Even though I'm 5'11'' I didn't play basketball or volleyball in high school. Instead, I was a competitive horseback rider and spent most of my free time at the stable with the other dedicated barn brats. The rest of it was spent sipping frappuccino's at Starbucks and having nekkid hot tub parties (we were so risque!) with my group of co-ed high school buddies.
Occasionally, my two worlds would collide at a birthday party and it was always overwhelming to introduce the two groups of friends who had nothing in common other than me. Somewhere in the past 10 years that overwhelming feeling morphed to pure delight, and last night at least 5 of my worlds collided in a heap of laughs, smiles, new friends, old friends, and great wine. Since I celebrated my birthday last month at home, I invited friends in the city to join me last night for belated merrymaking. I just have to say this: I have the very best, most amazing friends a girl could ask for, and it was such a joy to watch them all laugh and play together in one room. Also, the very fact that 25 of them showed up made me feel more loved than I have in a while. Thanks, friends!
I chose Ardesia in Hell's Kitchen for the first few rounds - mostly because I'd been there once before and the soft pretzel I had with my Malbec was amazing. A few pretzels were ordered last night but I was too busy flitting about the room visiting to sink my teeth into one, and after several glasses of wine last night (read: bottles), pretzel-making was about as ambitious as I got today.
I've been intimidated by yeast-breads for a while, so easy pretzels seemed like a good way to start. These were really fun to make, though kind of time consuming, and tasted great. Next time I'll make them a little sweeter and brush them with cinnamon sugar to get that Auntie Anne's sweet perfection. In the meantime, I ate three of these for dinner with a dollop of Grey Poupon and then set out into the night to make some pretzel deliveries to friends.
It must just be a weekend for friends because Izzy and I ran into a dear one as we were walking home from our pretzel deliveries. She's just started a fun blog project so be sure to check it out and follow her adventures.
SmittenKitchen's Martha Stewart adaptation
2 cups warm water
1 tbsp. + 2 tbsp. sugar
1 packet dry active yeast
5 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 tbsp. salt
2 tsp. canola oil (I used olive oil)
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Pour warm water and 1 tbsp. sugar into bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook an stir to combine. Sprinkle with yeast, and let sit 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy.
Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and mix on low until combined. Add salt and 4 cups more flour, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat on medium-low until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add another 1/2 cup flour, and knead on low 1 minute more. If dough is still wet and sticky, add 1/2 cup more flour; knead until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a lightly floured board, and knead about ten times, until smooth.
Pour oil into a large bowl, swirl to coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.
Heat oven to 450 F. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray (I used parchment paper). Set aside. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, divide into 16 pieces and wrap in plastic.
Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip. Twist into pretzel shape; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels; eight will fit on each sheet. Let pretzels rise slightly, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a large shallow pot with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Add baking soda and remaining 2 tbsp. sugar. Reduce to a simmer; transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute on each side. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached.
Beat egg with 1 tbsp. water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 13 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, or eat warm. Pretzels are best when eaten the same day, but will keep at room temperature, uncovered, for two days. Do not store in covered container or they will become soggy.