Randel Cooks

Midwest Home Chef

Auntie Anne’s Caramel Apple Soft Pretzels

Default Auntie Anne’s Caramel Apple Soft Pretzels

Auntie Anne’s Caramel Apple Soft Pretzels
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 Tb. sugar
2 1/2 tsp. dry active yeast (1 packet)
2 tsp. salt
4 1/2 cups (24 oz.) all-purpose flour + 1 Tb.
6 Tb. melted butter
1 1/2 cups diced apple
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
3 quarts water
3/4 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk + 1 Tb. water for egg wash
1 can Dulce de Leche
Course Sea Salt
Place the water, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top of the water. Let it foam for 5-10 minutes begins.
Using the dough hook, mix in 24 oz. flour and the melted butter on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 5-6 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl, spray the bowl with nonstick spray, then place the dough back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Meanwhile, peel and chop the apples into small chunks, toss the apples with cinnamon, nutmeg and 1 Tb. flour. After the dough has doubled, pour the apples into the dough and knead to combine.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and spray with nonstick spray, Set aside.
Bring the water and the baking soda to a boil in large sauce pot.
In the meantime, dump the dough out onto a slightly floured work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces (or 16 pieces for mini pretzels.)
Spray a work surface with nonstick spray. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope (12-inch for minis.) The apples will pop out a little, but keep rolling and you will reincorporate them.
Make a U-shape with the rope. Take the ends and cross them over each other twice, and press onto the bottom of the U to form the pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined sheets.
Put the pretzels into the boiling water, one at a time, for 30 seconds. Remove from the water using 1-2 large spatulas. Return to the cookie sheet and brush each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture.
Bake until dark golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes.
Transfer to a cooling rack and cool for at least 15 minutes before drizzling with caramel and sprinkling with salt.
For the Dulce e Leche Caramel Drizzle: Because Dulce de Leche doesn’t “set” like frosting, it’s best to drizzle the pretzels right before serving. Place them in an airtight container to keep fresh. When ready to serve, warm the dulce de leche until slightly thin. Then place in a zip bag. Cut a small hole in the corner of the bag and “pipe” the warm caramel over the soft pretzels. Sprinkle with course sea salt and serve.


TGI Friday’s Pretzel Sticks and Beer Cheese Dip

TGI Friday’s Pretzel Sticks and Beer Cheese Dip

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Pretzel Sticks:
2 1/2 teaspoons or 1 package instant yeast
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (125 to 130 degrees)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
4 1/2 cups to 5 cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon salt
vegetable oil for bowl
8 cups for water
1/4 cup baking soda
1 egg white lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water, for glaze
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt, for sprinkling
Beer Cheese Sauce:
8 ounces American cheese
4 to 6 ounces of beer
To make the pretzel sticks:
Proof the yeast by combining it with 2 tablespoons warm water and 1
teaspoon sugar in a small bowl. Once the yeast begins to foam and
bubble, it is ready to use. Transfer the yeast mixture to the bowl
of a stand mixer and add the flour and salt ; and begin to mix,
using the dough hook. Slowly stream the remaining 1 cup of warm
water into the flour; a ball of dough will form. Continue to mix
for another minute to knead the dough.
Grease the bowl with vegetable oil, place the dough ball in the
bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise for approximately 35
minutes. The dough should double in size.
Four a cutting board and place the dough on the board. Knead and
then divide the dough into 16 portions. Roll each portion into a
cigar shape and use a sharp knife to cut 2 or 3 slits into the top.
Cove with a towel and let rise for another 25 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
On the stovetop, bring the 8 cups of water to boil in a large
saucepan. Add the baking soda and the remaining 2 tablespoons of
sugar (the water will foam for a moment). Drop 4 pretzel sticks at
a time into the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds per side. Use
a slotted spoon to remove the sticks and place them on a baking
Brush the pretzels with the egg white glaze and sprinkle generously
with coarse salt. Bake until brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a
wire wrack and let cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room
To make the cheese sauce:
Chop the cheese into 1 inch cubes and place in a small saucepan
with 4 ounces of beer. Warm and stir over low heat until the cheese
has melted.

