Yesterday morning I watched quietly as our 1960's stove was rolled out of the house and out of my life for good. I couldn't help but feel a certain amount of sadness as I watched it leave. Sure, it was quite far from being a decent stove- it was always at least 100 degrees hotter inside than it stated, it's burners could not be regulated, and it baked terribly unevenly, but somehow my oven and I had formed some sort of a kinship over the past couple of years. Things were quite shaky when I first moved into our home and began cooking with it- I can still vividly remember the grease fire that almost burned down our entire kitchen- but we soon got into the groove with one another and I learned how to work it with some sort of ease. No one could quite understand how I managed to deal with it and make things come out decently, but somehow I figured it out.
Our time together was finally up though. After years of writing off foods that might be too complicated for my oven (crusty breads, custard pies, and the dreaded souffle), the opportunity arose for me to finally get a real brand new, well-working oven. How could I resist? It was time to part with my old friend move forward with my baking future.
And so, a beautiful new oven sits in its place.
I awoke this morning with a plan: to spend my entire day in the kitchen, baking and cooking to my heart's content. The new oven was just begging to be used and I couldn't wait to try it out. I sat with my laptop and searched through recipes I had been meaning to make. The one that struck me immediately and made my mouth water was a recipe for pretzel bread rolls that I had seen on the ever-inspiring smitten kitchen. To me, there are few things that can be more perfect than pretzel bread. Fresh-baked bread is one of my favorite things in life, but when you take that bread and add a dark hard crust and coarse salt, it becomes exceptional. As I removed them from the oven, I knew that I had made some really, really good. So good, in fact, that I quickly made a second batch and planned our whole dinner around them.
P.S.: Stay tuned for more posts regarding the fruits of my full day of baking labor.
Pretzel Rolls: a recipe from the January 1994 issue of Bon Appetit, adapted by Deb of Smitten Kitchen
2 3/4 cups bread flour (I used regular all-purpose flour and it worked just fine)
1 envelope quick-rising yeast (or regular active-dry yeast- it will just have to rise a little longer)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (about) hot water (125°F to 130°F)
8 cups water
1/4 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg white, beaten to blend (glaze)
Combine bread flour, 1 envelope yeast, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sugar in food processor and blend. With machine running, gradually pour hot water through feed tube, adding enough water to form smooth elastic dough. Process 1 minute to knead. Grease medium bowl. Add dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 35 minutes.
Flour baking sheet, or clear area of counter. Punch dough down and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 8 pieces. Form each dough piece into ball. Place dough balls on prepared surface, flattening each slightly. Using serrated knife, cut X in top center of each dough ball. Cover with towel and let dough balls rise until almost doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease another baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Bring 8 cups water to boil in large saucepan. Add baking soda and 2 tablespoons sugar (water will foam up). Add 4 rolls and cook 30 seconds per side. Using slotted spoon, transfer rolls to prepared sheet, arranging X side up. Repeat with remaining rolls.
Brush rolls with egg white glaze. Sprinkle rolls generously with coarse salt. Bake rolls until brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Serve rolls warm or room temperature.