Apr 28, 2014

Pretzel Croissants

Pretzel Croissants

Pretzel croissants. There are cronuts, so why not pretzel croissants?

They get their "pretzel-ness" because they are prepared with a dough made with beer instead of water, dipped into a baked baking soda wash, and then sprinkled with salt. Maybe they should they be called "pretzants," or perhaps "crotzels."

Pretzel Croissants

How do they taste? Croissants, yes. Pretzels, not so much. Except that they have that beautiful dark burnished look and a sprinkling of salt on the outside.

Regardless, I'd rather spread these with jam as opposed to dip them in mustard... although sliced lengthwise to make a sandwich... that works!

Pretzel Croissants

Any time I make laminated dough I feel so proud. I"m not sure why I always get intimidated, because the results are magical layers upon layers of flaky and buttery dough.

Making laminated dough requires some patience and planning, especially with the final roll out of the dough. I spread out the steps to make these over two and a half days (mostly inactive time). I made the dough and the butter block on a Friday night and stuck them in the refrigerator. The next day, I completed the 3 lamination "turns" over the course of a few hours, refrigerating the dough between turns. On Sunday, I did the final roll out, shaping, and baking.

The trick is to keep the dough and the butter cold. This is why it takes a couple of days. It's worth it kiddos.

Clearly you must be wondering why I am trying a new croissant recipe when I'd just declared that I had found the best laminated dough recipe ever in this post? Because my friend Heather of Girlichef is the Bread Baking Babes kitchen of the month, and she picked this recipe to challenge herself to make something she loves as well as try a new technique. When Heather says "try this," I'm there.

I am definitely adding this dough and technique to my bread making tool box. I had never heard about baking baking soda to substitute it for lye for pretzels. I also loved the folding technique to add more layers to the dough.

Please visit Heather's post to see photos of the process. She also has links for the other Babes' experiences with this dough.

Pretzel Croissants



1/2 C lukewarm (110 degrees F) milk
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
3 T brown sugar
410 grams (3 1/4 C) unbleached all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp salt
2 T room temperature unsalted butter
1/2 C cold pilsner/lager beer (I used Dos Equis)
A few tablespoons of water if the dough is too dry

Butter Block

24 T (3 sticks) of cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 T unbleached all purpose flour

Baked Baking Soda Wash

1/4 C baking soda
8 C cold water

Egg Wash and Topping

1 egg yolk
1 T milk
Coarse sea salt
Sesame or poppy seeds


To make the dough (day 1)

  1. Mix all of the dough ingredients in a bowl with a dough whisk.
  2. Knead the dough briefly with your hands to just incorporate all of the ingredients. The dough should be tacky but not sticky. If it is too dry, add water, one tablespoon at a time. My original dough was really dry, but, after an overnight rest in the refrigerator, it behaved amazingly well. 
  3. Place the dough into an oiled bowl and turn it to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours. 

To make the butter block (day 1)

  1. Beat the butter and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment for about a minute. 
  2. Place the butter on top of a sheet of plastic wrap and place another sheet on top. 
  3. Roll the butter out to a 8 by 9 inch rectangle. Use a ruler to make sure the edges are straight and the corners are sharp. 
  4. Wrap and place the butter block in the refrigerator with the dough to chill. 

To bake the baking soda (day 1)

  1. Spread the baking soda onto a baking sheet and bake for one hour in a 250 degree oven. 
  2. Cool and store in an airtight container.

To make the croissants (day 2)

  1. Turn the cold dough out onto a lightly floured surface. 
  2. Roll it into a 10 inch by 15 inch rectangle. Make sure the corners are squared by pulling the dough with your hands. The 15 inch edge of the dough should be facing you. 
  3. Place the butter block over the right 2/3 of the dough, leaving a one inch border on the outer edges. 
  4. Fold the left portion of the dough that does not have butter on it over half of the butter block. Fold the right portion of the dough, which has butter on it, over the dough that has just been folded over the dough. You should have a tri-fold that is dough, butter, dough, butter, dough. Squeeze the edges together, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour. 
  5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured surface. 
  6. Roll the dough out into a 10 inch by 20 inch rectangle with the 20 inch side facing you. Mentally divide the dough into fourths and fold each outer fourth into the middle. Then fold the dough over itself so that you have a "book" of four layers. Press the layers together and wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
  7. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured surface. 
  8. Roll the dough out into a 10 inch by 15 inch rectangle with the 15 inch side facing you. Do a trifold, folding the left and right sides over each other so that you have three layers of dough. Press the layers together and wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours, and up to 24 hours. I let mine rest over night in the refrigerator.

To make the croissants (day 3)

  1. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment and set aside. 
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 15 inch by 18 inch rectangle. I found lightly dusting both sides of the dough with flour, flipping it between rolls, and letting it rest for a few minutes. made this easier. Stretch the dough to make a rectangle with corners. 
  3. Cut the rectangle in half widthwise, to make two 15 by 9 inch strips. Cut each strip into three equal rectangles. 
  4. Cut the rectangles diagonally in half to create triangles. 
  5. Beginning at the bottom of each triangle, roll up the dough, tucking the pointy part under so it doesn't go rogue (this is always something I forget), and place them on the baking sheets. 
  6. Cover the croissants with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise until very slightly puffy, for about 2 hours. 
  7. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  8. Mix the baked baking soda with 8 cups of cold water. 
  9. Dip each croissant into the water, let the excess drip off, and place them back onto the baking sheets. 
  10. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with the salt and seeds. 
  11. Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets about halfway through. The finished croissants should be a deep golden brown.
  12. Cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes. 
  13. Leftovers can be warmed in a 350 degree oven for about 5 to 10 minutes. 
Sharing with Yeastspotting

Apr 27, 2014

Roasted Pear, Parmesan, and Spiced Pecan Salad

Roasted Pear, Parmesan, and Spiced Pecan Salad

This roasted pear, Parmesan, and spiced pecan salad is so refreshing, and it was the perfect dinner this weekend when I wanted something light. It's a tasty combination of sweet pears, salty cheese, peppery arugula, and spicy pecans.

Roasted Pear, Parmesan, and Spiced Pecan Salad

I found some huge Asian pears in my local grocery store. They were a bit pricey, all decked out in their mesh jackets, but they were perfect for roasting, and just burst with juice when we sliced into them. In addition, I found some authentic Parmigiano Reggiano yesterday that I couldn't resist.

The pecans in this salad are tossed in hot maple syrup, and then dusted with cinnamon, chili powder, and sea salt. They are sticky and sweet.. and difficult to resist as they sit waiting to be tossed into the salad.

Roasted Pear, Parmesan, and Spiced Pecan Salad

It's Secret Recipe Club reveal day!! Each month we are assigned a member's blog from which to make a recipe! This month I was assigned 84th & 3rd, a gorgeous blog written and photographed by JJ. She is a writer, recipe developer, and photographer who just happens to live in Sydney, Australia.

Her photographs are simply stunning and her food is "veg-aquarian." I had a hard time deciding what to make but finally narrowed it down to either this Smoked Salmon Breakfast Pizza, this Smokey Beer and Onion Barbecue Sauce (she still makes meat for the carnivores in her life). or these Rye Sourdough Crackers. I've bookmarked all of these. I finally settled on this Roasted Pear, Parmesan, and Spiced Pecan Salad. Delicious!

Please hop over to JJ's blog and check out all of the beautiful food and read all of her wonderful stories.

Roasted Pear, Parmesan, and Spiced Pecan Salad

Roasted Pear, Parmesan, and Spiced Pecan Salad

Serves 4


Sticky Spiced Pecans

1/2 C pecan halves
1 T maple syrup (JJ uses rice syrup)
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of chipotle chili powder
Pinch of sea salt


Generous 1/8 C extra virgin olive oil
Generous 1/8 C balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of oregano
Pinch of sugar


One bunch of arugula, washed and trimmed
Two large Asian pears, or three to four "regular" pears, quartered and cored (do not peel)
Juice from one lemon
One to two ounces of Parmesan cheese, shaved


  1. Prepare a sheet pan with parchment or foil and set aside. In a nonstick skillet, heat the maple syrup on low. When it is just beginning to bubble, toss in the pecans and spices and stir to coat the nuts. Pour the nuts onto the prepared sheet pan and spread out in a single layer. 
  2. Mix the dressing ingredients.
  3. Prepare a sheet pan with foil. Set your oven rack about 6 inches below the broiler and turn the oven on to broil. 
  4. Toss the pear quarters in the lemon juice and place them, skin side down, onto the foil lined baking sheet. Broil for 5 to 7 minutes, watching closely. 
  5. Place the arugula into four bowls or plates. Divide the pecans, warm pears, and shaved cheese among the bowls. Drizzle with the dressing. 
  6. Serve and enjoy!

