It has been a little on the routine side in the Fresh Home Cook household of late. Life is pottering along day-by-day with each day much the same as the one before. Having little people sure eats into your ‘you’ time! Not that I am complaining, we have a lovely little life most of the time and I feel fortunate to have my family and the life we have. In a (rare) moment of down time recently, I got to thinking about life B.K. (before kids) – how did I spend my time, who I did I spend it with and where did I spend it? Suddenly memories came flooding back, the good, the bad and the ugly, but each with experiences I know helped make me the woman, partner and mother I am today.
I got to thinking about my travels, my first overseas jaunt was to the United States in my mid-twenties – so many firsts on that adventure I can tell you! I ‘Contiki’d’ my way across the country, got to hike the bottom of the Grand Canyon, experience the surrealness of Las Vegas, the haunting beauty of Graceland and Memphis, the intensity of New Orleans, the formality (and seediness) of Washington and these days, somewhat chillingly, wander through the Twin Towers in New York. There was so much to love about this trip – including, of course, the food!
Now, travelling Contiki means travelling on a budget, so while I do recall some extremely dodgy fast and infested food stops (SHUDDERS), there were also some amazing places and food experiences you just can’t get anywhere else. A stand out for me was New York – what an incredible and diverse city – there were times I felt like I was on a movie set the landmarks were so familiar, including Central Park, Times Square, The Statue of Liberty and Wall Street just to name a few! One cold and snowy evening we were wandering around Rockafella Centre enjoying the Christmas lights and watching folks ice skate when we came across a wonderfully chatty street pretzel vendor. It was like the stuff of dreams, standing there white flakes falling around my head, the enticing smell of fresh baked bread luring us in, the vendor’s recognisable ‘Brooklyn’ accent selling us on the significance of eating an authentic “Noo Yawk City Pretzel”, served warm with lashings of honey mustard and that signature lip smackingly good, rabid thirst inducing hit of salt. We ate with gusto while he regaled up with stories of “his city” – it was an unforgettable evening and remains one of my favourite eating experiences ever. So simple, yet so satisfying.
My daily life is so far removed from that time there is just no way to compare them. There are times when I still long for the sense of freedom being kid free brings with it, but then I would not, could not even contemplate my life without my little family as it is now. For all the mundane, there is also magic and memories being made everyday that make it all worth it. There just wasn’t any pretzels … until now!
I could not shake the memory of it, so decided to have a go at making my own. Obviously, as food intolerance is an issue for me these days, I had to side step a little and replace a few things and I wanted to add my own little ‘flavour’ to them, but I can tell you, with every bite of these Spretzels I am transported back to the time and reminded of just how much I achieved then and since and that is something I can carry with me the rest of my days.
Using spelt flour as the base for these pretzels works so well. It is lower in gluten, so not quite as elastic after kneading, but the overall result is similar, especially after you boil the dough in the water and baking soda. This is the step that is key to giving them that bagel like texture – fluffy, but dense with a crunchy outer crust. Don’t skip it – they just won’t be the same. I still need to practice perfecting my pretzel shape – it is trickier that I thought – but I am still chuffed with how good they look.
Here’s how they came together for me;
- 1½ cups wholemeal spelt flour
- 1½ cups white spelt flour
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1⅓ cups warm water
- 1 sachet dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons unrefined sugar or honey
- 80 grams unsalted butter, melted
- Spray oil for coating
- 3 litres water, boiling
- ⅔ cup baking soda
- 1 egg, lightly beaten (for egg wash)
- sea salt & black sesame seeds to top
- Roza's Gourmet Bearnaise Sauce for dipping
- In a large mixing bowl, sift flours & salt.
- Add in rosemary & gently whisk to combine.
- Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer, or large mixing bowl, combine water, sugar, yeast & melted butter.
- Combine using the dough hook, or a wooden spoon.
- Allow yeast to activate - about 5 minutes - (a froth will form on top to indicate activation).
- Add flour mix to yeast mix & combine on low speed, (or mix with spoon until combined).
- Increase speed to medium & continue to combine the dough until it pulls away from sides - this can take a few minutes, so be patient.
- Remove the dough from bowl & place on lightly floured flat surface & knead into a ball with your hands. Spelt flour does not need to be worked as long as wheat flour, so only knead until you see the dough begin to smooth out & become more elastic - it should only take a couple of minutes.
- Lightly coat the mixer bowl with spray oil & place dough back in.
- Cover with cling wrap & a tea towel in a warm spot for about an hour, or until dough has doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 210 degrees Celsius.
- Bring the 3 litres of water to the boil in a large, wide saucepan.
- Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.
- Remove dough & place onto lightly floured flat surface.
- Divide dough into 8 pieces of equal size. (I make a rectangle out of the dough, halved it, then havled it again, the halved it again).
- Roll each dough piece into a long, approx. 3 cm thick rope.
- Make a horseshoe shape, cross the open ends over each other, the over again, lifting the ends up & back to form the circles & gently join the ends onto the outer of the dough.
- Add the baking soda to the boiling water - go SLOWLY as it will bubble up quickly.
- Add pretzels to the water - 2 at a time - & allow them to cook for just on 30 seconds.
- Using a slotted spatula or flat spoon, remove each pretzel & place it on a baking tray. About 4 to a tray works for me.
- Repeat with remaining pretzels.
- Brush the pretzels with egg wash.
- Lightly sprinkle with sea salt & sesame seeds.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove from oven & allow pretzels to cool on a wire rack.
- Serve immediately on their own, or with a delicious sauce or dip, such as Roza's Gourmet Bearnaise Sauce.
I served these beauties with the rich, hearty goodness of Roza’s Gourmet Bearnaise Sauce (gifted) – and what a gorgeous pairing it is – the rosemary infused pretzels, coated in the creamy butter and tarragon of the sauce – I just could not get enough! Thanks again to Roza’s for sending me some samples of their delicious range! You can see my May feature post for Roza’s here.
So there it is, my attempt to recapture a memory and transform another old favourite into a new one. I hope you like them as much as we do!
Tell me, how often do you take the time to reflect and remember the past? Are there foods you eat now that transport back to another time in your life? If so, what are they?
Cook! Eat! Enjoy!