup, the heat combined with the cream could cause it to bubble up and overflow like a volcano of deliciousness. And that is NO FUN to clean off your stove...learn from my mistakes, kids.

Serve it up hot and top it with parsley and bacon! It's delicious with your favorite crusty bread, Irish soda bread or (if you're feeling sassy) a fresh baked soft buttermilk pretzel (recipe coming later this week)!

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