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Monday, May 25, 2009

Marc Almond and Homemade Pretzels

Here is what one of my favorite performers (Marc Almond, in all of his glamor above) and my sublime No Fat-Ass Pretzels have in common...

They are twisted...

They always 'rise' to the occasion...

They are indulgent, sweet, and best enjoyed slowly...

Imitations of both exists in the world, but there is no substitution for the real thing...

I could eat them both all day long...

When I made Homemade Low-Fat/Low-Calorie Pretzels at home Saturday, I was listening to Marc Almond. My dear friend in Boston, the ultra-fabulous and irresistibly talented Michael Abbott, introduced me to the world of Mr. Almond and I have never, ever turned back. He is dramatic, theatrical, emotional and very, very queer.

He and I have a lot in common.

His music inspires me and sends me to the heavens. I knew how to make pretzels at home, but I refused. Everyone said they were fattening and ridiculous. I had to agree.

Take Auntie Annie's Pretzels, easily the most popular in New York and on Long Island (home of my husband and the birth of his pretzel obsession). The lowest calorie and fat pretzel at AA clocks in @ 300 calories, 3 grams of fat and a whopping 1,000mg of sodium. The highest one comes in at 2,415 calories (yes, I typed that right), 72 grams of fat and heart-stopping 2,460mg of sodium.

Is their a doctor in the house?!

My pretzels? Each BUTTERY pretzel (tastes just like the ones you get at the stand) clocks in @ 160 calories, 300mg sodium (if you go heavy salt, which I don't) and 3.8g of fat.

Homemade food, once again, kicks restaurant ASS.

They are also fun to make, quick, and a kick to do with other people. So grab a glass of wine, call your friends, pop on a CD (Marc Almond, please!) and make these when you have a need for a tasty, buttery and chewy pretzel but no need for a BIG ASS.



Let's cook!


For the dough:
(this makes 4 large, family-size pretzels)
  • 1 1/8 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/8 teaspoon INSTANT yeast (who needs to bother with proofing anymore?!)
What to put on top:
  • 1/2 cup tepid water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Course salt (big chunks, if you can find it)
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter, UNSALTED

First thing is first. Let's make the dough!

This one is so easy, it's unreal. Combine all of the dough ingredients in a bowl. With you hands (did you wash them?), mix it all together until it's kinda sticky. Take it out of the bowl, put it on a clean cutting board and, using the hell of one or two hands, mix the dough to get the gluten started within.

After five minutes, you should have a sticky dough. Not so it hangs on your hand, but so that it's sorta sticky and SMOOTH. Don't be afraid to add a tablespoon of warm water or flour when you are kneeding if it's not quite right.

After five minutes, this is what you shall have, kittens:

Working with dough is so great. It's fun, like Playdough, easy to work with and you look like such a pro when you are working with it.

Put it in a GLAD PLASTIC BAG (toss in a small handful of flour to prevent sticking), close it up and let it sit on the kitchen counter for 30 minutes.

Ta-da! You made pizza dough!

Heat up the oven to 500 degrees. Very important. You need a very hot oven for this. They cook very fast.

After 30 minutes, it will have risen slightly.

This is what it looks like...

Now take it and cut it up into four little wedges (I used a Pyrex, lightly buttered pie plate) and let it sit, uncovered, on the counter until puffs up slightly for 30 minutes...

Now, this comes the fun part. It’s not hard, trust me, but look at the photos below to see how it’s done...

And then...Before you start to make the actual pretzels, put the warm water and the sugar in a pie plate next to your work area. Then, get a jelly roll pan and LINE IT WITH PARCHMENT PAPER. Do not use Pam spray, or oil or butter. Use parchment or the bottom of the pretzels WILL BURN.

Pam is the best for anything, but on this, it’s a big old no-no.

Roll out each little triangle into 26 inch long pieces (just use you hands). Now, make the pretzels by looping one end over (see above)...

And fold over (see above)...

Gently dip them into the warm water/sugar mixture, LIGHTLY sprinkle with salt and gently place them on the baking sheet for a final rise of 15 minutes...

How pretty, mama!


Now, place them into the oven, and cook for 8 minutes, turn the baking sheet around and cook for 5-7 minutes more (you rotate baking sheets because the rear of the oven is always hotter than the front).

When they are nicely brown, take them out of the oven and brush them with the 1 TABLESPOON OF MELTED BUTTER. Many recipes called for 3 tablespoons and more, but personally, they get much too greasy. Let the pretzels soak up the butter as they rest on the baking sheet.

And there you are! Homemade pretzels!

Dip them into mustard, eat them as a snack.

As Marc Almond would say, a life without beauty, pretzels and glamour is a life wasted…


Your food therapist…

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