Many things flicked through my mind when my BlackBerry binged about a dozen times over the course of a few minutes. That only happens when something's very wrong…but when I saw a distribution list of a couple dozen foodbloggers, including old-school names, my heart stopped. We lost one of our own.
Later that evening a few of us who were part of foodblogging's salad days were in a twitter chat about those old days, especially the Daring Bakers' early days.
The Daring Bakers started off in 2006 as two online friends--Lis and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice--daring one another to try the same recipe and post their results. It looked like fun and fit in well with foodblogging's early days which were marked by fun, encouragement and a prevailing feeling of "we're all in it together." Many of my foodblogging friends were in the first groups and I was christened a DB within seven months of the Lis and Ivonne's inaugural challenge.
As the group grew, so did our collective skill, knowledge and well as our individual friendships. Apart from encouraging me to bake my first macarons and try my hand at pasta making, I also found my go-to cheesecake recipe and made some good friends. In 2009 I even hosted a the Bakewell Tart challenge--ably assisted by my dear Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar.
Time and energy are limited, and I (like several early members) simply faded out of the challenges so we could concentrate on what we wanted our lives and blogs to become and left the DBs to the next generation who continue to to challenge each other with new adventures (yes, I did peek at this month's challenge recipe: it looks like an amazing one).
So when that FB chat turned to how we could memorialise Lis and all she did to contribute to foodblogging's community building, we decided to brush off our DB skills and return to a challenge recipe, prepare it and post it in her honour. But which one to choose? If I were to do one that makes me smile every time, it would be my friend Shuna Fish Lydon's Caramel Cake
Given what Lis and Ivonne did for foodblogging, and the memories Lis' passing brought me, I thought it was appropriate to post the very first Daring Bakers' challenge: Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels.
I'll admit to not really being a pretzel-eater, simply because My Dear Little Cardamummy never kept them in the house (truthfully, she thought they were dog food and was repulsed by the idea that anyone would eat them). But these aren't those hard, dry twigs. These are soft, bready and buttery….and really, really easy to make.
But not so easy that I couldn't make a couple of oopsies. Apart from missing the 15-minute rise before baking, after I pulled them out of the oven I realised I used bread flour instead of AP. Quite honestly--the oversights weren't showstoppers and I really don't think the pretzels suffered from my inattentiveness.
The recipe called for an optional salt sprinkle, which I did, but I also decided to take a couple of liberties with some of the breaded knots and made rosemary-black pepper-Parmesan and cinnamon-sugar toppings, and made little sesame seed-coated twisted pretzel sticks.
Recipe: Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels
DB Challenge Recipe: Cream Puffs In Venice: Perfect Pretzels
Original Recipe: King Arthur Flour: Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels
I'm a quill for hire!