Pretzels and cheese and chai – oh my!

I did go grocery shopping yesterday, and though I spent a good bit of time preparing for the brutal shopping scene that usually occurs in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, it really wasn’t that bad. For the first time ever I stocked up on my own basics – flour, sugar, etc. – instead of buying the extras and heading to my mom’s house.

Thus, last night I decided to attempt to make pretzels. In my own kitchen, at that. Now, I am somewhat of a novice cook. I’ve never tried to make anything involving yeast and/or kneading. Keep that in mind, and cut me some slack!

I have great memories of big, soft, salty pretzels. When I was a kid, we didn’t go to the mall very often, but when we did, I could usually con my parents into treating me to a big soft pretzel and a little cup of nacho cheese to dip it in. A well-made soft pretzel almost always brings me to instant foodgasm. I buy them whenever I get the chance now that I’m an “adult” – at the college football games I used to attend randomly (even though I hate football – I had friends in the band, you know the drill), at the Target food court, wherever. What could be better than making them myself?

I followed the recipe quite diligently (I would tell you where I got the recipe, but I copied it from a blog at some point yesterday and printed it on my work computer without making note of where I found it) and left my gooey pretzel dough to rise for an hour while my boyfriend and I goofed off and watched crappy television.

An hour later, the dough hadn’t risen.

I didn’t feel like giving up, though. I rolled out the unrisen dough and shaped it, then dipped it in the sugar/butter/water mixture, then sprinkled kosher salt on the measly little pretzels, then baked them anyway. I ended up with 6 decent-sized pretzels, and by the time they were done, my guy and I were so hungry we didn’t care that they weren’t going to be light and fluffy.

And they weren’t light and fluffy. They were quite dense and chewy, as you might expect. Except the dense chewiness is what I love about big pretzels, so I ate 3 of them. My guy ate the other 3.

“You know,” he said, “these are kind of like old cowboy food. Chewy bread made out of flour, some salt and some water, for long trips-”

“Quit making fun of my pretzels,” I said.

As an ode to the cheesy pretzels of my past, I microwaved some Velveeta (auuugh! cheese-food of the devil!), some prepared yellow mustard and a dash of cajun seasoning to make a spicy cheese sauce. Oh boy, I love cheese sauce. And all cheese. It was good with the overly chewy pretzels.

I’m going to try the recipe until I get it right. And once I master the simple pretzel, I’ll do something yummy, like top them with asiago cheese and garlic, or sugar and cinnamon.

My aunt is cooking most of our Thanksgiving dinner, but I like to contribute, so I’m thinking about doctoring a white cake mix and some fluffy white frosting with something wonderful. I have the black currant jam, and I’ve been wanting to cook with my spiced chai latte drink mix (though I do enjoy a simple spiced chai latte – even though I have to microwave my milk rather than using a steaming wand, oh how I miss working at a coffee shop). I’m thinking a white cake with some sort of pudding and a few tablespoons of chai mix, topped with a glaze flavored with – you guessed it – chai. We’ll see.

Boy, I wish I had a way to take some photos of my deflated pretzels. I shall photograph some creations this weekend, though.

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