Making pretzel sandwich buns (+Christina’s spice shop)

pretzel sandwich

Last month, Rachel of Boston Food Bloggers organized a tour of the Taza chocolate factory, followed by a trip to a few of her favorite spots in Somerville. I’m rarely in the area so I took up the opportunity to not only meet a few new blog friends but also check out some of Somerville’s hidden gems.

Christina’s spice & specialty food perfectly fit the bill.

christina's spice & specialty foods

The shop is small but is jam packed with spices, sauces, and… specialty foods (yeah, I’m original like that). The photo above depicts tables full of spices, alphabetically organized (!!). This makes it really easy to find that spice you’ve been looking all over for… and a few others you didn’t know you needed but could not walk out of the shop without having.

The shelves were full of other fun goods…

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…like every kind of salt imaginable…

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How cool are these long peppers?

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I’ve heard a lot about preserved lemons lately. I will be definitely picking up a baggie next time!

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Spices and herbs as far as the eye could see…

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It was exciting and overwhelming. They had sumac – a spice I often see in my Please to the Table cookbook. I also picked up a few kinds of paprika (again, the book always calls for smoked, sweet or spicy and I just had the generic “paprika” from Whole Foods before). Then pretzel salt and fleur de sel caught my eye and of course I had to grab those (btw, everything is available in little baggies or in bottles. They also have empty bottles if you need them – pretty awesome!). And then it was time to cut myself off before too much damage could be done! Winking smile

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I’ve been using the paprikas ever since. I think sumac will first go into a traditional plov (I’ll blog over at Russian Bites when I make that). And pretzel salt of course had to be put to use over some pretzels. Actually better than pretzels – pretzel buns for pretzel sandwiches. Oh yes!!

I used Alton Brown’s recipe for pretzels but instead of twisting the dough into the traditional pretzel braids, divided it into ten 3.5-3.75oz balls.

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With the help of instant yeast and my trusty KitchenAid mixerwith a hook attachment, this dough came together in about 5 minutes. 50 minutes later it doubled in size and was very easy to work with. As I said before, I divided it into 10 balls for large sandwich buns.

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After a quick dip in a baking soda bath, an egg wash…

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… and a sprinkling of salt, they were ready to bake!

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Quick tip – don’t be shy with the salt. Your buns will further grow in the oven so the salt will spread out. I could have probably tripled the amount I used!

Hello gorgeous!

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The whole thing came together so quickly, this little experiment for sure was the beginning of something beautiful. A pretzel filled beautiful life! Smile I will no doubt will be making mini ones for sliders or any time a pretzel craving or an amazing-bun craving hits!

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Fresh fig buratta, tomato, basil and dijon mustard sandwich = heaven on earth

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Incredibly soft on the inside, chewy on the outside. These were out-of-this world amazing… and easy enough even for a weeknight project. Seriously!

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Make them now. They will change your life. They changed mine! Open-mouthed smile

Where do you go to for hard to find spices?

Ever made pretzels?

How should I use my fleur de sel?

Tell me, tell me, tell me!!

Go-to recipes

Two weeks ago I made a batch of Mama Pea’s curry kale chips and I was in love with that “dressing.” In fact, I definitely ate more of the raw chips than I should have, and then ate a little more after every hour I peaked in my oven (set to “dehydration mode”). The end result was ok… I was a bit disappointed that all that yummy dressing dried up. So last weekend I made another batch – a double batch in fact, of just the dressing!

I’ve been putting this sauce/dressing/whatever you want to call it on everything. I could eat it with a spoon but I’m trying to be civilized.

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It’s nutty and slightly sweet… and I am seriously in love. This was just one way I’ve enjoyed it – in a small pita tofu sandwich with mixed greens

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One batch is 7 Points Plus. This lunch was 8 Points Plus (tofu was 4 of it). Delicious!!

[Side note: I know everyone LOVES baked tofu but I find that if you press it long enough, you can quickly sauté tofu blocks or mini cubes and you get the same yummy taste for a fraction of time!]

