Try homemade recipes for your favorite treats

By Aldona Bird

Just when a resolution  to only eat homemade bread and pasta  cut my wheat intake … I learned how easily a few of my other favorites can be made.

It all started when I watched an episode of a baking show in which contestants made pretzels and thought, “I can totally do that.”

Soft pretzels always seemed like such a treat — making them seemed beyond my skill set; they’re expensive enough for me to not incorporate them as a regular staple in my diet, but they are so delicious.

I searched Pinterest for a simple recipe and got to work. The dough consisted of water, yeast, sugar, butter, flour and a pinch of salt.

I cut the dough into eight sections, rolling each into a thick rope and shaped it like a pretzel before placing it in the boiling baking soda and water bath, which gives these treats their signature crust.

After sprinkling with coarse salt, they went into a preheated oven  at 475 degrees and came out once they reached that beautiful deep brown, and I brushed them liberally with butter. The first batch didn’t last long in my household, and I made a second batch before the night was out.

Having managed the daunting task of boiling this baked good before it went into the oven, I decided I could probably handle another of my favorite treats which always seemed beyond my skill set: Bagels.

I could eat bagels all day. Add a good cream cheese (sun-dried tomato and pesto are some of my favorite flavors), and I’d do just about anything to get a bite.

To make my kryptonite, mix yeast, warm water with sugar — the recipe called for brown, but when in a rush once I added unrefined white sugar instead, and it turned out so well  I’ve incorporated this mistake into the recipe — and all-purpose flour. Knead and let rise.

On a floured surface, divide the dough into eight sections (it seems to be the magic number for baked goods), shape them into smooth balls and let rise about a half hour.

Combine water with brown and white sugar for the bagel water bath.

To shape these treats, I pressed my thumb through the center of each ball of dough and  twirled it (on the floured surface) around my finger until the hole was a couple inches across.

Once I had a few, I popped them into the boiling water — I found letting them sit and start to rise again changed the consistency — and let them simmer for about three minutes (flipping them for the last minute).

Once strained, they went into a 425-degree oven for about 15 minutes. I brushed them with water and added toppings — herbs, cheeses, seeds, salt —  then baked them for another 10 minutes.

As with pretzels, I’ve taken to doubling this recipe.

Emboldened by these successes, I decided to make it a perfect carbohydrate trio and  tested a couple English muffin recipes. Combining warm milk, honey, yeast, egg, butter, flour and salt made a sticky dough.

Once the mixture rose, was rolled and cut, dusted with cornmeal and rose again, I let each side get crispy and gold in a skillet with more cornmeal. I had trouble cooking them through in the skillet, so I put them into a 325-degree oven for a few extra minutes.

I wanted to share these full recipes and instructions, but ran out of space. So I put them all on my blog — milkweedmeadowfarm. blogspot.com.

Let’s just say, my carb intake has gone back up.

Aldona Bird is a journalist, previously writing for The Dominion Post. She uses experience gained working on organic farms in Europe to help her explore possibilities of local productivity and sustainable living in Preston County. Contact her at columns@dominionpost.com.

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