Wednesday, August 21, 2013

three hundred and two

One of the things that I am looking forward to most about moving back to DC metro area is the awesomeness that is known as the Lancaster County Dutch Market.  It's your standard issue Lancaster County, PA market with a slight twist: it's in Montgomery County, MD.  In the middle of the week, a group of Mennonite families pack into vans and ship a little taste of Lancaster County to the suburban yuppies willing to pay extreme markup for the privilege.  And, of course, among the highfalutin yuppies were Mr N and I.

Whenever we could afford it, we would walk down the street and gorge ourselves on the best fried chicken in the world, free cheese samples, spit roasted rabbit, and the best pretzels in the whole wide world.  In fact, the pretzels are something I miss (nearly) as much as our friends!  Since they're apparently like friends to me, I reasoned, why not invite them for a visit?  I set out to make a replica of the pretzels and quickly ran into an obstacle: Cooper cheese.

Wait, what?  Cheese?  I wasn't making just any pretzel (you should know by now that I'm more picky than that).  I was making my favorite pretzel, one that that just so happens to be Lancaster County's answer to the Hot Pocket: a pretzel stuffed with roast beef and Cooper cheese.  There are other fillings, but none are able to top the seasoned, juicy (fresh!) roast beef and ever so slightly tangy, melty-enough-to-put-Kraft-out-of-business cheese.  I refused to try any other kind of cheese because, well, I'm stubborn.

The above is why I may have actually cheered when I found Cooper cheese, presliced in the deli no less, at Wegmans the other week.  The above may also be why I immediately set to making (and eating) a copycat Lancaster County Dutch Market stuffed pretzel.  (And some plain ones, too, but those are boring when you have roast beef and Cooper cheese to eat.)  Now I'm going to do what Amish and Mennonite women have done for years: share the love.

 Amish Style Stuffed Pretzels

For the dough:
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons yeast
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 cup salted butter
  • 5-6 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt + more for sprinkling

For the filling:
  • 1 pound thick-sliced seasoned roast beef
  • 1 pound thin-sliced Cooper cheese

For the dipping solution:
  • 3 cups warm water
  • 1/3 cup baking soda

Step One: Add 2 cups warm water, 1 ½ teaspoons yeast, and 1 ½ tablespoons sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer (or to a large bowl).  Wait for the yeast to bloom, about 5 minutes.

Add 2 tablespoons butter to the yeasty water.

Step Two: Use your dough hook (or a spoon) to mix 2 cups of the flour into the water.  Once a yucky doughy mess has started to form, attach the dough hook to the mixer.  Add 1 cup bread flour, lock the mixer, and set it on “stir”.  Add the remaining bread flour 1 cup at a time, keeping in mind that you may not need it all.  

Once the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl and forms a smooth ball, transfer the dough to a greased bowl and allow it to rise until doubled, about 2 hours.

Step Three: When the dough has risen, punch it down and cut it into eight to ten equally sized pieces.  To make the filled pretzels, roll out each piece of dough into an (approximately) 8 inch x 4 inch rectangle.
Preheat the oven to 475* F.

Step Four: Roll one piece of roast beef around one piece of Cooper cheese (I fold mine in half first).  Place the roll of meat and cheese in the middle of the rectangle, kind of like a hotdog.  Fold the narrow ends of the rectangle up an inch to seal the ends.  Pinch the wide sides of the dough together to entirely encase the meat with dough.  

Combine 2 cups warm water with 1/3 cup baking soda in a pie- or cake tin.  (The baking soda should make the water bubble if it’s active.)

Grease a large baking sheet.

Pinch the seals again for good measure, then dip the sealed pretzel in the dipping solution.  Place the dipped pretzel on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Repeat step four until all of the pretzels have been formed, filled, dipped, and placed on the baking sheet.

Step Five: Bake stuffed pretzels at 475* F for 7-9 minutes or until golden brown and no longer squishy.  While baking, melt 1 stick of salted butter in a pie- or cake tin.

Using tongs, dip both sides of the pretzel into the melted butter.  Place dipped pretzels on a parchment-lined cooling rack.  Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Makes 8 to 10 stuffed pretzels (AKA Amish Hotpockets)

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