Combo: First Blood

Yeah, we like to talk a lot on here about whole foods and fresh foods, and veggies we’re trying to grow and junk. But Jenn wasn’t kidding when she said I also likes me some crap less healthy choices. In the past we’ve talked about times when I ate pork belly and Pop Tarts (not together, although hmm).

Sometimes you gotta cheese your hunger away. That’s right, I’m talking about Combos.

Back in 1928s, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups blazed a trail by taking two treats that were, at best, tangentially related — peanut butter and chocolate — and mixing them into a single sublime food product. What can I say? It was before the Great Depression and people still had the luxury to not only buy peanut butter and chocolate, but to experiment with uniting them.

About 50 years later, Combos did the same thing, but — get this — with pretzels and cheese!

I know, right?

So in an effort to eat something both delicious and a little devious, I recently decided to try to make my own Combos. From scratch. And just you never mind that I’d never made a pretzel before, even one that wasn’t stuffed with cheese. I’d also never made bread before, or poached anything before. And, as I would discover, pretzels are poached  Still, I would not be swayed.

I found a recipe that looked good and set out on my culinary journey. Pretty much followed the recipe step-by-step, so I won’t bore you with those details. By the time I was cutting my third cheese-stuffed roll, I’d gotten pretty good at making Combo-shaped things.

They were much bigger than Combos, but I didn’t see this as a fault. Poaching went pretty well, except the roundy buggers were hard to turn to poach both ends evenly. Then baked for a few minutes and brushed with butter, and voila! I had created….

I had created soft, bready pretzels that had a hint of cheese flavor.

Don’t get me wrong. They were pretty tasty. But they weren’t Combos. And they certainly weren’t giant Combos, like I’d thought they were going to be about halfway through. So I’d be lying to say I wasn’t disappointed.

Part of the problem is I used some ghetto “cheddar” cheese I got from the Save-A-Lot. This is our town’s fifth best grocery store chain on a list of four. I happened to be driving by it and remembered I needed the cheese. Figured how bad could it be? Real bad, it turned out. They offered no brand-name cheese and the water content of what I bought turned out to be, um, exceptional. (Seriously, Save-A-Lot? You have a Facebook page but can’t put some Kraft on the shelves?)

I’ve also since discovered that the Combos elves make their pretzels by baking the hollow crunchy part first, then squeezing the delicious cheez into it (not, I suspect, buttering them with the stuff individually as implied by that commercial in the top link). So next time, I’ll try that: Find a good crunchy pretzel recipe and press the hollow shapes before poaching. Of course, I’ll have to do lots of experimenting on making just the right cheese filling.

Could take a lot of practice. And who knows what happy accidents might occur?

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