Pretzel Bread

by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

I think it was in fifth grade that I studied states and capitals. Each student’s final grade depended on an oral presentation about an “adopted” state. Our teacher wrote all the states on colorful pieces of paper and placed them in a goldfish bowl for us to choose. I picked Montana. It could have been worse; my friend Randy picked Idaho. I don’t remember much about the presentations aside from the Missouri one given by my classmate Paul, who had a talent for the theatrical. Paul donned a coonskin cap as he talked about Daniel Boone, then deftly removed the cap and taped on a white felt mustache as he read a poem by Mark Twain. The best part of Paul’s state performance was the German pretzel bread he passed around as he talked about Germans immigrating to St. Louis in the mid-1800s. The bread was the best thing I had ever eaten inside the walls of our school. Still warm from Paul’s book bag, it tasted like a thick slice of pretzel. I’ve been obsessed with it—and Paul—ever since. I hope Paul earned an A on his presentation. He deserved it for the bread alone. I’ll ask him the next time we talk. All these years later, Paul and I are still the best of friends.

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Sweet and Vicious, Pretzel Bread

Pretzel Bread
(a sliceable hot pretzel)

yields 2 loaves, or twelve 4-inch rolls

What you need:
1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (115° F)
1⁄2 cup warm milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 1⁄2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling
3 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
1⁄4 teaspoon vegetable oil
1⁄2 cup baking soda

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, put the water, milk, butter, yeast, and brown sugar. Mix until combined, then let the mixture rest for 10 minutes, or until it begins to foam. Mix in the salt.

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Sweet and Vicious, Pretzel Bread

With the mixer on low speed, add 2 cups of the flour
and mix for 1 minute. Continue to add the remaining flour as needed until the dough forms a firm ball that is tacky, not sticky (think about a Post-it note—it’s tacky, not sticky to the touch). Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl. Drizzle the dough ball with the oil and turn it over in the bowl to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Sweet and Vicious, Pretzel Bread

Knead the dough at medium-low speed for 10 minutes, until the dough has a satiny shine and is elastic. Cover the dough and let rise for 1 hour, or until it doubles in size.
At this point, if you would like to make Pretzel Brats see the variation on page 110.

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Sweet and Vicious, Pretzel Bread

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into two equal pieces. Roll each piece between the palms of your hand in a circular motion to form two smooth balls. (If making rolls, divide the dough into twelve equal pieces and form into balls, then continue with the following steps.)

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Sweet and Vicious, Pretzel Bread

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a stockpot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Slowly add the baking soda without stirring.

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Sweet and Vicious, Pretzel Bread

Working with one dough ball at a time, use a large spider or slotted spoon to slowly lower the dough ball into the boiling water. Boil for 30 seconds, turning once to make sure the complete surface of the dough has been covered with water. Remove with the slotted spoon to drain and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the second ball of dough.

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Sweet and Vicious, Pretzel Bread

Make a cross in the top of each loaf using a sharp knife or razor. Don’t worry if the dough looks rather ugly at this point; it will pop up and become beautiful during baking.

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Sweet and Vicious, Pretzel Bread

Sprinkle the loaves with salt (kosher, pretzel, or Maldon salt). I like a salty pretzel bread and salt-free pretzel rolls.

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Sweet and Vicious, Pretzel Bread

Bake for 25 minutes (15 minutes for rolls), until the loaves are a dark golden brown, turning the baking sheet around once in the middle of the bake time. Let the loaves cool slightly before serving.
Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Sweet and Vicious, Pretzel Bread

 

Meringue Heart Cookies

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey
Video editing by Candace Brower

I love a meringue cookie especially for a beginning baker, because they are very forgiving. You can color, shape and flavor them in any way. Basically, you can’t screw them up. 
For these Valentine’s Day treats (that my husband LOVES), I chose a heart shape…a certain shade of violet…and a rich vanilla flavor.
Valentine's Day Desserts, Libbie Summers Recipes, Meringue Recipes, Baking
Violet Meringue Hearts
(vanilla flavored lilac meringue clouds)
Makes 10 (3-inch) cookies

What you need: 
3 large egg whites
1/4 t cream of tartar
3/4 cup extra fine sugar
Purple food coloring (use any color you like)
Silver dragées (optional)

What to do:
Preheat oven to 200ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or use a bowl and a hand mixer) add the eggs and whip until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and whip until the mixture becomes thicker and holds a soft peak. With the mixer running, gradually add the sugar in a slow stream. Beat until the mixture is glossy and thick (The meringue is done when it holds stiff peaks and when you rub a little between your thumb and index finger it does not feel gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers)

Spoon the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and  pipe onto the prepared baking sheet into heart shapes. Sprinkle the tops with dragées or other sprinkles if desired.

Bake for 90 minutes (rotating halfway through). The meringues are done when they are crisp, pale in color and release easily from the parchment paper. Turn the oven off and crack the door. Leave the meringues in the oven to finish drying for several hours or overnight.

Meringues can be stored, covered, for 5 days.

Pro Tip: Before piping the cookies on the baking sheet, place a little of the meringue on the underside of each corner of the parchment paper. This prevents the paper from sliding!
Cookies, Cookie Recipes, Meringue Recipes, Valentine's Day Desserts

DIY: Meringue Heart Cookies Video

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey
Video Editing by Candace Brower

A fun step by step video that shows just how easy it is to make the best Valentine’s Day treat…that’s super pretty. Because if it isn’t pretty, I’d rather not make it.

Get the written recipe HERE!

Miracle Anti Aging Citrus Face Mask

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey
Edited by Candace Brower
With Anna Heritage

It’s a miracle!! After using this 3 ingredient homemade face mask I looked years younger, felt infinitely cooler and immediately craved a bowl of bibimbap.

Sprinkles Holiday Gift Idea

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey
Video Editing by Candace Brower

CUSTOM SPRINKLES!!! I’M YELLING!!! Just think about how great a personalized funfetti cake this would make!
I’m loving this for the perfect personalized gift from the kitchen this holiday season or any season! YAY!!!

Get the Step By Step How-To HERE.