Homemade Pretzel Buns

Pretzel buns are all the rage right now. Folks just love to make their burgers “twisted” but using a pretzel bun instead of a traditional sesame seed bun. I had yet to experience one, so a few weeks ago I set to making my own at home.

I’ve never made pretzels at home either, and I must admit I was worried about the whole boiling the dough in water process. But, it was actually really easy and my concerns were totally unfounded. After the initial quick-cook in the water bath, the buns are then finished off and baked in the oven to achieve a deep golden-brown color.

They have great pretzel flavor – chewy on on the outside, yet tender on the inside. We used half of them for our burgers that night, then I tucked the other half in the freezer to have on hand the next time we are throwing some burgers on the grill. It’s comforting to have something like this on hand in the freezer to make a quick-dinner extra special!

Source: adapted from King Arthur Flour

Homemade Potato Chips

We don’t eat that much junk food in our house, but one thing I do enjoy once in a while is a good kettle-cooked potato chip. There’s just something about that salty crunch that I love with a good hot dog or cheeseburger! I’m surprised it took me this long to make them at home – as they were so easy and so much better than the stuff from the bag.

I used my mandoline to slice the potatoes, but you could certainly thinly slice them using a knife. The slicing attachment on your food processor would also be another great option. I used the technique that I do with my oven fries, and soaked the sliced potatoes in a bit of salted water first – to remove some of the starch, as well as add a bit of flavor. Then made sure to dry them really well before adding them to the hot oil – you don’t want a splatter scenario!

After a quick fry and then drain on paper towels to remove the excess grease, I season them with some sea salt and a bit of cajun seasoning for a little kick. I also frequently do Old Bay to make a homemade version of a Maryland favorite – crab chips! Salt and vinegar is another one of my favorites, so a version of those is definitely next on my hit list.

If you’ve never made your own potato chips at home, these warm weather months are the perfect time to do it. It makes that outdoor lunch or dinner a little bit more special – and the flavor and crunch is unparalleled. Give it a try!

Perfect Pie Crust

Before I found this recipe, pie crust – and really pies in general, had been my nemesis. Jon prefers pie over cake. So I tried, God I tried. But I always had issues with the dough splitting and cracking, or not rolling out evenly. Not to mention my rolling skills weren’t the best to begin with. But I knew that pie crust was something that I had to get the hang of, so I soldiered on and finally came across this recipe from Annie.

Couldn’t be simpler! There’s no funny techniques or weird ingredients (I’m looking at you, vodka) to worry about. It’s made in the stand mixer, which is always a plus – the paddle attachment breaks up the butter pieces as a pastry cutter would do. A little chilling period in the refrigerator to firm it up before rolling out, and then voila – a pie crust that rolls out beautifully, and it still sturdy enough to work with to get in the pan and get your crimping done. Not to mention it’s always perfectly tender and flaky as well…everything that a pie crust should be!

I’ve used this recipe for pies that require a blind bake (for something like this Cherry Cheese Pie, where you need a baked pie shell, but the pie-filling doesn’t need to be cooked) or for something like Ricotta-Pineapple Pie, where the whole pie needs to go in the oven to bake. In either even, it always turns out beautifully. If you too have struggled with pie crusts in the past, give this recipe a try. It really was a lifesaver for me, and now I’m so proud of my many pie accomplishments in the kitchen!

Source: adapted from William’s Sonoma via Annie’s Eats

Italian Bread

I love making bread at home. And, I think the bread that I use most often would have to be Italian bread. It’s my go-to loaf to make garlic bread, and croutons, and breadcrumbs…great in so many applications. So it was only natural that I wanted to learn to make this favorite at home!

It’s a little time consuming, as it requires a “sponge” that needs to be prepared and let to do it’s thing before the bread is put together for it’s rise and bake. But it’s that crucial step that produces a chewy loaf that’s soft on the inside, yet crusty and crunchy on the outside – essential for a good loaf of Italian bread. You can do it the night before, but I’ve also just done the sponge early in the morning, and then continued with the recipe in the afternoon with no issues.

This recipe turns out two gorgeous loaves. We’ll usually have one for dinner the night that I bake it, and then store on in the freezer so there’s always one on hand. Saves me a trip to the store on those last-minute spaghetti nights when all I need is a loaf of bread. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Source: adapted from The Fresh Loaf via Annie’s Eats