Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Icebox Cake

Simple to make, yummy to eat and comforting to the core. I love icebox cake. I need icebox cake ... and I made icebox cake.

In between prepping for a hurricane, I decided to make the icebox cake. We needed something to soothe the nerves a little... and caloric comfort was it.

I grew up on icebox cakes, my mom whipped them out on almost every occasion. So, I was sort of surprised when people would ask me what it the heck is that white blob?

The white blob is one of the most delicious dessert there is - no baking required (and very little actually cooking needed).

Making the cake is simple... 3 ingredients.

1. Graham Crackers (Nabisco original graham crackers, highly recommended. you can taste the difference!)
2. Chocolate Pudding (you need the cook and serve variety)
3. Cool Whip

To make the cake, cook the pudding and let it cool slightly. Then on a plate or serving platter start the cake assembly.

Make a layer of graham crackers (I usually use 4 crackers per layer), then ladle on some pudding to cover the crackers. Repeat until you've used up all of the pudding. Make sure you end up with a layer graham crackers at the top.

Cover the cake with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. Chill for 3-4 hours (longer if you wish).

When you're ready to serve, frost the cake with cool whip. Cut into pieces and enjoy!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Pretzel Dog.

I've been teased by these hot-diggity delights for years. Calling to me from the glass cases of Auntie Anne's or Pretzel Twister. They look so scrumptious - golden brown and glistening with butter. Waiting for me to give in. Why can't they just use a veggie dog and end this obsession.

Well, after my last trip to the mall (and the ever present smell of baking dough wafting across my path) I decided to take matters into my own hands.

So, I searched the net for a recipe and came across one by Alton Brown (click here for recipe). Now, he's definitely not my favorite foodtv host but his recipes are usually well-tested and reliable.

I only had to tweak the recipe a little. The dough needed a tad more sugar to give it that PA Dutch pretzel taste. And to keep it vegan, I had to eliminate the butter (using margarine instead) and the egg wash (I brushed the pretzels with melted margarine before baking).

I'm not a pretzel-baking virgin (I've even graduated from the Julius Sturgess Pretzel House in Old Lititz PA! Okay, it's not really a school ... but you get to go on a tour of the pretzel factory and you even get to make your own pretzel!). Somehow, I've always had the challenge of getting the texture right. Last time I made them I used a mix from Williams-Sonoma and while the flavor was good, the texture of the crust wasn't quite right. The WS mix had you shape the pretzels and then dip them in a hot water-baking soda bath before baking.

The Alton Brown recipe has you dip the pretzels in the baking soda bath as well but the water has to be boiling. Sorta like making bagels. This technique totally worked. The crust was so much better - crisp and crunchy yet soft on the inside.

I made the dough Friday night, let it rise, and then realized ... It's kinda late to be making pretzels. So, I wrapped it up, placed it in the fridge, and went to bed with visions of pretzel dogs in my head!!!

Saturday afternoon, I took the dough out, let it come to room temperature and contemplated how to wrap the dogs. Kreg suggested using a rectangle of dough (kinda like the bagel-dog or pigs-in-a-blanket approach). I wasn't thrilled with that idea, so I opted for the classic Auntie Anne's spiral wrap. I knew it would take more time to make the dogs this way but it was worth it. I just rolled the dough into long pieces (just as you would for a traditional pretzel), and then wound the dough around the dog.

After I finished wrapping the dogs, it was time for them to take a dip in the pool. I placed each one into the boiling water/baking soda mixture for one minute each (it's best to only boil one dog at a time). Then I brushed them with melted margarine and sprinkled some pretzel salt and sesame seeds on top.

They were now ready for the oven. I popped them into a 450 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, until they were golden brown. Mmmm, they smelled so good. I couldn't wait to dive in. Totally worth the effort.

I paired my dogs with a trio of mustards ... spicy brown, yellow, and sweet and zesty. The spicy brown was my favorite, followed by the yellow (the sweet and zesty didn't work). Kreg wanted to go all gourmet by using a (fancy-schmancy) raspberry course-ground mustard pretzel dip, but it looked a little iffy (who knows how long it was in the fridge) and he didn't want to chance it. He had to settle for a crazy mixed-up concoction of the previously mentioned mustards.

This recipe totally worked out. I had enough dough to make five pretzel dogs and three large soft pretzels. Hmmm, maybe I'll whip up some pizza pretzels with the leftovers! Yum.