The Awful Truth
16 October 2009
I have a terrible and earth-shattering confession to make. Worse than the disclosure that Letterman has been nailing interns (and, fingers crossed, Rupert); worse than when I involuntarily stabbed at the “scan” button on my friend’s radio when a Katy Perry song came on, thus outing me as a fan of her irresistible, pop-laden hooks; worse, even, than when I told an ex-girlfriend that I slept with her mother. And even worse than when I told that same ex-girlfriend that after I slept with her mother, I murdered her and framed the father for it. Man, I’m kind of a fucking scumbag. Perhaps made more so by the fact that I now… have begun to enjoy . . . baking. Oh, God, it wasn’t real to me until I wrote it out. I feel sick. Fucking baking. Apparently, I’m a sixty year old woman – and also, somehow, a huge homo. Great, now I’ve got to start giving blow jobs. Oh, well, “silver lining,” and all that. After attempting to make bread, last year, and finding it more difficult that sitting through an episode of Semi-Homemade without cutting myself, I threw my stand mixer at a hobo and retired my AP flower by portioning it in little baggies and selling ersatz eight-balls to unsuspecting middle-schoolers. I was done, and it felt better than being amorously hugged by Danielle, down there.
I was perfectly content with my pots and pans and direct heat and not having to let my ingredients take four rest periods before cooking them. I loved the imprecise nature of the measurements, and the accompanying ability to improvise. And nothing thrilled me more than the omnipresent danger of maybe, just maybe, giving someone the salmonella. But then, like the beginning of so many a troublesome adventure, I got a hankerin’ for some soft pretzels. Being of an aggressively lazy nature, I nixed the idea of going to the mall to pick up some Wetzel’s, and that Super Pretzel bullshit they sell in the supermarket is, well, bullshit. So I went off to the trusty internet to get a recipe, and ten minutes later I was still masturbating to sapphic erotica. Ten minutes after that, though, I was prepping my mise en place, measuring ingredients, and making my dough. Half-way through the process, I started to feel something strange and disquieting, though not entirely unpleasant. It was kind of like having sex with a, shall we delicately say “zaftig,” slut, and realizing “Sure she’s really big, but it’s still sex!” I actually liked baking. And, because it was yours truly doing the baking, those pretzels were fucking delicious. From that day forward I was fiening like a junkie turning tricks in men’s rooms to get my next fix. Bread, more pretzels, more bread – you name it – as long as it was either bread or pretzels, I was baking that shit. And now, you’re going to be doing the same thing, you lucky bastard, you – Here are two of my favorite baked goods.
Why, oh why, do they not have more places to get soft pretzels? Dominoes has bread bowls with pasta in them; Jack in the Box has nachos made out of tacos, for Christ’s sake; I can get sushi delivered to my house; and we can send guys to the moon; but I’ve gotta schlep my ass to Auntie Anne’s to get a fucking pretzel? Fuck that noise. If I’m going to the mall, it’s to pick up some chicks after their AP Chemistry class lets out, which is why I’m not allowed to go to the mall any more. Fascists. Oh, well, though, because making soft pretzels actually ain’t that hard, and the results are pretty close to those of the mall variety. You’ll have to go to 7-11 to get some neon orange cheese sauce, but that’s a small price to pay.
There are a lot of recipes out there for good soft pretzels, and most of them follow the same general outline: bloom yeast in warm water, add salt, brown sugar, flower, and some type of fat, and mix until a smooth dough is formed. Let rise for an hour, make pretzel shapes, boil briefly in water with baking soda, then bake. As for the type of fat to use, I generally use an ass-load of melted butter, but that’s just because I’m awesome; you can also use eggs or milk (you know, if you’re all out of butter and all the grocery stores in your town are closed so you can’t buy more butter.)
As a kid, I was never really into biscuits (in large part because they weren’t Nintendo or BMX bikes or my dad’s old Playboys.) It wasn’t until I started cooking, myself, that I realized that I hadn’t been a big fan of the biscuit because I had never really had good biscuits. It’s no wonder, either, considering how difficult it is to make them so they turn out moist, tender, and flaky. But fear not, you beautiful, vile sluts, because I’m here to help (along with a recipe I stole from Alton Brown.) Two keys to keep in mind when making the dough – keep the fats very cold and, as France has taught us, over-working is never a good thing. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Into the dry ingredients, massage in shortening and butter until it looks kind of like crumbs, then pour in the buttermilk and mix until it just comes together. Fold it a couple of times and pat out into a sheet about an inch thick, and cut into rounds. Throw them bad boys into a 450-degree oven, and then start in on your breakfast. Speaking of which…
Bonus Recipe!!! Ham And Eggs With Biscuits and Red-Eye Gravy!!!
I couldn’t let you people get out of this post without writing about actual cooking, now could I. Especially because I only know how to bake two things well, and that doesn’t necessarily make a good, in-depth post. While your biscuits are in the oven and on their way to drying out because you left them in there too long, throw a ham steak in a large skillet with a little vegetable oil, and cook until brown and a little crispy. Remove the ham and add a few tablespoons of coffee to the drippings in the pan, along with a touch of sugar, a little water, salt, and a lot of pepper. Scrape up the ham bits and reduce. Unlike other gravy, this is going to be very thin, but rest assured that it will pack a delicious punch. Top the ham with a fried egg, add two buttered biscuits, and top with the gravy.
Now go grab your stand mixer, some flour, some yeast, slip into a sundress, put on some heels, and go bake yourself something! As long as it’s not cake, because, as we all know, cake is gross.