Apr 23, 2014

Vanilla Gelato and a #foodmemory Guest Post

Vanilla gelato

This vanilla gelato is lower in fat than most ice cream because it does not contain cream. It also contains more sugar than American ice cream. Because it is churned with less air, the sugar acts as a sort of "anti-freeze" to keep the gelato from getting rock hard.

Most home ice cream makers do not add a lot of air to homemade ice creams, so they are perfect for making gelato. This vanilla gelato is so easy to scoop and does not get as rock hard as most homemade ice cream. This did not last very long in our house, mostly because of me. I have been known to justify having a bowl of ice cream for breakfast. If you need ideas for rationalizing ice cream for breakfast, let me know. I've got an entire list.

Vanilla gelato

About two months after I first started this blog, I came across a post from Lora of the wonderful blog, Cake Duchess. She was just starting a baking group #TwelveLoaves, which was all about flexing new baking muscles and making bread at home. I started following her blog (follow it, you won't regret it, she has so many authentic Italian recipes and her breads are inspired). I also started participating in #TwelveLoaves and got to know Lora as a friend.

When Lora lost her dad, and after taking some time off from writing, she wrote this moving story. As a result of this story, as well as many of her food blogging friends reaching out to her, she created this #food memory series.

I am honored to be the next contributor to the series. I've written a post about my dad and his love of ice cream, especially gelato.

For the recipe for this vanilla gelato, to hear a little bit about my dad, and to see photos of my handsome young father, please visit Cake Duchess. I hope you do. This has been a labor of love.

Apr 22, 2014

Triple Orange Mexican Cookies - Polvorones de Naranja

Karen's Kitchen Stories: Triple Orange Mexican Cookies - Polvorones de Naranja

Polvorones are a Mexican sugar or shortbread cookie. According to the collective brains of Wikipedia, they are derived from a Spanish cookie. In the United States, they are often referred to as Mexican wedding cookies.

This triple orange version, or Polvorones de Naranja, contains orange zest, orange juice, and orange liqueur. For these, I used tangelos from our 50 year old tree that seems to survive in a sliver of clay in our backyard patio. These cookies can also be flavored with nuts, chocolate, cinnamon, or vanilla.

Karen's Kitchen Stories: Triple Orange Mexican Cookies - Polvorones de Naranja

The cookies are super crumbly and melt in your mouth. The name polvorones is derived from the Spanish word "polvo," or "powder" in English.

Karen's Kitchen Stories: Triple Orange Mexican Cookies - Polvorones de Naranja

This month the Creative Cookie Exchange Group is baking Cinco de Mayo inspired cookies and I wanted to do something authentic. To approach this challenge, I dug out my 1965 copy of Complete Book of Mexican Cooking by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz, the first cookbook I ever owned. She is considered one of the first "scholar cooks."

Her story about learning about the Mexican kitchen as the wife of a diplomat is fascinating. As a woman of privilege, she was discouraged from cooking while living in Mexico City. I think it was the only authentic Mexican cookbook available at the time.

Karen's Kitchen Stories: Triple Orange Mexican Cookies - Polvorones de Naranja

The recipe in Elisabeth's book was very similar to one I found in Pati's Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking. Score! I loved how Pati used citrus to flavor her cookies.

These cookies are crumbly and citrusy, but not particularly sweet. They are perfect with coffee or tea. I added vanilla, and a little bit of salt, which I understand is not very traditional. Omit the salt if you want to be more authentic.

