Strawberry & Rhubarb Syrup

Summer is here! (It’s forecast to rain tomorrow, but 3 days of sunshine and 20+ degree heat is good enough in the UK). To celebrate all the sunshine and possibility of sitting outdoors without a jacket, I made some delicious, delicious syrup. It was one of those recipes you see and think to yourself “I need that in my life”. And I wasn’t disappointed. I took some rhubarb from my parents’ garden, bought some strawberries and a lemon, and a cute milk bottle, and after very little effort, I had this:

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It’s great as a summer drink mixer – use 2-3 tbsp of syrup and add sparkling water, or my personal preference, bitter lemon. If you’re feeling like you need some alcohol, add 2 shots of gin, and maybe a few crushed mint leaves. Beautiful.

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Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels

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This week I received a mixer from my very kind friend Seb. Generally I prefer to use my arms and a wooden spoon to mix things together, but now electric mixers pop up so frequently in recipes that it’s hard to believe that you don’t need one. And as it happens, the arrival of the mixer coincided with my wish to make this recipe, which genuinely does require a mixer, because apparently kneading brioche is hard and takes longer than bread, and so having the ability to throw ingredients in and watch the mixer do the work was pretty much a godsend.

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I always associate pretzels with those salty, malty tasting little crackers I had when I was younger, and I hated them. These pretzels, however, are the shit, so much so that Oli has added them to his “favourite things that I have baked for him list”, which also contains salted caramel tart and banana bread. And they make for a pretty awesome breakfast (best fresh out of the oven – I didn’t try warming them up, but I imagine they’d be pretty good, melted chocolate and all.)

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I made another rhubarb and almond loaf to take to my friend’s housewarming last night – it went down very well. But now I am slightly hungover after being given many a cocktail, and I smell of smoke (even after showering) because I spent the majority of the evening sitting outside by the fire. Genius. I am however, doing one better than Oli, who managed to spill crème de cassis all over his shoes, and didn’t realise until this morning. Classy.

And on that note, I will leave you with delicious pretzels, and the promise that I will actually make New York Cheesecake next week.

Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels (from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman)
makes 8

for the dough:
1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk
1 tsp instant yeast
2 1/4 cups (280g) plain flour
2 tbsp (25g) caster sugar
1/2 tsp table salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
8 tbsp (6oz or 170g) well- chopped chocolate or chocolate chips
1/4 tsp freshly grated orange zest (optional)

for the glaze:
1 large egg
1/2 tsp table salt
1 tsp water
Coarse or pearl sugar, for finishing

Make brioche: Whisk the milk and yeast together in a small dish until the yeast has dissolved. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, stir together flour, sugar, and salt. Add the eggs and the yeast mixture, and mix at a low speed until the dough comes together in a shaggy pile. Raise the speed to medium, and beat for 10 minutes; the long mixing time creates the soft, stretchy strands brioche is known for. Add the butter, a third at a time, mixing the dough between additions. Now switch to the dough hook, and knead at low speed until a silky- smooth dough forms, another 5 minutes. Add the chocolate and zest, if using, and run the machine until it is mixed into the dough.

Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm spot for 2 hours, until almost doubled. Alternatively, you can rest the dough in the fridge overnight (or up to 24 hours), bring back to room temperature, and let the rise complete before continuing to the next step.

Meanwhile, line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat your oven to 350F/180C.

Form pretzels: Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into eight pieces, about 3 1/4 oz (93g) each. Working with one piece at a time, roll each piece into an 18-inch-long rope about 1/2 inch thick. Curiously, I find these ropes easier to roll and stretch on an unfloured or very lightly oiled surface, but if you find yours sticking too much, lightly flour your counter before continuing.

To form the pretzel, draw the ends of a rope together to form a circle. About 2 inches from both ends, twist the rope ends together to close the circle– a full twist, so that the rope end that started on the right side finishes there. Fold the twist down into the circle, adhering the loose ends of the rope at five and seven o’clock on the base. Repeat to make eight pretzel twists. Transfer them to prepared baking sheets, brush them with glaze, and let them rest for about 15 minutes, during which they’ll puff slightly again.

To finish: Brush pretzels with glaze one more time, sprinkle with pearl or coarse sugar, then bake for 12 minutes, or until puffed and lightly bronzed.