All right, so the point of this post was really this (except for sharing this crazy delicious curry sauce with you) – I made a recipe a second time. That hardly ever happens. That means it was special. The thing is, as much as I like trying new recipes on almost daily basis, I feel like I don’t have any go-to favorites that I make over and over (I think the bahn mi sandwich and goat cheese stuffed pork tenderloin are the only things I’ve made a handful of times). I read books about these heroines coming home after stressful days and winding down with their favorite comfort food… that they made so many times they can just close their eyes and almost meditate while cooking. I want that!! Do you have any go-to recipes? Hopefully something that doesn’t involve too many ingredients. Winking smile

Also, in my attempt to allow for more “me time”, I’ve been permitting myself to not really cook if I feel like just winding down instead. So I’ve been making sandwiches and raiding the freezer for things like pelmeni I have in the freezer for occasions just like these. Do you have any healthy recipes that freeze well? Perhaps something that is not fully cooked and can just be boiled or baked when you’re feeling lazy but still want a home-made meal?

Looking forward to all of your suggestions! I want recipe details, with links. Ok?? Nyah-Nyah

Where did those (not) food blogging hours go?

I can’t believe it’s only been two weeks since my last post. I seriously feel like I haven’t blogged here in ages (although I did continue with regular posting on Russian Bites. Sorry, gotta self-promote. You understand, right? ;) ). Blogging has become such a large part of my life, that days after days away felt like months. I even had time to get into a short (food) rut for a week there. Maybe it was the rebel in me. Oh you don’t have to take pictures of food for the next few weeks? Fine, how about you eat crap then?! I dug myself out of that hole relatively quickly though (I mean, the whole break was 2 weeks and the last week I was a cooking and baking maniac so I’d say I got my mojo back :mrgreen: ). I’m going to go ahead and say that that’s what my body wanted and move on, because I’m back. Ooh yeah.

So let’s see, what have you missed…

Eggplant “meatball” subs (it tasted like eggplant parm in a baguette!)

Dover sole picatta (I used this recipe, originally found through Meals & Moves, but of course subbed fish for chicken).

I actually made the chicken version first and it was so amazing (quick and incredibly flavorful and healthy!) that I wanted to try it with other proteins. Fantastic recipe! It’s definitely going to make the best of 2010 list! Saucy…

 

Btw, here is the chicken version :)

Also, after over a year, I finally made the brussels sprouts recipe everyone raved about after the 2009 Foodbuzz festival. I know I’m late to the party but it was worth it! :) No leftovers here…

Thank you, Shannon, for all the weirdo ingredients! I used pancetta instead of guanciale.

There was one baking disaster – protein banana muffins, aka banana flavored rubber in muffin form ;) [I won't link to the recipe I modified... and clearly screwed up.]

There were definitely baking successes. Oooh yeah. In cupcake form. Namely oreo cupcake and margarita cupcake form. Yes, you read that right and you should really find an excuse to make them right away. Especially the margarita ones. Tiffany, you are a genius for setting up a cupcake party! :mrgreen:

I also met one of my baking idols – Joanne Chang, the owner of Flour bakery. But you probably already know this if you like me on Facebook (you do, don’t you?).

I spy someone on the right ;)

I already bought all the ingredients for the granola bars. Can’t believe I get to make them myself!!

Ok, looks like there were even more sweets. Chocolate sausage:

… and FRIED food? Say what? Hey it was for the blog! :cool: Chicken Kiev:

… and I did have salad with it!

In fact, based on what’s on my camera, there were a few salads…

Mixed greens, grapes, grape tomatoes, goat cheese, pecans and rotisserie chicken (my new favorite thing… I get 1/2 a chicken at Whole Foods for just $5 and it lasts a few days!!)

Mixed greens, strawberries, tofu, pecans and goat cheese

And here is that chicken again in a chicken salad with dried cherries, walnuts and greek yogurt

Aside from the food, there were a few workouts. But not nearly as many as I wish there were. I’ll talk more about my lifting program in a separate post. Gotta give you something to come back to. :mrgreen:

How have you been? Did you miss me? ;)

I missed you, although not blogging didn’t really free up my schedule as much as I thought it would. Watching tv is extremely time consuming. :lol:

If you have a food blog, do you think you’d eat differently if you took a break for 2 weeks?

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