When my bff asked me to contribute an hors d'oeuvre for a dinner party to taste potential wines for her wedding reception I of course jumped at the chance. My husband Peter and I had our own wine tasting dinner party where we made approximations of our caterer's menu. We picked out a few possible wine pairings with the help of our trusty wine guy/Peter's Uncle Eric, made a little sheet for people to comment on the various selections, and invited a few good friends over. The results were a little ... uh, mixed, due to the fact that we were tasting something like 12 wines, but a good time was had by all. At any rate, Cassie has booked the same caterer we used (FIG - and everything about them was amazing), but her and her fiancé have picked out a very different menu. One of their hors d'oeuvres is a mushroom quinoa veggie burger slider, which is very similar to something I've made for Cassie before, so in order to take the edge off the amount of cooking she has to do, I've prepared burgers and buns to bring over later this evening.
Now, a while back I was on a quest to develop the best possible veggie burger recipe. Although I do eat meat, I love veggie burgers, but I absolutely hate those ones that are all starch or carbs in a patty - and then you put it on bread?! What the hell?! I wanted a burger that was as much of a complete nutritional package as I could get in patty form, held up well, and was something I could make in large batches and freeze. A friend sent me a Martha Stewart recipe for veggie burgers that pretty much brought my quest to a close. I'm not going to reproduce the recipe here since it's available for free on Martha's site, but I will say that it's pretty much the ultimate in veggie burger perfection. I never get tired of them. They call for a yogurt sauce that is delicious, but they're also great with mayo, chimichurri, bbq sauce - yeah, we eat these a lot. Tonight I'll be making a blue cheese aioli for them. So that burger recipe is exactly what I'm making tonight for slider patties. Why mess with perfection, really.
As for the bread, I always insist that pretzel bread is ideal for burgers - meat or veggie. The texture makes it hold up against crumbling even when soaked with sauces and juices, and the flavor is great. I started looking around online for a good pretzel roll recipe this morning and found that there's not a lot out there. I also ran into a fairly major issue: pretzels and pretzel bread get that distinctive dark chewy crust because they're boiled in a lye bath. Now, I know you can get food-grade lye, but that still scares the crap out of me. It may or may not have to do with the fact that I saw an episode of Bones just the other day that featured a particularly horrifying body half eaten away with lye. Suffice it to say, I found a few recipes that called for the rolls to be boiled in water and baking soda instead of lye, so I chose one of those as my starting point.
So just to get that Bones image I just mentioned out of your mind and bring this post back to delicious pretzel bread, I'll post the recipe. I ended up making a modified version of this recipe right here. Here's my version:
1 1/3 cups warm water
2 tablespoons warm milk
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 quarts cold water
1/2 cup baking soda
1 egg, lightly beaten
1. Proof the yeast by mixing 1/3 cup of the warm water (105-115 degrees) with the yeast and letting it stand until foamy. (I did this in the bowl for my stand mixer, which was fitted with the dough hook.)
2. Add the remaining cup of warm water along with milk, sugar & melted butter and swirl to dissolve the sugar. Add flour and mix on med-low speed until dough forms a ball and cleans the sides of the bowl.
3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured table and knead for 2 minutes. Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic and a damp cloth and let sit for 10 minutes.
4. Pinch off about 2-3 Tbs of dough and roll into balls. Place them on a lightly floured surface and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 425°. Lightly oil 2 baking sheets.
6. In a large stockpot, bring the cold water to a rolling boil and add baking soda. [ETA: be sure you use a fairly large/tall pot for this because adding the baking soda will make the water foam up like CRAZY!]
7. Drop two rolls into the boiling water and boil for no more than 30 seconds, turning once. Carefully remove with tongs or slotted spoon and hold above pot and let drain. Place boiled rolls on baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining rolls.
8. Brush rolls with beaten egg and sprinkle a few grains of salt onto each one.
9. Bake on the upper and middle racks of the oven for about 8-10 minutes, or until browned all over; shift pans from top to bottom and back to front halfway through, for even baking.
10. Let rolls cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a rack.
This recipe yielded about 44 slider-sized rolls, but of course your mileage may vary. Here's a picture to give you a sense of scale: