Kitchen Gadget Recommendation

This past year, our rice cooker died. After researching options and brands for about 3 months (yeah I know but there was a decision matrix involved), Lou and I finally settled on a Sanyo ECJ-HC100S rice and slow cooker. Did seriously consider the Zojirushi cookers but they were all a little more expensive and didn't have the slow cooker feature.

Have to say, it is the coolest rice robot. Throw rice in it with the water, pick the rice type on the little control panel and let the fuzzy logic do its thing. It is a little slow. Take a good 45 minutes to do 5 cups of brown rice but it hasn't been a problem so far. Thou I haven't used it, it does have a delay cook option so you could set it up before going to work and it would be ready when you got back. The hold temp option works really well also. Since the cooker is kinda pressure sealed, keeps the rice nice and moist for hours after cooking.

Today, I finally got around to using it as a slow cooker. I made a double patch of Alton Brown's tapioca pudding in it. Worked great. Threw in the tapioca with the milk for 2 hrs on high. When done, it kept it warm until I came around and finished it off. In theory the rice robot also works as a vegetable steamer and will even make tofu if you are hard core.

So, if you are looking for a rice cooker that is also a multi-tasker, get this one. It does come in 5 1/2 cup model as well but the 10 cup does just fine making 2-3 cups of rice, so I would recommend the bigger one unless you are looking for something for that small apartment in Tokyo.


Fancy Bread

I am a little behind on recording by bread making. For Thanksgiving, I made some fancy bread. For dinner at my in-laws, I made a celebration loaf of challah.

For dinner at by brother and sister-in-law's, I made a braided marble rye.

Schnoodles and Cold

It has been cold and snowy the last few days here in Wisconsin. While the humans in the household grumble and complain, sometimes we forget the hardship this causes the schnoodle. While Daisy doesn't mind the snow, it has to say below here belly. But, she does not like the cold, as the picture demonstrates.


Soft Rye Pretzels

This recipe is a combination from several others that I have found.

Dry Works

4 oz white rye flour
13.6 oz white bread flour
2 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp non-diastatic malt powder

Wet Works

2 tbsp butter (soft or melted)
2/3 cup whole milk (body temp)
2/3 cup water (body temp)

Water Bath

1 oz salt
3 oz baking soda
1 quart (approx) water

Combine the dry works together in a mixing bowl. Using a microwave, warm the milk and water until they are approximately body temperature. Add the warm milk-water mixture and the butter to the dry works. Combine to bring together to form a dough. Adjust with white bread flour or milk as needed.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 8 minutes and then let rest for 5 minutes. Prepare an oiled bowl. After resting, knead for another 2 minutes and form the dough into a ball. Place in oiled bowl and cover with cling wrap. Ferment for 1 hour until the dough roughly doubles in size.

After fermenting, turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and divide into 12 pieces. Form each into a small ball and let rest for 5 minutes. After resting, roll each into a 3/8" - 1/2" diameter rope approximately 18" long and then form into a pretzel shape. If the dough is still to elastic, let rest for a few minutes and then continue rolling.

Place pretzel shapes on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper for proofing. Loosely cover with cling wrap while proofing. Proof for 20-30 minutes until the dough expands from 3/8" to approx 3/4" diameter. While the dough is proofing, prepare a water bath by placing the water, salt and baking soda in a large stainless steel pot.

NOTE - Do not us an aluminum pot because the baking soda and will react with aluminum.

Bring water to boil and stir to dissolve salt and baking soda. Reduce the temp so the water is just at a light boil. Before you start processing the pretzels in the water bath, preheat oven to 425 degrees.

After the pretzels have proofed, place them one at a time in the water bath; letting one side in the water for 30 seconds and then flipping them with a large sloted spoon. After the other side has cooked for 30 seconds, remove from water and place on baking sheet again. After all pretzels have been processed, place in oven. Bake for 15 minutes and then rotate the pans for even baking. Continue baking for approximately another 15 minutes until the pretzels take on a dark brown color. Let cool 20 minutes before eating.

Makes 12 - 5" pretzels. Can also make 8 Kaiser style rolls.