That’s what I’ve come to realize in all the years that my family has stood by me. They’re there when I laugh. They’re there when I cry (even if I rather have no one see me do it, they’re there for me if I happen to break down in the open). Despite the distance, I know they’re there for me when I need them, for the good and the bad. And I like to think that I’m there for them as well.
And being the baby of the family has its benefits (yes, I am the youngest sibling), but it also has a couple of disadvantages. You definitely feel the strong love and care from everyone around you, and it feels so nice to be cared for. I also believe that family members are more protective over the little one of the pack. It has been that way in my experience at least. They want to make sure that the baby is on the right track and out of harm’s way as much as possible. And I, despite my non-confrontational ways, have had to remind them and reassure them from time to time that it’s fair to become hurt and to make mistakes once in a while, because what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger; that we learn from the mistakes we make and not so much from the mistakes of others.
But I get it now. They simply love me and want to shield me from pain in the same way that I want to protect them.
So as Mark and I were getting ready to eat dinner tonight, we made a toast with a glass of Malbec. We raised our wine glasses and we made a toast to life and our families. “To our families…because life is a wild roller-coaster and they are the ones who will always be there for the ride, no matter what.”
Yes, they are the one constant thing we can always count on.
I thank my mother, my father, my sister, my brother, my nephew, my niece, Mark, and every one else in my family who has been there since I can remember.
Thank you for being such an important part of my life. For showing care. For showing love. For making me smile. For making me cry. For making me angry sometimes…And for many more things I can’t even begin to list.
Oh and these delicious chocolate caramel pretzels…Well, I made them the other day for a baseball game I went to with my brother and nephew. I enjoyed them in the company of my family who came to visit for a few days from Spain. Family and chocolate caramel pretzels…What a lovely way to spend a spring night.
- Soft Pretzels:
- 12 oz warm water
- 2 T sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 2½ tsp active dry yeast
- 20 oz flour
- 2 oz melted butter
- ½ C dark chocolate, finely chopped
- ½ milk chocolate, finely chopped
- vegetable oil or spray
- 10 C water
- ⅓ C baking soda
- 2 oz melted butter
- very coarse salt as needed
- tubirando sugar as needed
- caramel sauce
- 3 oz tempered or melted milk dark chocolate
- 3 oz tempered or melted dark chocolate
- Caramel Sauce:
- 4 oz sugar
- 1 oz water
- 5 oz cream
- 1 ½ oz butter
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
- small pinch of salt
- Soft Pretzels:
- 1. Combine water, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle yeast over water and gently stir. Allow mixture to sit for about 5 minutes, until mixture begins to foam.
- 2. Attach dough hook to stand mixer and begin to mix on low speed. Slowly add flour, followed by two ounces of melted butter, finely dark chocolate, and finely chopped milk chocolate.
- 3. Increase speed of mixer to medium and knead until dough is smooth, elastic, and pulls away from sides of bowl, approximately 4-5 minutes.
- 4. Spray a separate large bowl with spray. Remove dough from stand mixer bowl and place it in the greased bowl. Cover dough with plastic and allow it to rest in a warm place for approximately 50 minutes, until it doubles in size.
- 5. Preheat oven to 425 F. Spray 2 half-sheet pans with vegetable oil spray and cover them with parchment paper. Set sheet pans aside for later use.
- 6. Remove dough from bowl and turn it onto a clean work surface. Beat it down with your hands to release gas bubbles and redistribute the yeast. Divide dough into 3-ounce portions.
- 7. Roll one piece back and forth into a log that’s about 6 inches long. Set log aside for it to rest for about a minute or so, until dough stops springing back. Roll remaining pieces of dough into 6-inch logs.
- 8. Roll each log into a rope that’s about 24 inches long. (Note: The finely chopped chocolate may pierce through dough when rolling it and may cause tearing. If this happens, stop rolling momentarily and pinch dough together in the place(s) where dough may be tearing. Continue rolling dough gently).
- 9. Twist dough into a pretzel shape and carefully transfer it to prepared baking sheet. Repeat same procedure with remaining dough. Space pretzels evenly on baking sheet and reshape them as needed. Cover pretzels with plastic wrap and freeze until hard, at least 1 hour, so that they hold their shape for the following step.
- 10. Bring 10 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Pour baking soda to water once it starts to boil.
- Carefully, add 3 pretzels to boiling water, one at a time. Boil for a total of 30 seconds, 15 seconds on each side. Transfer boiled pretzels with a slotted spoon or spatula to greased prepared baking sheets.
- 11. Brush remaining 2 ounces of melted butter over pretzels. Sprinkle with a pinch of coarse sea salt and tubirando sugar. Bake until lightly crusted, about 15 minutes. Cool for about 10-15 minutes.
- 12. Drizzle tempered or melted milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and caramel sauce over pretzels. Dip in caramel sauce and enjoy.
- Caramel Sauce:
- 1. Combine water and sugar in small saucepan. Remove lumps in sugar with fingers.
- 2. Cook water and sugar over medium heat until sugar reaches a uniform dark amber color.
- 3. Pour in heavy cream to pot while whisking continuously. Remove saucepan from heat.
- 4. Add butter, vanilla extract, and salt to caramel. Whisk to combine.
- 5. Strain caramel sauce into a small container and allow it to cool down before serving.