Auntie Anne Pretzel Pizza Rolls

Default Auntie Anne Pretzel Pizza Rolls

1 cup milk
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 1/4 cups flour (or more)
1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoons fine salt
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup chopped pepperoni
1/3 cup baking soda
3 cups warm water
Coarse salt (I used kosher, but the coarser the better)
5 tablespoons butter, melted
Pizza, sauce for dipping
Warm up the milk in the microwave or on the stove for just about one and a half minutes. It should be about 110º. If it’s too hot it will kill the yeast. You should be able to comfortably keep your finger in it. Stir in the yeast and let it sit for about 3 minutes. Add the butter and sugar. Add the flour about 1/2 cup at a time and the add the fine salt, seasoning, and garlic powder. Add a little more flour if it’s still too wet. Knead for about 10 minutes with a stand mixer, or by hand. Put it in a greased bowl and cover with a wet cloth. Let rise for 30-60 minutes in a moist, warm place until about doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 400º. In a large bowl (or 4 cup measuring cup) combine the warm water and baking soda. Punch down the dough and divide in half. Roll one half into a thick rope/log. Flatten and top with half of the cheese and pepperoni. Pinch together trying to seal the cheese and pepperoni in the best you can. Dunk the whole rope in the baking soda water for only a couple seconds. Remove from water and slice into bite sized pieces with a serrated knife. Place on a greased baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for about 8 minutes or until browned. Dip each in the melted butter while hot. Serve with pizza sauce.

Auntie Anne’s Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel Bites (Nuggets) with Cream Cheese Dipping Sauce

Auntie Anne’s Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel Bites (Nuggets) with Cream Cheese Dipping Sauce

Small and sweet pretzel nuggets, sprinkled with simple cinnamon sugar, and dipped in a creamy dipping sauce. Tastebuds dance with every single bite.
• 1 (1/4 oz) pkg active dry yeast
• 1 cup warm water, 110 degrees
• 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
• 2 Tbsp packed light-brown sugar
• 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 1/2 cups bread flour
• 1 to 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
• 3 cups hot water
• 1/4 cup baking soda
• 1/2 cup butter, melted
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
Cream Cheese Dipping Sauce
• 4 oz cream cheese, softened
• 2 Tbsp butter, softened
• 1 cup powdered sugar
• 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
• 2 Tbsp heavy cream

• For the pretzel bites:
• In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine 1 cup warm water, yeast and 1/2 tsp granulated sugar, whisk to dissolve and allow to rest 10 minutes. Fit mixer with whisk attachment and mix in remaining granulated sugar (1 Tbsp + 2 1/2 tsp), brown sugar, vegetable oil and salt. With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in bread flour and mix until well blended. Switch attachment to the hook attachment and slowly add in all-purpose flour. Knead mixture on low speed until smooth an elastic, adding up to an additional 1/4 cup flour as needed (you want a soft dough and it may seem slightly sticky). Transfer to a lightly buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest in a warm place until doubled in size (I like to let mine rest in the oven with the light on), 1 1/2 hours.
• Punch dough down and divide into 6 equal portions. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Dust tops of dough lightly with flour and cover the ones you aren’t currently rolling loosely with plastic wrap (to prevent drying). Roll each portion into a rope about 24 to 28-inches long (you can do this by rolling or the method of pulling on each side and flicking upward like a jump rope while slapping onto the countertop). Cut into bite size pieces (about 1 1/4-inches each). Pour hot water and baking soda into a mixing bowl and whisk to dissolve. Using a slotted spoon, dip several pieces of dough into the water mixture, then lift and allow excess water to drip off, then transfer to a Silpat lined baking sheet. Repeat process working in batches and using two baking sheets, and rewarm water in microwave until hot between batches. Bake in preheated oven 8 – 11 minutes until tops are nicely golden brown. Remove from oven and using a slotted spoon, dip into melted butter, toss to evenly coat then lift and shake off excess. Transfer to a plate and allow to rest 2 minutes (I felt this just gave them time to absorb the butter, rather than having it all end up clumping the cinnamon sugar mixture).
• Meanwhile in a small mixing bowl, whisk together granulated sugar and cinnamon until well blended. Dip butter coated pretzels into cinnamon sugar and toss to evenly coat. Serve warm with cream cheese dipping sauce (these are best served warm so I’d recommend rewarming them once they’ve cooled. To do so microwave on a plate for 10 – 20 seconds).
• For the cream cheese dipping sauce:
• In a mixing bowl using an electric mixer, whip cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy. Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until combined. Add heavy cream and whip until fluffy, about 2 minutes longer. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container.

Best Ever and Easiest Coconut Pie Crust

I have struggled finding a great coconut oil pie crust, the first try I just subsituted the oil for shortning with no luck.



