Heart Shaped Beer Pretzels with Jalapeno Jack Dip

In this household, nothing says “love” like soft, chewy bread products!

So, for this Valentine’s Day, I give you my beer pretzels recipe. While this recipe can definitely be used to form more traditional pretzel shapes as well – of course! – I find it to be a lot of fun to get a bit seasonal with it.

What better to go with beer pretzels, than jalapeno jack melty cheese dip? This accompanying recipe works up quickly and easily, and really satisfies. Comfort food at its finest, when paired with a fresh from the oven pretzel!

Heart Shaped Beer Pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm beer
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Olive oil

3 quarts water
3/4 cup baking soda

2 eggs
1 tbsp cold water
Coarse sea salt

Combine warm beer with brown sugar, stir until sugar is almost dissolved. Add yeast, stirring until incorporated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes, or until foamy.

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Add melted butter, stirring until well distributed. Pour in yeast/beer mixture, stirring until well combined. Turn dough out onto a clean surface, knead for a couple of minutes. Dough should be soft and smooth.

Pour about 1 Tbsp of olive oil into a large, clean metal or glass bowl. Add freshly kneaded dough to the bowl, turning to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap, set aside in a warm spot to rise for an hour or two, until doubled.

Once the dough has doubled in size:

Pinch off a fist-sized chunk of dough, roll it into a thick “snake”, form into a heart shape, and pinch ends to seal:

Repeat with remaining dough.

Preheat oven to 375F. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add baking soda, stir until combined.

Boil the pretzels, a few at a time, for about a minute. Gently stir as they boil, to ensure that the entire surface of each is in contact with the water at some point. Use a slotted spoon to transfer each popper to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and/or lightly coated with cooking spray. (you’ll need 2 baking sheets)

Whisk together eggs and water, brush this mixture across the tops of the pretzels. Generously sprinkle the tops with coarse sea salt. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool for a minute or two before eating. Enjoy!

Jalapeno Jack Dip

1 cup milk
12 oz shredded jalapeno jack cheese
2 tbsp corn starch
Salt and pepper

Heat milk in a medium saucepan. In a separate bowl, toss cheese with corn starch.

Add about half of the cheese to the pot, stirring until melted in. Add the rest, continue stirring until everything is melted and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot!

Candied Rims for Cocktails

As you may have guessed from my recent Birthday Cake Martini post, I am a big fan of customizing beautiful, flavorful rims for cocktails.

In addition to the added visual interest, customized rims can add a great pop of coordinated flavor to your chosen cocktail. A great drink suddenly becomes memorable – garnishes can go a long way to establishing a”signature” drink for your wedding, party, or other special event.

While it’s not the most common application out there, I love to use crushed hard candy to rim cocktail glasses. They work particularly well for my taste in drinks (“Diabetes in a glass”!), and I love the way it looks. Candy color and flavor can either match or contrast with the drink, and bring a bit of sparkle to the presentation of it. Also, the possibilities are almost endless!

Use crushed peppermint candies or candy canes (Great for holiday drinks!), black colored hard licorice flavored candies (Ouzo shots!), fruit flavored candies for a jeweled look, hard caramels / toffees (perfect for a Candy Apple Martini!)… cinnamon candies, coffee flavored hard candy on a chocolate or Kahlua based cocktail…

See what I mean? Tons of possibilities!

Candied cocktail rims are quick and easy to do, and the technique comes in handy for my NEXT blog post 🙂 Have fun with it!

You will need:

Hard candies
2 small plates
Corn syrup
Martini glasses

1. Crush your candies. I like to use a mortar and pestle, but there are many ways to do this – food processor, rolling pin, hammer, etc. You will want any chunks to be relatively small, or they’ll just fall off. Alternatively, you can crush the candies down to a powder, for a less chunky look.

Once candies are crushed, spread them out on one of the plates – you’ll want to use them fairly soon – moisture in the air will make the crushed candies sticky.

2. Pour a small amount of corn syrup onto the second plate. carefully twirl the very edge of a martini glass in the corn syrup, until the edge is coated the entire way around the rim.

3. Hold the glass above the plate and allow any excess corn syrup to drip off of the glass. Take your time – extra syrup will run down the side of your glass, not hold the candy securely to the rim!