Triple Orange Mexican Cookies - Polvorones de Naranja

Makes 30 to 36 cookies


8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting the finished cookies
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 T packed orange zest (I used tangelo zest)
1/4 C freshly squeezed orange juice (I used tangelo zest)
2 T orange liqueur 
1 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt (omit to be more authentic)
1/2 tsp baking soda


  1. Place the butter and powdered sugar in a food processor and pulse a few times, until just combined. 
  2. Add the egg, egg yolk, zest, juice, liqueur, and vanilla, and pulse until mixed. 
  3. Add the flour and baking soda and pulse until the dough just comes together. 
  4. Scrape the dough out onto the counter and press it together. 
  5. Wrap it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours. 
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment. 
  7. Form the dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and place them 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Gently press them down to slightly flatten. 
  8. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on a rack.
  9. Dust generously with powdered sugar. Can be stored up to 5 days in an airtight container. 

The theme this month's Creative Cookie Exchange is Cinco de Mayo - and what better way to celebrate than baking cookies! If you are a blogger and you'd like to become a member, just contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.

You can also just use us as a great resource for cookie recipes--be sure to check out our Facebook page, our Pinterest Board, and our monthly posts. You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Apr 19, 2014

Caesar Tartlets with Sweet Garlic Butter Crusts

Caesar Tartlets with Sweet Garlic Butter Crusts

How elegant would it be to serve these Caesar Tartlets with Sweet Garlic Butter Crusts at a dinner party? Your guests would be blown away. 

Instead of serving the salad with the traditional garlic croutons, just place the salad in this flakey, garlicky, buttery, and cheesy crust. Ah-maze-ing. Your guests will be raving about it for days. 

Caesar Tartlets with Sweet Garlic Butter Crusts

The pastry crusts are loaded with sweet roasted garlic. Heavenly. 

The crusts can be made a day or two in advance, wrapped in foil, and refrigerated until your elegant party for eight or romantic dinner for two. 

Caesar Tartlets with Sweet Garlic Butter Crusts

If you are nervous about raw egg in your Caesar dressing, this version will make you happy. While not as creamy as traditional Caesar, it is crazy delicious. I think the difference is the addition of crushed capers. This will be my go-to Caesar dressing forevermore. This is not hyperbole (well, maybe, but it's the best Caesar dressing I've ever tried... so far). And you can make it up to three days in advance. 

Caesar Tartlets with Sweet Garlic Butter Crusts

All you need is fresh romaine and grated Parmesan and you have a stunning garlicky first course. 

Caesar Tartlets with Sweet Garlic Butter Crusts

Caesar Tartlets with Sweet Garlic Butter Crusts

Makes 8 servings. 


Garlic Crusts

2 whole heads of garlic
2 T of extra virgin olive oil
1 C/2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 C finely grated Parmesan cheese (grate it yourself, do not use pre-grated cheese)
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 C unbleached all purpose flour

Caesar Dressing

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 T capers, rinsed and smashed
2 tsp fresh parsley
1 heaping tsp anchovy paste
4 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil


1/4 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1 head of romaine lettuce, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces


To make the crusts:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cut the tops off of the garlic heads and sprinkle with the olive oil. 
  3. Wrap in foil and bake for about 40 minutes. 
  4. Remove the garlic heads from the oven and allow to cool.
  5. Remove the cloves of garlic with a small fork and place them into the bowl of a stand mixer. 
  6. Add the butter, cheese, and salt, and mix with the paddle attachment for about a minute. Add the flour and mix for another minute, until just crumbly. 
  7. Divide the dough among 8 four inch tart pans and press into the pans. "Dock" the crusts with a fork. Place the pans onto a cookie sheet and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned. 
  8. Cool on the cookie sheet on a rack. At this point, you can wrap them in foil and refrigerate. 

To make the dressing:

  1. Add all of the ingredients into the bowl of a small food processor and pulse.

To assemble the salad:

  1. Place each tartlet on an individual salad plate. 
  2. Toss the romaine with the dressing and the Parmesan. Divide the salad among the crusts. 
  3. Serve and bask in the glory.  

