Thursday, January 23, 2014

Feta & Olive-Stuffed Soft Pretzels

After the last few posts, I might as well start calling this blog “Recipes I Make with Things I Find in my Fridge.” Now that I think about it, I do that a lot. When I have an idea for a recipe, I will often find a way to make it with ingredients I have on hand instead of buying them. I find inspiration in what is already in front of me rather than going out to the store and looking for it. It’s not just “making do,” it can really get your creative juices going, and it’s also a great way to not be wasteful. Maybe I’m really practical. Or maybe I’m just really lazy. 

From pizza pies to sticky buns, when you have yeast in your pantry a whole world of possibilities becomes available to you. With the Super Bowl coming up, game day snacking on the brain, and half a pack of yeast in my cabinet, I couldn’t’ think of a more perfect snack to make than soft pretzels. I had everything I needed to make them and more; a quick look-see into the fridge and boom, the vision was there. No, these would not be just any kind of pretzels; they would be feta and olive-stuffed pretzels! I instantly thought of the feta and olive pretzels I love to get from Sigmund’s Pretzels in NYC. In a city with pretzels on every corner, Sigmund’s stands out as one of my favorites.

Like all yeast-leavened breads, pretzel dough needs to proof or rise for an hour or so after it’s made. This can be done by covering the dough in a bowl and placing it in a warm place in your house like by a warm stove, or if you’re weird like me, in the basement/boiler room. You can also try turning your microwave into a proof box by closing the covered bowl of dough in the microwave with a bowl of steaming, boiled water. In the recipe you will also notice a mini recipe in parentheses next to the olives. If you buy your olives from an olive bar or deli counter, they will most likely be marinated. If they are not, you can do it yourself by adding a little extra virgin olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes, garlic, and seasonings. They will taste much more delicious on top of the pretzels with the feta cheese.

The pretzels are shaped more like bagels with indents instead of holes rather than the traditional pretzel “twist” because that little well holds a lot of the stuffing that makes the pretzels so good. For additional flavor, I also sprinkled the dough with grated parmigiano cheese and coarse salt. I have attempted soft pretzels many times and have to say that these are some of the best I’ve ever made. Try them for yourself and remember to reheat them a little once they’ve gone cold—they are so much better warm!

Yield: 8 pretzels
-  ¾ cup warm water (110°-115° F)
-  1 ½ teaspoons dry yeast
-  ½ tablespoon sugar
-  2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
-  1 teaspoon kosher salt
-  2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
-  2 tablespoons baking soda
-  1 egg, beaten
-  1 tablespoon shredded parmgiano reggiano
-  1 tablespoon coarse salt
-  ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
-  ½ cup pitted and chopped assorted olives (if olives are not already marinated, season with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, dry basil, dry oregano, salt and pepper)
1) In a small bowl, mix the yeast with the warm water and sugar and let stand for several minutes until the yeast blooms. In an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the yeast mixture with the flour, salt, and melted butter. Mix on low speed until a soft ball of dough forms and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl, about 3-5 minutes. Proof the dough in a large bowl greased with nonstick cooking spray until it is almost doubled in size, 1-1 ½ hours.
2) Preheat oven to 450° F. Boil water in a large pot; add the baking soda and reduce the water to a light simmer. When the dough is ready, roll into a log and cut into 8 even pieces. Form the pieces into circles, then gently flatten and press an indent into the center of each.  Line the dough onto two parchment-lined sheet trays.
3) Add the dough, two pieces at a time, into the simmering water for about 30 seconds then return to the parchment-lined trays. Pat the dough lightly with a paper towel and brush with the egg. Sprinkle each with the shredded parmigiano reggiano and coarse salt. Add a light spoonful of feta cheese to the middle, top with chopped olives, and finish with more feta cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes until browned.

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