HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!
As we begin a new chapter in our lives today, it certainly comes with many hopes and expectations for 2021. I thought featuring a ‘Good Luck Pretzel’ would be very appropriate for today. The question is …. do these pretzels really bring good luck? If you believe in the power of positive thinking then I say…. YES!
Because it has such a history as a staple of life, bread has inspired endless traditions in many cultures that tie it to holidays and seasons. The breaking of a Good Luck New Year’s Pretzel is a long time German tradition, thought to bring good luck and prosperity in the New Year when eaten at midnight or at breakfast on New Year’s Day. This particular pretzel is not a lager pretzel accompanying a mug of beer, but rather a sweet dough or a babka dough that goes with a champagne toast as the clock strikes 12:00, or a with a bit of butter eaten first thing at breakfast New Year’s morning.
There are many theories on the origins of the pretzel’s shape. Some say that the pretzel’s shape was derived from the way German monks prayed with their arms crossed over their chests. Others have said that the shape comes from the winter solstice sign that was a circle with a dot in the middle on the old calendar. Still more say that the shape was created from the way the German children used to run through the streets with pretzels around their necks wishing good luck to relatives as the new year approached. No matter what the real reason is for the pretzel’s shape, a little luck for the upcoming year definitely does not hurt.
Unlike traditional pretzels, no boiling is involved before baking the ‘good luck pretzels’ and the dough is a little sweeter. The tops are often sprinkled with pearl sugar instead of coarse salt.
Brion & I wish everyone happiness, health and of course a little good luck in the new year!
New Year's Good Luck Pretzel
In a large mixing bowl, combine warm water with yeast & sugar, Set aside for a few minutes to proof & become bubbly.
Add the egg, salt & oil; blend in. Combine flour & dry milk powder. Slowly start adding flour/milk mixture, stirring until you get a soft, pliable dough. Cover with a tea towel & set in a warm, draft-free place until dough doubles in size.
Once the dough has risen, divide one quarter from the main ball & set aside. Roll the remaining dough into one long 'snake', with the middle being the widest & tapering slightly at the ends. Shape into a pretzel on the prepared baking sheet. Divide the remaining quarter of the dough into three equal pieces & roll into long, even 'snakes'. Braid together.
Whisk together the egg wash & generously brush the entire pretzel. On the bottom part, attach the braid. Brush the braid with more egg wash & sprinkle with pearl sugar & sprinkle with cinnamon if you wish. Place in a warm draft-free place & allow to rise for about 15 minutes.
Bake pretzel for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly on a wire rack before serving.
Bread Pudding ….. its just bread plus eggs plus a sweetened, spiced milk mixture. What makes it special is the blend of spices mixed into it and the sauce.
When done right, bread pudding should have the perfect balance of gooey goodness and chewy texture. That’s why stale bread is important. The bread needs a degree of crunch otherwise you will have ‘mush pudding‘.
For today’s recipe, I started by making a loaf of Challah bread. This is an ‘eggy’ bread that can soak up custard without collapsing. It will toast nicely on the outside and leave you with a creamy pudding inside.
Challah is a very straight forward bread to make. The dough is enriched with eggs and oil, while a few tablespoons of sugar add some sweetness and it doesn’t require any fussy techniques. Because challah is traditionally braided, proofing is key…. if the dough is not properly proofed, it will tear in the oven while baking.
Here’s where it becomes ‘comfort food‘ made with glorious challah, tropical mangos and spices inspired by the world’s love affair with Indian chai.
Chai, which is sometimes overlooked, adds a distinct warm flavor and depth. It can include a number of different spices. Cardamom is the most common ingredient, followed by some mixture of cinnamon, ginger, star anise and cloves. Pepper, coriander, nutmeg and fennel are also used but they are slightly less common.
For the finishing touch, I made a rum sauce. Who says bread pudding has to be boring!
Mango Bread Pudding with Chai Spices
In a small bowl, place lukewarm water & sprinkle with yeast & a pinch of sugar; stir to combine. Let stand about 5-10 minutes until frothy. In a large bowl, place 4 cups flour, sugar & salt; whisk to combine.
Make a well in the center of flour mixture & add eggs, egg yolk & oil; whisk to form a slurry. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Combine with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix forms.
On a floured work surface, turn out dough & knead for about 10 minutes. If dough is sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky. The dough should be soft, smooth & hold a ball shape. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise, in a draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
Divide the dough into 3 or 6 equal pieces, depending on the type of braid you wish to make. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope about 16-inches long. If the ropes shrink as you try to roll them, let them rest 5 minutes to relax the gluten & then try again. For the 6 stranded braid as I made, the name of the game is 'over two, under one, over two'. Carry the right-most rope over the two ropes beside it, slip it under the middle rope, then carry it over the last two ropes. Lay the rope down parallel to the other ropes; it is now the furthest strand. Repeat this pattern until you reach the end of the loaf. Try to make your braid as tight as possible. Once you reach the end, squeeze the ends of the ropes together & tuck them under the loaf.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the braided loaf on top & sprinkle with a little flour. Cover with a tea towel & allow to rise about 1 hour. About 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 350 F. When ready to bake, whisk the reserved egg white with 1 Tbsp. of water & brush carefully over challah. Bake 30-35 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Remove from oven & cool before cutting up for bread pudding.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter an 8 x 8-inch baking dish; toss bread & mango cubes together in it. In a medium bowl, whisk the rest of the ingredients together & pour over the bread & mangoes; allow the mixture to soak for about 5 minutes. Bake about 1 1/4 hours, or until set.
In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. Mix together sugar & cornstarch; stir into the melted butter. Slowly pour in milk, stirring frequently until mixture begins to lightly boil. Continue cooking until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & stir in rum. Serve warm over bread pudding.