Saturday, July 10, 2010

Philly's Phinest: Jalapeno Jack Soft Pretzels Salted with Gaslight Anthem and Steel Train

Bretzelsonndeg, or Pretzel Sunday, is a celebration in Luxembourg that occurs annually on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Boys give their sweethearts a pretzel (or a cake in the shape of a pretzel). The bigger the pretzel, the more he likes a girl.

When I made pretzels a couple of Sundays ago, I thought long and hard about making J-Fur an oven sized one. In the end I bucked the Bretzelsonndeg trend and went with more, smaller pretzels instead of less, larger ones. I think she got the gist of my intentions. If not, there is always next Lent.

Pepper Jack Soft Pretzels (adapted from Martha Stewart)
(printable version)

-2 cups warm water
-1 Tbsp. sugar
-1 packet active dry yeast
-5 cups all purpose flour (could need closer to six)
-1 Tbsp. salt
-2 tsp. vegetable oil
-2 Tbsp. baking soda
-1 large egg
-2 jalapenos, seeds removed
-2 oz. jack cheese
-cooking spray
-pretzel salt

1. Combine the warm water and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour in the packet of active dry yeast and let sit for ten minutes (the concoction should become foamy).

2. Fit the electric mixer with a dough hook. Add 1 cup of flour to the yeast and mix, on low, until combined. Add salt and 4 cups of flour. Again, mix until combined. Dice the jalapenos (very small dice) and add, along with the jack cheese, to the dough. Increase the mixer speed to medium and continue mixing the dough until it starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl (about two minutes). If dough is sticky, add more flour. Remove the dough from the mixer and knead with your hands for about 3o seconds. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead a few more times until dough is smooth.

3. Pour vegetable oil into a large metal bowl, swirl to coat the sides of the bowl. Put dough in this bowl and roll until all sides have been covered by oil. Cover with a towel, place in warm oven, and allow dough to rise for an hour.

4. Remove the dough from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. Set aside. Punch down dough to remove any bubbles. Knead dough again and divide into sixteen pieces.

6. Roll dough, one piece at a time, into long strands. Shape the dough. To make a pretzel shape: cross one end of the dough over another, twist around the strand two times and bring those twists up to meet the top hoop (that was formed when you crossed the strands over each other).

7. In a large shallow pot bring two inches of water to a boil. Add baking soda and reduce heat to a simmer. Place four pretzels in the water and poach for 1 minute (one side only). Remove pretzels with a slotted spoon and place on the baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels have been dipped into the water.

8. Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg mixture onto the surface of the pretzels. Sprinkle with salt. Bake in the oven until golden, about 12 minutes.

Alright, follow me here. When I think soft pretzels, I think Philadelphia because that is one of the many things they are famous for. When I think Philadelphia, I think New Jersey (it is right across the river). When I think New Jersey, I think of Steel Train and the Gaslight Anthem (and Bruce Springsteen). Therefore soft pretzels...well, you get the point.

Steel Train has a new self-titled album out. "Bullet" is the first track on the album (which you can buy here). The band is currently making their way through selected cities in the southern part of the US before doing some east coast dates.

Harvey's Kitchen: Steel Train, Bullet from Harvey Robinson on Vimeo.

Download the album version of "Bullet"at Speakers in Code.

The Gaslight Anthem is not one of J-Fur's favorite bands. They go slow when she thinks they should go fast. Brian Fallon sings too nice. They sound too much like Bruce Springsteen. What she fails to see is the stories the band tells in their songs, something that is oftentimes missing from today's music. The story told below, "The Queen of Lower Chelsea" comes from American Slang, Gaslight Anthem's new album, which is out now. Buy it here.