Sunday, September 26, 2010

Best Homemade Soft Pretzels

I found an amazing soft pretzel recipe this weekend. The pretzels came out so good, I don’t think I’ll ever buy a soft pretzel again.

I previously made soft pretzels a few times using this recipe. While the recipe was good, one of the problems is that the pretzels didn’t taste so great the next day. I also thought the pretzels were a bit too skinny. I missed the thick pieces of dough that you usually get in a soft pretzel.

So when I kept seeing this recipe for soft pretzels by Alton Brown floating around, I decided to try it out, with the help of baby bro’s girlfriend. This recipe uses more butter than the original recipe I used and also boils the soft pretzels before baking. This allows the pretzels to puff up, making them come out fat and plump, just the way I like it. (The previous recipe only had me dip the pretzels in hot water and baking soda, but I think actually boiling is key.)


These pretzels tasted great. The surface is shiny and golden brown, the dough is nice and soft and thick. They kept well too and still tasted great the next day. The recipe makes eight large pretzels. I thought that these were a bit too big and chose to make a personalized size pretzel, so we did 16.

Soft Pretzels (adapted from Alton Brown)

  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt


1. Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

3. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan.

4. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces (or 16 if you want smaller pretzels). Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope (12 inch for smaller pretzels). Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

5. Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula.

6. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt (I chose to omit the pretzel salt since I usually just pick this off anyway. I think the pretzels are salty enough on their own.) Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 minutes (or 6-7 minutes for smaller pretzels). Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hot Milk Sponge Cake

When I saw a recipe for Hot Milk Sponge Cake on The Little Teochew, I was intrigued. The idea of using hot milk sounded really interesting and I enjoy sponge cakes. 

The recipe was pretty simple to make and I was surprised at how high the eggs whip up. The cake came out looking light and airy and like a sponge.

I have to confess though, I didn't particularly love this cake. While it was light and airy, it also tasted kind of dry. When I think of sponge cakes, I think more of chiffon cakes or the mini chinese sponge cakes I've made. These cake looked similar, but it didn't have the same texture or taste.

Hot Milk Sponge Cake (recipe from The Little Teochew)


- 1 1/3 cups cake flour
- 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract


1. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt twice. Then set aside.

2. Combine butter and milk in a saucepan, heat on medium until the butter has just about melted. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Using the whisk attachment, beat your eggs on high until blended, about 1 minute.

Add your vanilla extract/beans and sugar gradually and beat until pale
and tripled in volume. About 6 minutes according to the book.

Sift one third of your flour mixture into your egg mixture. According to
Fel, sifting here is quite important because it is quite easy to get
lumps here. Fold it in with a rubber spatula. Repeat with the remaining
flour mixture in 2 more additions.

6. Reheat the milk mixture until just under a boil. Then add the hot milk mixture into the batter and fold it in.

Scrape the batter into a prepared pan. I used an 8 inch springform pan.

8. Pop it in the oven at 175 degree celsius for 20 to 25
mins. When done, put a toothpick in and it should come out clean. Cool
the cake before serving.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Zion Market bento boxes

Zion Market
4611 Mercury Street
San Diego, CA 92111

A few weeks ago, when I was doing some grocery shopping at Zion Market, I noticed that the guy in front of me had bought a bunch of premade bentos. I didn't even know that Zion Market was selling bentos, but sure enough, the next week I saw it on their ad.

I was pretty interested. Usually I get bentos from Nijiya, and while I enjoy them, it's always nice to have another choice.

Zion offers two types of bentos. One is a bento box with rice, your choice of meat (chicken, bulgogi beef or spicy pork) and some little side dishes. 

The other option is a bibimbop, except without the stone pot and crispy
rice. Instead you just have regular rice with all the things that
usually got inside bibimbop. I liked the side dish options better for the bibimbop but it barely had any meat. BF looked at it and said it was more of a salad..I guess it does look like a salad, except with rice instead of lettuce.

I chose the beef bento box. There was a decent amount of food, definitely enough for a meal. I liked the beef, but I didn't really like the sides though. One of them was pickled spicy peppers, which I didn't know until I bit into it.

For $5.99, it's a good lunch option if you are craving Korean food. I'll probably try the chicken and the pork at some point too.