Showing posts with label soft pretzels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label soft pretzels. Show all posts

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Oktoberfest Soft Pretzels, Beer Cheese, and a fun Giveaway from Author Joyce Tremel!

Please join me in welcoming author Joyce Tremel. Joyce hails from "Someplace Special," as we say back in Pittsburgh, PA. Today she's sharing two wonderful Oktoberfest recipes along with news of her brand new cozy mystery series. She also has a fun comment-to-win giveaway. More on that below. For now...

Take it away, Joyce!

~ Cleo Coyle

* * * * * * 

Author Joyce Tremel
Follow her on Twitter here.
Visit her on Facebook here.
I am so thrilled to be here! Thanks so much to Cleo for inviting me and giving me the first opportunity to let yinz guys (as we also say in Pittsburgh) read a little about my upcoming series.

My cozy series is called Brewing Trouble, and the first book, To Brew Or Not To Brew will be released from Berkley sometime in the fall of 2015. My main character, Maxine “Max” O’Hara is a brewmaster and in the process of opening a brew pub called the Allegheny Brew House in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh. When she finds her assistant and chef dead in one of the beer tanks, Max is determined to find out who killed him. There are some quirky characters, like the woman who owns the bakery who’s a rabid Steelers fan, and a World War II vet who usually has something cranky to say (he’s my favorite). And of course, there’s Max’s love interest, a hunky ex-hockey player who becomes her new chef.

That’s enough about that. You’re here for the food, not my ramblings! Since Max learned how to brew beer in Germany, and it is Oktoberfest right now, I thought some homemade soft pretzels and beer cheese sounded good. I hope you agree!

The pretzels aren’t hard to make, but they do take some time. And they sure beat the ones in the freezer case at the grocery store!

* * * * * * * * * * *

SOFT PRETZELS by Joyce Tremel


1 ½ cups warm water

1 tbsp. sugar

2 tsp. salt

1 pkg. or 2 ¼ tsp. yeast

4 ½ cups flour

¼ cup canola oil or melted butter

Directions: Combine water, sugar, and salt in large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top. 

When it starts to foam, add the oil and flour. Mix well. If you have a mixer with a dough hook you can use that, or just do it the old fashioned way, like I did. Knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic—about 5 minutes. Place dough in an oiled bowl. 

Cover with plastic wrap. Let it sit in a warm place until it doubles in size. This could take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 450F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly oil the parchment paper.

Fill a large pot with 10 cups of water, add 2/3 cup baking soda, and bring to a boil. (Note: be sure to use a large enough pot. The bubbles from the baking soda water kind of make a mess. Fortunately it cleans up easily!) While waiting for the water to boil, divide the dough into eight pieces (this makes big pretzels, if you want smaller ones, feel free to break into more pieces). 

With your hands, roll each piece into a rope about 2 feet long. Hold the ends and make a U, then cross the ends over each other and twist to make the pretzel shape. 

When all your pretzels are formed, put each pretzel one by one into the boiling water for about 30 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon or spatula and place on prepared baking sheet. 

Brush with a beaten egg, then sprinkle with pretzel salt (if desired). I left mine unsalted. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until they’re a nice, dark golden brown. 

by Joyce Tremel


12 ounces shredded sharp cheddar

1 ½ tbsp. cornstarch

1 bottle of beer (12 oz.)—I suggest using a dark lager or a brown ale.

5 oz evaporated milk

1 tbsp Dijon or brown mustard

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp Frank’s Red Hot-hot sauce (Really. Is there any other kind?)

Salt to taste.

Directions: Toss the shredded cheddar with the corn starch and set aside. Whisk together beer, half & half, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce in a saucepan. Heat until steaming, whisking frequently so it doesn’t scorch. Add cheese, stir until melted and bubbly. Add hot sauce and season with salt. Serve warm.

(Note: When I make the beer cheese again, I’m going to reduce the amount of mustard. It kind of overwhelmed the flavor of the cheese. I also think I may use two cheeses—cheddar and swiss—the next time just to see how it tastes.)

Since Oktoberfest 2014 runs from September 20th to October 5th, I suggest serving the pretzels and beer cheese with your favorite Oktoberfest beer. 


Joyce Tremel was a police secretary for ten years and more than once envisioned the demise of certain co-workers, but settled on writing as a way to keep herself out of jail. She lives in a suburb of Pittsburgh with her husband and a spoiled cat. Her debut mystery, To Brew Or Not To Brew will be released by Berkley Prime Crime in Fall 2015.

Visit Joyce on Facebook here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

Coming Fall 2015

To Brew Or Not To Brew

Someone doesn’t want the Allegheny Brew House to open, and Maxine “Max” O’Hara is determined to find out why.

With her brand-new brewmaster certification in hand, Max has been working twelve hour days getting the abandoned Steel City Brewery up to code, perfecting beer recipes, and learning the business. A lot of work, but she’s sure she made the right decision—until things start to go wrong. She’s not too worried until the minor annoyances get progressively worse. And when she finds the body of her assistant brewmaster and chef in one of the beer tanks, she knows that batch wasn’t brewed according to Reinheitsgebot.

Oktoberfest Giveaway!

Comment-to-Win These Fun Coasters

I don’t have books to give away yet, but I wanted to do something to thank everyone for stopping by today. So one lucky commenter will get this cute set of coasters from Crate and Barrel. 

Leave a comment on this blog 

by 12 Midnight Monday Night 12/29.

Winner will be announced here.
Good luck!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Are there dishes you know you will never make? Cakes that seem too complicated? Pastries that are a lot of work? I seriously doubt that I will ever make puff pastry. I love all the things I can do with it, but making the pastry sounds like such a big, big deal. Sometimes, though, things change and you take on a challenge.

I never thought I would bake pretzels. Yummy, warm pretzels. Soft on the inside with that lovely golden brown exterior crusted with salt. It's Oktoberfest again and if there's one thing Germans love with their beer -- it's those big pretzels.

And while I'm on the subject of Germans, I'll take this opportunity to announce that I am writing a second mystery series in addition to the Domestic Diva Mysteries. This one takes place in a fictional resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where Holly Miller's German grandmother runs an inn. Naturally, there will be recipes and these pretzels are just the sort of thing that will be served at Barktoberfest.

That's right, Barktoberfest! Dogs and cats will play important roles in this series. Especially a little Jack Russell terrier named Trixie who has a nose for trouble.

The series doesn't have an official name yet. That will be decided in the next few months. Look for the first book in the fall or winter of 2013.

So back to the pretzels -- turns out they're not so difficult to make after all. I found a website called Heritage Recipes and their recipe sounded about right to me. It turned out great. Honestly, the only hard part is five minutes of kneading. I decided that would be good upper body exercise and went for it. I'm sure my arms look much more toned today.

I was skeptical about boiling the raw dough. Eeek! Turns out that's a snap. After the first one, I was like a pro, whipping pretzels in and out of the simmering water. Nothing to be afraid of there! Have a clock in front of you that marks seconds as they tick by. Don't bother with a timer -- it takes longer than 10 seconds to set them. Just eyeball it. This part sounds like a big chore, but it goes really fast and isn't hard at all.

I used my KitchenAid mixer to get this recipe started, but it can (and most certainly was) made entirely by hand. Note that I used a wide, shallow pan, about 3-4 inches deep for the boiling portion. A very deep pot might make it more difficult to extract the pretzels. The original recipe calls for all-purpose flour. I used bread flour and they turned out great. Mine baked in 12 minutes, so watch the baking time carefully.

There's more good news. The recipe says they can be frozen and reheated at 400 for 10 minutes. I popped a frozen one in the toaster and it came out great. A little bit crunchier on the outside maybe, but overall it was delish.

Authentic Soft German Pretzels
(from Heritage Recipes)
makes 12 pretzels

  • clock with second hand
  • baking sheet
  • stainless steel or enamel shallow pan that can hold 6 - 8 cups (do not use aluminum pan)
  • two large bowls
  • clean kitchen towel

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil + extra
1 tablespoon sugar

6 tablespoons baking soda
6 cups water

coarse salt like Kosher or coarse sea salt

In a deep bowl (or mixing bowl) dissolve the yeast in the water.

Add 1 1/2 cups flour, two tablespoons of vegetable oil, and sugar. Beat well for about 3 minutes until it becomes a smooth batter.

Gradually add the remaining flour and beat until it shapes into a dough.

Dust some flour on a board and knead the dough for five minutes, adding a dusting of flour as necessary to prevent sticking.

after kneading
Grease a large bowl. Place the dough in it and turn a couple of times to coat the dough.


Drape the kitchen towel over the bowl and place in a warm spot to rise until double -- about 1 hour.


after rising

Grease a baking sheet well. Pour some salt into a teeny bowl so you can easily sprinkle it with your fingers.

Punch down the dough and divide into 12 relatively equal pieces.

12 pieces
Roll each piece into a small ball and then, rolling between your palms, shape it into a fat little sausage.

Using your hands, roll it back and forth on a board until it's a long rope. It doesn't have to be perfect. Shape it into an upside down U.

Cross the ends near the bottom.

Lift the top and fold it over so that it touches the very ends.

Pinch ends to top lightly to secure the ends to the pretzel.

Place on the greased baking sheet. Cover with the towel and let rise about half an hour. They should look puffy.

after rising
Preheat oven to 425.

Pour six cups water and 6 tablespoons baking soda into the pan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.


Using a slotted spatula or slotted spoon,


slide each pretzel into the water -- one at a time -- for 10 seconds.

they float!
Flip, and simmer for another 10 seconds. Remove from water, drain for a second, and return to the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat for each pretzel.

they will look wrinkled

Bake 12 to 15 minutes. They should be golden brown.

Serve warm with butter or mustard. (Beer and sausages not required, but very tasty!) If not eating that day, freeze in a zip top bag and reheat at 400 for about 10 minutes to serve.