4. Twirl the edge of the rim through crushed candies, gently pressing down to secure.

5. Fill glass with cocktail of your choice. Enjoy!

Honey Dill Dipping Sauce Recipe

Honey dill sauce is one of those things that I think of as being ubiquitous… and then end up disappointed when it’s not. When you grow up with something THAT popular, it’s weird when you move somewhere that’s never even heard of it.

So, let me introduce you to honey dill sauce. This is VERY much a Winnipeg thing, and “popular” doesn’t even begin to describe it. If you order chicken fingers anywhere in Winnipeg, there IS honey dill sauce. Actually, not even “there IS”, more like “There MUST BE”. Major chain restaurants, little diners, festival food trucks, school cafeterias… it’s just what you do. Kids love it, adults love it… and after putting together this post, I’m gonna NEED to make some for supper tonight!

I once saw a list of “You know you’re from Winnipeg WHEN”, and one of the statements was “You dip everything in Honey Dill sauce”. Well, while I wouldn’t go so far as to say “everything”, it really is a versatile condiment. The most popular use, as I mentioned, is for chicken fingers. It’s also great on roasted potato chunks, steamed carrots, salmon, egg rolls, perogies, for crudite plates … and as a french fry dip! (more…)

Custom “Nerds” Wedding / Party Favors!

Editing to add: Due to popular request, I’ve shared my template for these boxes. You can find it HERE.

Saturday was our 5th Wedding anniversary! No one’s died or been (significantly) maimed, so I think we’re doing pretty good at this whole “marriage” thing 🙂

While we splurged on the venue, we did a lot of our wedding ourselves, DIY. It was all quite nerdy and perfect for us.
We got married at the Science Museum, which was a no brainer for us. It was the only venue we’d looked at! In looking at a local wedding magazine, with huge lists of the local venues, we got headaches just thinking about picking a venue. Then, we saw the Science Museum listed. Boom. Done.

Our centerpieces were very simple, just 3 test tubes glued together tripod-style, each with a stargazer lily. These were placed on mirror tiles on each of the guest dining tables – each table named after an element. We had fun trying to arrange the table names in an appropriate way – closest friends were seated at tables named after our favorite element, the kids were at the “Neon” table, etc.

The food was not so hot, our cake (I did NOT make it!) was freezerburnt, and our photographer spent most of the time hitting on one of our friends, rather than actually working. Meanwhile, the DJ and the bartender did their absolute best to make it an awseome evening, which it was. I mean really, we had our ceremony less than 5 yards away from “Bodyworlds”, LOL!

Anyway, in honor of our anniversary, I’d like to share what we did for our favors: Custom Nerds candy! (more…)

Bananas Foster Upside Down Cake

Woo! This entry makes two days in a row! Maybe I am not actually the laziest, lamest blogger ever?

Ok… it’s probably too early to claim that. Whatever… I’ll distract you from my inability to blog consistently with one of the best upside down cake recipes ever. (Best goes to my “Mango Mojito Upside Down Cake”!)

This cake received the cutest compliment ever. After presenting it at a Mensa convention in Chicago, the following was posted to my Facebook page:

“When I saw your list of wedding cake flavors, I wanted to get married just so I could have one of your cakes, and I wasn’t even dating anyone. And after I tasted the bananas foster cake, I went looking for someone.”

This recipe made its debut in our first cookbook, The Spirited Baker, and was also featured in the February issue of Plymouth Magazine. Its popularity is the reason that we also included it – along with many other awesome recipes – in Evil Cake Overlord, coming out on April 30th! (The mango mojito one is also included, for that matter!)

Bananas Foster Upside Down Cake

1/3 cup Butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp Flour
1/2 cup Brown sugar
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
2 Tbsp Amber rum
1 Tbsp Creme de banane

2-3 cups Bananas, sliced
2 cups Cake flour
1 1/2 cups Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
4 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Salt
3 1/2 oz packet Instant vanilla pudding mix
4 Large eggs
1/2 cup Water
1/2 cup Amber rum

3/4 cup Butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Liberally grease a 10″ round pan with vegetable shortening. Cut out a 10″ round of parchment paper, using bottom of pan as a template. Place inside pan, smoothing it out to cling securely to the shortening.

(more…)