I love October. Truth be known I think it might just be my favorite month of the year, and contrary to popular belief, the best season to proudly call the Okanagan Valley home. I get absolutely giddy with the beauty that is all around me these days. Beauty so good it hurts. That kind of beauty.
We're lucky enough to live in the forest, so that adds an extra layer of enjoyment. The trees along our backyard creek have been mysteriously painted in an outspoken palette of the prettiest autumn hues I've ever. Magically, when we're looking the other way, a new shade of gold or orange pops out. Squirrels and chipmunks are chattering and scurrying, stocking up for what's coming next. The last of my Green Zebras and other heirloom tomatoes are begging to come in from the garden and be popped into a scrumptiously perfect BLT. And Dad's old bonsais demand my undivided attention every afternoon as they play with light and shadow on the sun-warmed forest floor. A quiet study in the art of nature. Dad would like that.
The rest of the valley is spectacularly beautiful this October too. The lake reflects the surrounding mountains in a crystalline teal blue, row upon row of deep green vineyards boast heavy, auspicious bunches of purple grapes, the bounty of the season spills over from roadside fruit and veggie stands and it seems no matter where you go the air is apple scented. Mmmm.
Hot Indian summer afternoons give way to dusky sunsets that borrow their glow from the autumn leaves until darkness quickly falls and the heavenly clear skies are blanketed in a canopy of twinkling stars that takes your breath away. Not to be outdone by the splendour of a gigantic, pumpkin-tinged harvest moon that can't help but cast soft, warm moonbeams across the hills, mountains, forests and lakes, reminding us that indeed October is here.
And then there's autumn food. Everything about October is beauty and comfort, even our meals. Farm to table meets old fashioned, down-home goodness, with the playfulness of Oktoberfest thrown in for good measure.
Which brings me to homemade soft pretzels. Chewy, yeasty, addictive. And fun! And pssst.........I do the dough in my breadmachine so they're easy peasy too. There's a bit of fiddling with them after that, but I promise you they're more than worth it. And besides that you get to make snakes with the pretzel dough. See I told you they were fun! To make and to eat!! Yum-o!! Wait 'til you try these babies! Bet you can't just make one batch. Have fun and Happy October!
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Here we go....................throw everything into the breadmaker, dry ingredients first and let it do it's thing on the 'dough cycle'. When it beep, beep, beeps, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Then cut it in half and roll each half into a rectangle. Cut each rectangle into 8 strips.
Take each strip and roll it into a snake. Tie your snake in a pretzel shape and set out onto buttered cookie sheet.
Dig in!! Chewy, yeasty pleasure in every morsel. Great dipped in grainy mustard, tangy cheese sauce made with aged cheddar, honey or stilton butter or just plain old creamery butter. Or - and I cannot help this, I've been lovingly affected by a long line of English cooks - warm pretzel broken open and smeared with lots of butter then drizzled with thick ribbons of cold, luscious golden syrup. Warm and cold, sweet and salty, soft and chewy. MMM...mmmm....mmmm. It's the bees knees!
SOFT CHEWY PRETZELS
3 teaspoons breadmaker yeast (I use 2 tsps. breadmaker yeast + 1 tsp. traditional yeast) Water
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt (I use Kosher or sea salt)
Just barely over 1 1/2 cups warm milk
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup baking soda
1 heaping tablespoon salt
1 egg white, beaten together with 1 tablespoon water
Course sea or Kosher salt, sesame seeds or poppy seeds
3 teaspoons breadmaker yeast (I use 2 tsps. breadmaker yeast + 1 tsp. traditional yeast)
Add everything to breadmaker, in order given. Set on dough cycle and let it do it's thing. When it beeps, turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and let rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile, grease 2 baking sheets. Preheat oven to 475F.
Cut dough in half. Roll each half into rectangle and cut each half into 8 long strips. Roll each strip into a snake and pull to about 12 inches long. Shape into pretzels and place at least 1-inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake, one sheet at a time, for 4 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350F.
Meanwhile, dissolve baking soda and heaping tablespoon salt in fairly large pot of boiling water. Reduce heat to keep water at a good simmer and lower 4 pretzels at a time into pot. Simmer 1 minute, flip pretzels over and simmer another minute. Carefully remove with slotted spoon and drain briefly on paper towels. Don't leave them too long, or they'll stick.
Generously grease same baking sheets and place boiled pretzels 1-inch apart on sheets. Brush pretzels with egg white-water mixture and sprinkle with salt or seeds. Bake for 18-25 minutes until dark golden brown. Transfer to cooling rack at least 5 minutes before munching. Great as a snack or served alongside, soup, stew, spaghetti or dipped in soft boiled eggs for brekky. Makes 16.