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.
Among the world’s many artisan breads and cakes, the breakfast bread ‘gibassier’ is one of the most popular in the French tradition. This buttery, textured bread is somewhat like an Italian panettone. What makes gibassier unique, is the use of orange blossom water which gives the bread a distinct flavor that is difficult to replicate with any substitute.
The recipe appears to have originated in the rocky, southeast of France, in Lourmarin Village, Provence. Many believe that this generations-old treat is named after the mountain called Le Gibas, which forms part of the village’s horizon.
Gibassier can be shaped and made as one big round loaf or larger or smaller single serve breads. Whatever size they come in, they are slashed or snipped decoratively before they are baked to give the fleur de lis or snowflake appearance.
It is difficult to say whether gibassier is a biscuit, a pastry, doughnut or a cookie. One thing is for sure …. its taste is unique. Traditionally served at breakfast and is dipped into honey butter while it is still warm.
Each Christmas I enjoy to try making a Christmas bread from another culture. Of course, that means as an extra bonus, researching the food history behind it.
French Christmas Bread/ Gibassier
In a small bowl, combine water, yeast & 2 Tbsp sugar. Allow to sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, 1/4 cup sugar & aniseed. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture & add eggs, butter, orange blossom water, orange zest & candied orange peel. Whisk to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl.
Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Mix to make a 'shaggy' dough. Turn out on a floured surface & knead until a smooth, elastic dough forms, about 10 minutes.
Place the dough into a lightly buttered bowl, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
Punch down the risen dough & turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two equal pieces & shape each one into a ball. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Flatten each ball of dough into a disc about 1.5 cm thick & place each one on one of the baking sheets. Cut the disc into 6 sections, leaving them connected at the center.
Make a cut through the center of each section without cutting all the way through to the edge. Best to use something you can press straight down as opposed to dragging a knife through the dough. Pull the sections outward to separate & elongate them a little. Using your fingers, open out the slits & form a V-shape in the top of each section.
Cover each loaf loosely with buttered plastic wrap. Set aside to rise in a draft-free place for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Brush each loaf with a little egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden & baked through. Slide the loaves onto a wire rack & brush with honey butter while still warm or dust with sugar.
Meatballs don’t have to be boring. Tender, juicy meatballs, wrapped in puff pastry and served with a zesty sauce makes an easy, inexpensive version of the classic beef wellington.
Economical and versatile, cooking with ground meat opens up plenty of avenues for experimenting. Beyond reliable beef, almost all meats can be ground, but each kind of meat should be treated differently to fully enjoy the benefits.
Consider the fat content of ground meat before you buy. Some fat content is desirable as it adds flavor and helps to keep meat moist during cooking. Choose different types of ground meat for specific dishes. For example …. fatty beef makes juicier burgers but leaner ground turkey or chicken works better served as smaller meatballs or in a sauce. Ground pork makes for a cheaper burger than beef, plus it is unlikely to dry out. Flavor pork with spices like mace, or herbs like sage, thyme and fennel seeds and of course always ensure its cooked through. Ground meat is one of those things that generally ‘you get what you pay for’.
These meatballs make a tasty meal that can be ‘dressed up or down’, depending on what it is served with.
In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Saute mushrooms, onion & garlic until onions & garlic are soft & most of the moisture has been released from the mushrooms, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine cooled veg mixture, pork, breadcrumbs & seasonings; mix all ingredients until incorporated. Shape mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs.
Cut thawed puff pastry into thin strips. Wrap each meatball with a few strips of the pastry & place on the baking sheet. Brush pastry with egg wash.
Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden & meat is cooked through. Remove from oven & place on serving platter. These are nice to serve with steamed broccoli, mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy.