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Friday, December 31, 2010

Beer and pretzels

Philly favorites: a soft pretzel and a Yeungling Lager.

A soft pretzel is a pretty simple thing: yeast, flour, baking soda, salt. Then why is it that only Philly seems to be able to make pretzels that melt in your mouth? Those Super Pretzels in the frozen section of the grocery store, Auntie Em's or even the Mickey Mouse ears pretzels are nothing compared to an authentic Philly soft pretzel.

When I was growing up, pretzel vendors would pick up their pretzels in either North or South Philly and then sell them from carts around the city. The pretzels are be best when they are still warm, so getting one in the morning was key. They were still tasty as the day wore on, but as they cooled, the salt would melt off them leaving a slightly wet, salty coating.
Now, there is a chain around the PA area called Philly Pretzel Factory where you can get hot pretzels all day long. Not only that, somehow, Philly Pretzel Factory has solved the cooled pretzel/wet salt issue! If you are feeling nostalgic, however, you can still secure a wet salty cold pretzel around 3 pm at the Philly airport....

Naturally, some sort of tasty beverage must accompany a hot soft pretzel and for me, nothing fits the bill better than a Yeungling Lager. Per Yeungling's website, they are the oldest American brewery. I googled this and other websites support this claim as it's either true or it's one very successful marketing campaign! Founded in 1829 by David Yeungling who relocated from Wutterberg, Germany to Pottsville, PA, the company survived the Prohibition years by producing near beer. The Traditional Amber Lager shown in the picture above was reintroduced in 1987 is now their most popular beer. Though similiar in color, not as hoppy Sam Adams Traditional Boston Lager but still a nice simple full flavor with a light carbonation and hint of lemon. Sadly, no Yeungling on the Left coast....

Mexican Wedding Cookies

I had been wanting to make Mexican Wedding cookies since I read about them in The Cookie and Biscuit Bible. I was going to make these for the letter M in my A-Z cookie quest, but at the rate I am going, who knows when I will get to M. I am so easily distracted....

Recipe adapted from The Cookie and Biscuit Bible, p. 146. As stated in a previous post, the original recipe calls for rolling the cookies into balls...I pressed them into the pan and cut them into squares since my dough was pretty dry.

1 cup of butter, room temp
1 1/2 cups of confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
dash of salt
1 1/4 cups of pecan chopped

1. Cream butter until light and fluffy.
2. Add in 1 cup of sugar and vanilla (put remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in bowl and set aside).
3. Throw in your dash of salt.
4. Slowly beat in flour, a little at a time. Make sure well will start to form a dough.
5. Finally, add in the chopped peacans and any remaining flour. Knead dough until combined.
6. Press dough into an ungreased cookie or jelly roll pan.
7. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes (cookies should be slightly browned).
8. Remove from oven and gently cut into squares. Allow to cool about 10 minutes on the baking sheet.
9. Remove cookies and drop into a bowl with the remaining confectioner's sugar.

The 2010 Holiday Collection

The above photo shows one of each of the cookies in the 2010 Rush-De Anda holiday package: (clockwise from top) Oatmeal Raisin with chopped walnuts, Almond Crescents, Ginger Shortbread, Chocolate Chip, Vanilla Sugar, Mexican Wedding Cookies.

Everyone says it, but it's so true: there is never enough time to get everything in that you want to do before the holidays. I got in some baking but not all of the types of cookies that I wanted to make. One cookie that didn't make this year's cut was Russian Tea Cookies. Another was the Kringlor which proved very popular last year. The Oatmeal Raisin and Chocolate Chip cookies are pretty much standards that must be included to keep the masses happy. New additions were the Ginger Shortbread and Mexican Wedding Cookies. I had intended to make the Mexican Wedding Cookies round which is their typical presentation, but the batter was too dry and crumbly. Rather than experiment with the wetness, I pressed the mixture into a jelly roll pan and cut them into squares while they were still warm. I considered referring to them as Pecan Shortbread cookies to avoid having to explain my dry batter saga but I think my friends and family are used to the liberties I tend to take by now.