Help! What delicious thing should I put in my oven?

Posted by Emily Thorson

OK, so on Saturday my friends in Philly are hosting their third annual Bake-Off. Technically, the first one was a pie-off: in fact, looking through my Flickr archives, I see that I have photographic evidence of said pies. I’m not going to post the photo here because (a) every single item of food pictured looks absolutely disgusting and (b) I make super-lame joke in the description. If you really want to click through, go for it. Apologies.

Last year we moved to a more traditional bake-off format, probably because I complained loudly that I don’t like pies (I DON’T LIKE PIES, OK? LEAVE ME ALONE). I find it hard to believe that my complaints carry that much weight among my friends, but Yglesias claims that everyone stopped drinking vodka because I publicly shamed them every time they so much as mentioned having ever enjoyed it, so perhaps my words are more persuasive than I realize. Or at least shriller and more high-pitched.

Because I know that the best way to win is to play a slightly different game than everyone else, I decided to go savory instead of sweet, and Tom and I made some homemade soft pretzels (montage below).


AND WE WON! Our prize:”Best Philadelphia Spirit.” Arguably a cop-out award, but I walked away with a shiny new meat thermometer, which is more than all those people with their lame Snicker-studded brownies can say.

But Internet, what next? I’m considering doing soft pretzels again, but upping the pretzel ante with toppings (everything pretzels?) or even a filling. Or I could go simple with cheese straws–who doesn’t love a good cheese straw? Keep in mind that most of the items available will be very sweet and very heavy, so I think the best strategy is to make something that is both savory and, while not healthy (healthy stuff never wins any prizes, duh), lets people delude themselves into BELIEVING that they’re eating healthy. Basically, I need a recipe that’s the clam chowder of bake-offs. You know, clam chowder: “Oh, I’m just going to get a cup of soup, I don’t need a whole entree”. Except that clam chowder is actually A BOWL OF LARD. Delicious sea lard.

In conclusion: What should I make? Incentive: If I use a recipe left in the comments and it wins, I will either (a) send you some of it in the mail or (b) post a photograph of myself balancing pretzels on my head. As many pretzels as I can. Maybe even a video. YOUR CHOICE. You can also request that I balance pretzels on my cat’s head. In fact, I may do that anyway.


15 responses to “Help! What delicious thing should I put in my oven?

  1. How about a Gruyère gougère? Rich and cheesy, while still being fairly light, and definitely deceptively fattening. Plus, choux pastry is one of those things that seems much harder than it is: a sure way to impress. There are plenty of recipes for them around.

  2. I feel like some sort of savory tart is the way to go…with cheese or something. Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone has good recipes of this ilk. Or maybe savory shortbreads? Serena Bass has a good recipe for walnut rosemary. Or if you want to go totally over the top check out David Lebovitz’s sticky toffee pudding recipe. It is truly amazing.

  3. Some sort of bacon-and-cheese mini quiche done in muffin tins? That creamy egg center is about as close to baked clam chowder as I can come up with.

  4. Go for a baked brie. Buy a rich, creamy brie, sprinkle some nuts and spices on top and wrap it in pastry dough. When done properly, it is heaven on a plate. And I’m not even saying that because cheese rules my world, either.

  5. Real Philadelphians will not find any topping except mustard as authentic. We may eat other toppings, and even enjoy them, but we know inside they are bastardizations.

    Heck, even a pretzel that’s warm is getting close to being ‘uppity’.

    So, if you do the preztel thing, I suggest making sure you have some plain (well, with salt of course) pretzels, and some good good mustard. Feel free to have other stuff too, but don’t over look the basics.

    On the other hand, you could one-up your ‘ode to Philadelphia’ with butterkuchen – Philadelphia/German butter cake. I’d guess it’s from our PA Dutch (German) / Amish neighbors. And it’s Spectacular!

    see more here:

  6. how about a savory bread pudding using pretzels instead of bread?

    bacon-cheddar pretzel bread pudding.

    funny post, by the way.

  7. These are AWESOME suggestions. I’m leaning towards bacon cheddar pear bread (I LOVE ALL THOSE THINGS HURRAH). Brie is a good suggestion, but I’m not the biggest fan of brie….I always feel like I’m getting tricked into eating an especially viscous plate of butter. And yes of course real pretzels are not warm/filled/topped. However, this contest is about winning, not about authenticity. But still, I probably shouldn’t tempt the Pretzel Gods by violating Philly Commandments like that. Good call. But wait! Pretzel bread pudding is ALSO a good idea. I could buy pretzels from the factory to make it! Hmmm. I’ll keep you updated.

  8. I’ll second the Gruyère gougère; they are genuinely easy, and spectacular. (Basically–make cream-puff dough, mix 50/50 with grated cheese, bake.)

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