Sunday, January 12, 2014

Food Smells and Memory Triggers - A Walk Down Memory Lane

Homemade Pretzels, yum!
Today was a typical Sunday in January. That, in my world, means cool weather, lazy Sundays, and football. I got kinda "snacky" earlier and was craving the staple food familiar to all of those who hail from Philadelphia: The soft pretzel. I wandered out to the kitchen an whipped up a batch of homemade pretzels. And while they were good, they are definitely not Philadelphia soft pretzels.

It is funny how certain smells totally transport me back to my youth and some of the more memorable, yet everyday, events in my life. The smell of bleach and Tide combined with moist earth was the distinct smell of my grandmother's basement. It was such a unique smell that I am only blessed with wisps of it on very rainy or humid days. When I was growing up my parents would take us to football, baseball, and hockey games as well as to the more cultural things of theater and concerts. As we would drive out to south Philly, whenever we would get stopped at a red light, you could count on a guy standing in the median selling soft pretzels. Now I don't know if they do that anymore down by the stadiums, but when I was a kid we lived for those soft pretzels with tangy yellow mustard. We also liked to buy dill pickles out of a barrel at the deli, but those I know are gone. My son and my granddaughter never got the joy of fishing out their own crispy dill pickle to wrap in a piece of paper and snack on all the way home from the deli. Pickles in a jar are just not the same.

Baking these pretzels today took me back in time for sure. It was a bittersweet walk down memory lane. How about you? Do food smells transport you back in time?

Here is the recipe for my pretzels. Keep in mind, this is my recipe, not a chef's and they certainly don't even come close to the ones in Philly, but they will sure do in a pinch!

Rancho No Dinero's Soft Pretzels

  • 2 packets of Yeast 
  • 1 1/2 cups warm (not hot, but warm) water 
  • 5 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Garlic powder 
  • butter (melted)

Using a dough hook on your mixer, add the water and the yeast to the mixing bowl. Give it a stir. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add the sugar and mix. Let stand 5 minutes. Add 3 cups of the flour and the salt to the bowl. Start the hook to give it a stir. Add the rest of the flour. Let the mixer do the work for 3 -5 minutes.

Remove the dough from the bowl and put it on a floured surface. Knead for 3 minutes. Cut up into even chunks (I did 12 and used my crinkle fry cutter). Roll each chunk out into a long rope and form into pretzel shape.* Put on a greased or, like I did, lay them on parchment paper. Brush on the melted butter and sprinkle with salt and garlic powder.

Bake in an oven at 450 for 8 - 20 min (depending on how thick they are). You want them to turn a golden color, but not be hard as a rock. Sometimes slightly under cooked is better than over cooked.

Serve with mustard or butter, depending on your tastes. Dipping it in cheese sauce is a good way to eat them too.


*if you have baking soda, add half a cup to a saucer of water and bring to a boil. Drop each pretzel into the water for 30 - 45 seconds and then drain before putting on cookie sheet or parchment paper. Then do the butter step.