Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Celebrating National Running Day with (Vegan) Jalapeno-"Cheese" Pretzels

How perfect that the day I start my blog just so happens to be National Running Day! Like a true winner, I had no idea about this day until TODAY, so I actually had a long and fast-ish (for me) run of 8.6 miles in 1 hour 16 minutes yesterday, and therefor had scheduled today as an off day……..that was until I found out that it was National Running Day. I went for quick & hot 2.5 mile run around my neighborhood and it was great. Honestly I think I’ve decided that any amount of running, even 1 mile, makes me feel infinitely better for the whole day than if I were cross-train or just take the day of. There is just nothing that makes me feel as good as running!

Next I did some weights in our gym at home. My brother, who is actually quite strong and in shape has been “training” me on how to build my upper body strength….something I know I need to do, but am sooo lazy about doing. This is our little home gym, it’s small but it definitely serves the purpose. 

I did indeed have a Vega Recovery Protein Drink after my workout, I always make a point of drinking a protein smoothie after an intense run or a strength training session, since the first hour after exercise is when your body is trying to do the most repairing/building of muscle…..more on my workout recovery techniques to come, that is definitely a topic that deserves it’s own post ;)

Anywhoooo, I decided to celebrate this glorious day by testing out a recipe for vegan jalapeno-“cheese” soft pretzels I’ve come up with; I made it based on a variation we learned in Food Science Lab this past semester. This one was mainly for my brother actually, because he loves jalapeno-cheddar pretzels so I wanted to see if I could make a vegan version.

Making Vegan Jalapeno-Cheese Soft Pretzels:

1) Get yo Ingreedz & Pre-heat your oven to the lowest temperature possible. We will turn off the oven later and store the rising dough in here so that the yeast are nice and cozy :)
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 package Active Dry Yeast
2 tsp Oil (I use olive but vegetable works too)
4 cups All Purpose White flour
1 tsp Salt
2 tbs Baking Soda
1 Jar Jalapeno Slices
1 Package Daiya Vegan Cheese

2) Rehydrate yeast for 10 minutes. It should be frothy when complete
Beginning of 10 minutes:
After 10 minutes:

3) Add the rest of the water, the oil, salt, and 3 cups of flour. Then add flour, a little bit at a time until the dough is just dry enough to handle, but may still be sticky.
**Science Side Note:** Gluten 101
Gluten is a protein in wheat flour that is formed when two proteins in wheat flour: glutenin and gliadin come together with water. It is elastic and strong, and gives wheat products much of their characteristic chewiness. Gluten contributes to and helps to enforce the structure of baked wheat products and provides a chewy texture. It is a key component of baked goods where air from yeast is being incorporated because gluten helps to provide structure to the air cells that "trap" the air and set during baking. So while gluten may be a source of gastrointestinal woes for some, it is a pretty awesome and unique protein, especially when it comes to baking.

4) Lightly flour a work surface and begin to knead the dough for 10-15 minutes until firm. Kneading the dough just means stretching/pulling it out a little, then folding it back in on itself, turning it 45 degrees, and then doing the same pulling/folding motion; this allows for good gluten development.....yayyyy

You will know you're done kneading if you press your finger into the dough and the dough holds the shape as such:

5) Lightly oil a large bowl, and dump your dough into it. Flip the dough over so that it is oiled and does not stick.

6) Next turn off your oven, cover your bowl with a damp towel/cloth and store in the heated oven. The yeast love a warm, moist environment, and this will make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside......and ready to make some Carbon Dioxide! Let the dough rise for about an hour, or until it has doubled in size.

7) Take your dough out and PUNCH IT DOWN. That sounds mean, but it's good for the dough; you are releasing some of the air to keep the gluten strands from over stretching!

Before punch down:

After punch down:

8) Lightly flour a work surface and divide the dough into eight even pieces.
9) Start heating a large, heavy pot filled with water until it is boiling. This takes awhile to come to a boil which is why we do it before we start shaping the pretzels. 
10) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
11) Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll each piece of dough out into a thin rope, and then fold/mold this rope into a pretzel shape.....or any other shape your heart desires. Let the pretzels rise for 15 more minutes before moving on. 
**Fun Fact**
 This step is called "proofing." In traditional bread making, this step is when the bread dough is allowed to rise in the pan that it is going to be baked in.

Yes, I got uber creative with my pretzel shape
**Technique Tip**
Make sure that any part of your "rope" that you are sticking to/attaching to another part of the rope is very well pressed/stuck together. For my pretzel, this would be the point at which the twisted portion meets the bottom of the curved portion; I had to really press them together and make sure they were stuck. This will prevent these meeting points from separating when we boil the pretzels. 

12) Add the baking soda to the boiling water. 
**Science Side Note**: Alkaline Awesomeness
The baking soda creates an alkaline environment for the pretzels, and increases the pH of the water in contact with the pretzel surface. This is what gives pretzels their distinctive "pretzel-esque" taste and that browned exterior.
13a) Add 1 or two pretzels to the boiling water, flipping them over after 30-40 seconds, and removing to a cooling rack once they are significantly puffed up. (Step 13a & 13b) occur somewhat simultaneously, so read ahead)

13b) Press in the jalapeno slices onto the surface of the just removed, still hot pretzels. Make sure to press them in as much as possible or else they will slide off. It is important to do this immediately after boiling the pretzels. The best way to go about this is to boil 2 pretzels, add jalapenos to them, and then move on to the next set of pretzels.

 14) Cover all the pretzels with a generous portion of Daiya Vegan Cheese and pop them in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until they are golden brown. (If you choose to make this recipe without the jalapenos, bake the pretzels for 25-30 minutes since the jalapenos are not providing extra moisture to the pretzel surface)

15) Once the pretzels look an appealing golden-brown remove from the oven.

(I made a plain one for my dad since he’s not a fan of feeling like there’s a bonfire in his mouth a.k.a. jalapenos)

16) Be a cool kid like me and burn your tongue trying to eat a pretzel straight out of the oven……or let them cool for a few minutes and serve to family and friends.
Drumroll Please: My brother LOVED the in my eyes this recipe is a success!
And as always......celebrate any good recipe with a big bowl of mangos! No seriously.....

Until next time, Adios!

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