I am participating in a celebration of #NationalGarlicDay along with all of these wonderful food bloggers. This is indeed an honor. Check out their crazy good garlic recipes:
In honor of National Garlic Day and our love of the stinking rose, we are giving away a Garlic Lovers Prize Pack (valued at over $100) that includes:
  1. The Garlic Farmers' Cookbook
  2. One-year membership to the Garlic Seed Foundation
  3. 5 Garlic Button Covers
  4. OXO Good Grips Garlic Press 
  5. The Ultimate Garlic Peeler
  6. Tumbleweed Pottery Garlic Clove Canister Keeper with Vented Lid
  7. Terra Cotta Garlic Roaster
  8. 2 Bulbs of Whole Black Garlic
To enter, simply leave a comment on this post (mandatory) answering this question: What is your favorite GARLICKY dish (or one that you'd love to try)? After you've answered the question for entry into this contest, be sure to record that you did so in the rafflecopter widget below; doing so will unlock many more optional ways to earn entries. a Rafflecopter giveaway This giveaway is open to residents of the Continental USA. Entries will be accepted through 11:59 pm ET on Thursday, April 24, 2014. All entries will be verified. A winner will be chosen from qualifying entries via random draw, and notified via email within 48 hours of the close of this contest. The winner will have 24 hours from the time the email is sent to respond with their complete name and mailing address (no P.O. Boxes). If no response is received within 24 hours, a new winner will be chosen. Prizes provided by The Garlic Seed Foundation, Food Lust People Love and girlichef. Prizes may vary slightly from images shown and are subject to replacement with comparable items if ones pictured are no longer available at the close of this contest. Items may be shipped separately.

Apr 16, 2014

Stir-Fried Mongolian Lamb with Scallions | Wok Wednesdays

Stir-fried Mongolian Lamb with Scallions

According to Grace Young, the author of the James Beard award winning book Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, this Stir-Fried Mongolian Lamb with Scallions is a favorite lunch in Inner Mongolia. The scallions balance the lamb flavor.

The dish is flavored with garlic (a whole tablespoon), rice wine, dark and regular soy sauce, hoisin, and sesame oil, and as Grace says in her book, no single ingredient dominates. Grace also seasons this dish with toasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns.

This stir-fry took only a few minutes to prepare, and created very little havoc in my kitchen. In fact, once I'd sliced and tossed the lamb in the garlic, wine, soy, pepper, salt, and sugar, and had combined the rest of the ingredients to make the sauce, I had enough time to put away all of the bottles and jars before starting the stir-fry. I felt pretty smug.

When you prepare this, make sure your scallions are super fresh, because they will wilt pretty quickly once you toss them in. I had to add in more at the end for "looks."

We thought this lamb stir-fry was pretty tasty. The meat is so tender and succulent, and the sauce is delicious. It's simply amazing with rice. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Most of the ingredients for this recipe can be found in any grocery store (although lamb seems to be getting harder to find these days for some reason). The two exceptions are the dark soy sauce and Sichuan peppercorns. Both can be found in Asian grocery stores or online. I am now on my third bottle of Pearl River Bridge dark soy sauce, the one with the pink label. It's miraculous.

As a participant in Wok Wednesdays, we've all agreed not to give out the recipes from the book. Instead, our job is to entice you to get the book, join the group, and wok along.

Apr 14, 2014

Cantuccini - Almond Biscotti #TuesdayswithDorie

Cantuccini - Almond Biscotti

According to Dorie Greenspan, Cantuccini is the true name for what we think of as biscotti. All Italian cookies are called biscotti (biscuits), but these are the "official" twice baked cookies that are super crunchy and dunked in wine, coffee, or tea.

Mr. Kitchen, who is used to something always in the oven in this house, even made a comment about how good the house smelled when these were baking. The combination of cinnamon and almond is amazing.

Cantuccini - Almond Biscotti

This is my first attempt at making biscotti, and all I can say is, "wow." If you make these, you'll never buy biscotti again. I like the fact that they are smaller and thinner than the biscotti you typically find in coffee houses. Way better for dunking!

Cantuccini - Almond Biscotti

This week, the Tuesdays with Dorie group is baking Cantuccini, a recipe by Nick Malgieri. This is another recipe from the book Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America's Best Bakers.

Cantuccini - Almond Biscotti

This recipe is super easy. You can do the first bake in advance and slice and bake the cookies the second time the next day, or even several days in advance. How convenient is that?



2 C (9.5 ounces) all purpose flour
3/4 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 C unblanched whole almonds
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. 
  3. Whisk the eggs and and vanilla together and pour over the dry ingredients.
  4. With your hands, mix the ingredients together until fully incorporated.
  5. Lightly flour a work surface, and knead the dough for about 3 minutes. 
  6. Divide the dough in half and roll each half into a 12 inch log. 
  7. Move the logs to the baking sheet and press them down to 2 inch wide by 1 inch high crescents. 
  8. Bake for 30 minutes. 
  9. Slide the logs, parchment and all, onto cooling racks. Let cool completely. (If you are not planning on making the cantuccini the same day, wrap the logs in plastic wrap to keep them fresh until baking time). 
  10. When you are ready to bake the cantuccini, line two baking sheets with parchment, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  11. With a very sharp serrated knife, slice each log into 1/4 inch thick slices. 
  12. Place them on the baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes. Cool on the pans.
  13. Store in an airtight container for up to a month. 

Apr 13, 2014

Edamame Noodle Salad

Edamame Noodle Salad

This Edamame Noodle Salad is so bright and fresh tasting. The dressing is flavored from a combination of fresh tangelo juice and the zest of a whole tangelo (you can use a tangerine or half of an orange) plus soy sauce.

Edamame Noodle Salad

Making this salad is astonishingly simple, and it keeps well in the refrigerator for a couple of days. I used angel hair pasta for the noodles, but you can use any noodles that you prefer.

Where I live, I can easily find fresh cooked edamame in my local grocery store. If fresh is not readily available, US readers can usually find it frozen at Costco or Trader Joe's.

Edamame Noodle Salad

Edamame Noodle Salad

Orange Soy Vinaigrette Dressing

1 clove of garlic, minced
2 1/2 T soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 1/2 T rice vinegar
The zest and juice of 1 tangelo or 1/2 orange

Add the ingredients to a small container and shake until blended. 

Salad Ingredients 

6 ounces of dried noodles (I used angel hair pasta)
1 C quartered cherry or grape tomatoes
8 ounces of shelled cooked edamame
2 green onions, sliced
All of the orange soy vinaigrette
Black pepper to taste


  1. Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain in a colander and rinse with cool water.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the noodles with the rest of the ingredients, including the vinaigrette. Serve and enjoy!

Apr 12, 2014

Black Pepper Taralli

Black Pepper Taralli - Karen's Kitchen Stories

Taralli are a southern Italian snack that is kind of a cross between a looped breadstick and a pretzel. They look like tiny bagels, but they are super crunchy like grissini. These crackers are about 2 inches in diameter (smaller than they look in the photos). I've also seen them referred to as Italian wine pretzels.

Black Pepper Taralli - Karen's Kitchen Stories

Taralli? How did I discover taralli? you ask! Well.... there was a cookbook sitting on my nightstand called Crackers & Dips: More than 50 Handmade Snacks.

I definitely have a bit of a cookbook problem. A book solely devoted to crackers and dips? How did this get in my house? Typically the culprit is some gorgeous article in Fine Cooking or Bon Appetit featuring a stack of beautiful cookbook spines. Amazon Prime strikes again.

Time to try one of the recipes.

At least I don't collect cars, right? Or shoes. Or exotic animals. I swear, you won't see me on Hoarders weaving my way through narrow aisles of cookbooks.

Black Pepper Taralli - Karen's Kitchen Stories

Tartalli come in both savory or sweet flavors. They are often served with wine, and are crispy enough to be served with cheesy dips. I made these with very coarsely ground tellicherry black peppercorns. I loved them both plain and with a gooey dip of Harvarti cheese with pepperoni.

Black Pepper Taralli - Karen's Kitchen Stories

You can substitute any number of savory flavors for the black pepper. I really like the spiciness of the bits of tellicherry.

Black Pepper Taralli


2 tsp instant yeast
3/4 C warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 C white wine
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
2 C/255 g unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 C/290 g semolina flour (not extra fancy durum)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground (on course) black pepper
1 egg + 1 T water, beaten


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add all of the ingredients in the order that they are listed, except the beaten egg.
  2. Stir with a large spoon or dough whisk until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet ingredients.
  3. Knead on medium speed for about 3 minutes. The dough can also be kneaded by hand for about 6 minutes. 
  4. Allow the dough to rise, covered in an oiled bowl, until doubled. About 90 to 120 minutes. 
  5. Divide the dough in half, covering one half with plastic wrap while you work with the other half. 
  6. Divide the other half into 28 equal pieces and roll them into 6 inch long ropes. Coil the ropes into a circle and press the ends together. Place them one inch apart on parchment lined baking sheets. 
  7. Cover the first sheet with plastic wrap, while preparing the second baking sheet. 
  8. Brush the taralli lightly with the egg wash. 
  9. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. 
  10. Cool on a wire rack, and then store in an airtight container. They will stay fresh for up to 2 weeks. 
Sharing with Yeastspotting

Apr 8, 2014

Thai-Flavored Pork Belly Skewers

Thai-Flavored Pork Belly Skewers

These Thai-Flavored Pork Belly Skewers are ridiculous. Beyond amazing. Seriously delicious. Happy dance good.