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil warmed to half liquid state
  • 1/4 cup cold whole milk


  1. Combine dry ingredients by mixing flour and salt in large mixing bowl with a fork. 
  2. Combine wet ingredients by pouring cold milk into bowl containing liquified coconut oil and slightly stir with a whisk.
  3. Pour liquid ingrediants into dry ingrediants and mix for 1 minute with a fork into a dough ball.  If needed adding 1 teaspoon milk if too dry or 1 teaspoon of flour if too wet.
  4. Smooth into large disk and allow disk to rest for 15 minutes before proceeding.
  5. Transfer disk from mixing bowl roll flat between 2 pieces of parchment or wax paper or large gallon sized zipoc bag split open.
  6. Continue using favroite pie recipe yielding 2 crusts for 8-9 inch pies

Handy tip … roll out round and gently remove top sheet or paper and then replace paper but replace using the dry side of the parchment and flip into pan making sure to place in the corners and not stretching the raw crust.

I bake my cherry pie for 60 minutes at 400 degrees

Credits and inspirations

I was inspired by these youtube videos for a super easy oil and milk piecrust



2 cups flour
1/2 to 1 tsp salt (your preference)
1 TBSP sugar (optional)
1/2 cup oil (any, even olive oil is okay)
1/4 cup milk (I used 2% but any kind okay) 

Winter Family Easy Never-fail Pie Crust 8-9 inch two crust pie – video includes apple pie


1) In large bowl mix 2 cups all-purpose flour less 2 T. and 3/4 tsp salt
2) In glass measuring cup measure 1/2 cup oil (plus 1 T)
3) Add (measured separately) 1/4 cup milk, mix well with fork
4) Pour liquids all at once into bowl with flour and salt. Stir with fork until blended and pastry cleans side of bowl. (If pastry seems dry, 1-2 Tablespoons of oil can be added.)
5) Gather pastry into a ball and divide roughly into halves.
Roll halves into ball and flatten slightly. Place flattened round between two 15-inch lengths of waxed paper. Roll pastry 2 inches larger than inverted pie plate (you can turn paper with pastry and flip over to enable you to roll it out into a nice circle). Peel off top paper and replace. Flip over and peel off what was the bottom but is now the top paper. Place paper side up in pie plate. Peel off paper. Ease pastry loosely into plate

Additional Notes

Read about using a cornstarch disk for perfect crust from milk street but have yet to try.

Healthy Choices

Good Food Under $1

Ellen Hall’s Recipes

Aunt Ellen was a wonderful and loving aunt.  Alden Hall and Ellen Hall’s immediate family included oldest son Micheal, middle son Gary, and the youngest, daughter Cheryl but my younger sister Crystalyn and I would always feel right at home.  Fond memories of Aunt Ellen cooking amazing meals for Thanksgiving New Years and many other gatherings at Aunt Ellen’s house, summers at the farm in Carbondale, or whichever family gathering. 

But my favorite memories are cooking with Aunt Ellen by the campfire on Little Grassy Lake making smores and cherry campfire pies.  Here are some of Aunt Ellen’s recipes written in her own hand from my cousin Gary Hall, Ellen’s Hall middle son.


Aunt Ellen’s recipes in her own hand.


Rolled Dumplings


Hudson Bay Bread


Italian Beef




Soft Gingerbread


Famous Sugar Cookies




Butter Dips


Curry Dip


Drop Dumplings


Ellen and Alden Hall

Grocery List

Great food starts with great ingredients but not all stores are created the same.  Our foods do come from many sources and as I explore and travel I always find that local grocery store to explore.  Here is a list of favorites.



Amish Country Salvage – Awesome collection of expired or near expired food.  Great deals on cheese, refrigerated or frozen foods.  Bring your Yeti ice chest!



Amish Food Locker – Great turkey tenderloins


Louisville – great source of expired or near expired food.  Great deals on canned goods and boxed grocery items with small refrigerated and frozen section


Batavia Cincinnati West Location

Jungle Jim’s International Grocery – Awesome collection of hard to find foods

Fairfield Original Location – Same as original location but less crowded and less volume resulting in somewhat smaller selection of some specialty items

Jungle Jim’s International Grocery

Discount Grocery Stores

National Chains




Copy Cat List

Copy Cat Chick-fil-a Sandwich



Kosher salt (see note)


2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, split horizontally into 4 cutlets

2 teaspoons paprika

2 tablespoons black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon powdered MSG (optional)

1 cup milk

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons powdered non-fat milk

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 quarts peanut oil

4 soft hamburger buns, toasted in butter

8 dill pickle chips


1. Dissolve 1/2 cup kosher salt (see note) and 1/4 cup sugar in 1 quart of cold water. Place chicken breasts in a zipper-lock bag and add brine. Transfer to refrigerator and let sit for at least 6 hours and up to overnight.

2. Meanwhile, combine paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and MSG (if using), in a small bowl. Set aside

3. Whisk together milk and eggs in a medium bowl. Set aside.

4. Combine flour, non-fat milk powder, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 2 teaspoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons of spice mixture in a large bowl and whisk until homogenous. Drizzle 3 tablespoons milk/egg mixture into flour mixture and rub with fingertips until the flour mixture is coarse like wet sand.

5. In a large wok, deep fryer, or Dutch oven, preheat oil to 350°F.

6. Remove chicken breasts from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Season on all sides with remaining spice mixture. Transfer to milk mixture and turn to coat. Working one cutlet at a time, allow excess milk mixture to drip off then transfer to flour mixture. Turn to coat, pile extra mixture on top of cutlet, and press down firmly to adhere as much mixture as possible to the meat. Lift cutlet, shake off excess flour, then slowly lower into hot oil. Repeat with remaining breasts.

7. Cook, turning breasts occasionally until golden brown and crisp on all sides, and chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes total. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

8. Place 2 pickles on each bottom bun and a fried chicken cutlet on top. Close sandwiches, then cover with an overturned bowl or aluminum foil and allow to rest for 2 minutes to steam buns. Serve immediately.

Dayton Style Pizza

Royal Thin Crust Pizza

by Melissa Slyh • July 22, 2015 • 96 Comments

If you grew up or lived in Central Indiana at any point, you’ve probably had Pizza King pizza. For many of us, it is the BEST pizza around. If you’re not from the area, you probably won’t understand the hype. To me, it tastes like home.

As a lot of you know, there are two types of Pizza King pizza, the Muncie/New Castle region and the Lafayette region. They are both similar, but they do have their differences. I grew up in the Muncie/New Castle region, and that’s the version I prefer.

Since moving from Indiana, I have longed for Pizza King pizza. When I have visited Indiana, I have made it an immediate destination to relieve my craving. We have even mastered the art of bringing some of the glorious pizza back home with us. When family and friends come to visit us in South Carolina, it is our number one request when visitors offer to bring something from home.

While they do offer to ship pizzas, it can be rather pricey. Who can blame them? They’re shipping precious cargo! So for the past year, I’ve been on a mission to create my own version of the pizza. The time has come…


You’re welcome…

Royal Thin Crust Pizza


Pizza Crust:
2 and ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

*A lot of times I will use a store-bought pizza crust instead of making it from scratch.  I don’t always have the time nor patience to make crust.  Some grocery stores have fresh pizza dough in their deli or bakery areas.  If you choose this route, roll the dough out thinly, and be sure to still prick the dough with a fork to keep it from puffing up during the par-bake.  Cooking temperature may vary depending on what the package states.

Preheat the oven and a pizza stone on 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Crust Flour

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl.

Crust Dough

Slowly and gradually stir in the water and olive oil. Form into a ball and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.

Rolled Pizza Dough

Roll the dough out onto a flour dusted surface with a rolling pin dusted with flour. The dough should be pretty thin. Roll it out to about 16 inches in diameter. You can trim the edges off to make a round circle.

ParBaked Dough

Carefully transfer the dough to the preheated pizza stone. Allow the dough to bake for about 5 minutes.

For the Sauce:
1-6 oz can tomato paste (I used Red Gold brand)
6 oz water

Sauce on Pizza Dough
Combine the tomato paste and water and stir well. Using a ladle spread the sauce out on the pre-baked pizza dough. Be sure to spread the sauce clear to the edges of the pizza.

For the toppings:
8 oz ground pork sausage
1 tsp dried rosemary

1/2 tsp fennel seed
½ tsp dried dill
½ cup chopped pepperoni
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup finely chopped mushrooms
½ cup finely chopped green bell peppers
½ cup finely chopped red bell peppers
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded provolone cheese
Extra ½ tsp dried dill

Brown sausage
On medium heat, brown the ground sausage until cooked through. Be sure to break up the sausage into very small pieces.

Using a mortar and pestle, crush the rosemary, fennel seeds and dill. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can rough chop carefully. When chopping with a knife, the fennels seeds tend to flip everywhere. (You could also pulse a few times in a spice grinder.)

Add the seasoning to the sausage. Cook about another minute. Then remove from heat.

Cheese on Pizza Dough

Spread the cheeses evenly over the sauce. Sprinkle the extra ½ tsp of dried dill over the cheese, evenly.

Sausage on Pizza

Next spread the rest of the toppings evenly over the cheese.

Bake on 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15-18 minutes.

Royal Thin Crust Pizza

Cut into the famous square shapes.

I hope you enjoy this little piece of home!

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