Thai-Flavored Pork Belly Skewers

I am not an expert in grilling and neither is Mr. K. We've always had a charcoal grill, and have recently learned about using a chimney starter. About a year ago, we purchased a gas grill. We are still trying to figure out the manual (give me bread formulas or even Excel pivot tables - just don't ask me to figure out how to use this damn grill). Being the holder of all earthly knowledge is a lot of work.

These pork belly skewers are soooo good. The ingredients in the marinade make the dish. I still can't believe I devoured a skewer full of pork belly the minute it came off of the grill.

Thai-Flavored Pork Belly Skewers

I used the gas grill to make these skewers. While the original recipe calls for about four minutes to make these skewers, it took me about twice that amount of cooking time suggested in the recipe. With grilling, there are a lot of variables, including the weather, so keep a close eye on the meat and go with your instincts. Next time I might double up on the scallions too. 

I am so excited to be a part of the blog tour introducing Grilled to Perfection by two champion pit masters Andy Husbands and Chris Hart. I chose to make these pork belly skewers as part of this tour. Zero regrets here!

This book is loaded with new and wonderful barbecue recipes. There are recipes for hot direct grilling, roasting on the grill, and low and slow grilling. The recipes are adapted for both charcoal and gas. There are lots sauce recipes as well as tons of grilling tips. The grilled corn with miso butter and the lemon and fresh herb grill-roasted leg of lamb recipes are next on my list.

Thai-Flavored Pork Belly Skewers

Posted with permission from Page Street Publishing

We found that grilling these over a low grill helps build a wonderful sticky-crunchy texture. Make sure to flip the skewers over every 30-45 seconds. Soaking the skewers in water helps keep them from burning.

1 cup/240 mL water
1/2 cup/90 g brown sugar
1 stalk lemongrass, thinly sliced
2 pieces star anise
1 two-inch/5 cm cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons/10 mL coriander seeds, toasted and ground
2 teaspoons/10mL red pepper flakes
1/4 cup/60mL soy sauce
2 tablespoons/30 mL fish sauce
2 tablespoons/30 mL white vinegar
1 pound/450g pork belly, skin removed, cut into 1"/2.5 cm-square slices, each 1/4"/6 mm thick
10 scallions, thick white part cut into 1"/2.5cm-pieces

Makes 10 skewers, 4 - 6 appetizer servings

Equipment: Ten 8"/20 cm wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 4 hours

Cooking Instructions
In a small saucepan over high heat, bring to boil the water, brown sugar, lemongrass, star anise, cinnamon stick, coriander and red pepper flakes. Boil for 30 seconds, then remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until completely cool, about 2 hours. Add the soy and fish sauces and vinegar. 

Place the pork belly chunks in the marinade for at least 4 and up to 24 hours.

Thread the pork belly and scallion alternately, starting with pork belly (scallion should be perpendicular to the skewers). Each skewer should have 3 pieces of pork and 2 scallions.

Build a low direct fire. Spread an even layer of unlit charcoal in the bottom of the grill. Fill a chimney one-third full with charcoal. Stuff two sheets of newspaper in the bottom of the chimney and light it. When the coals are fully engaged – you should see flames peeking over the top – pour them over the unlit charcoal. If using a gas grill, light the gas and adjust the temperature on both sides to low.

When you can hold your hands over the fire for no more than 8-10 seconds, clean the grill grate. Place the skewers directly over the fire, with the exposed wooden ends pointing the edge of the grill, and grill for 30-45 seconds, until the meat starts to brown. Flip skewers over and repeat. Continue this process for about 4 minutes, until the meat is dark brown, almost black in some areas.

Serve hot, and make sure you get one for yourself. These will not last long.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.