Thursday, June 10, 2010

Soft Pretzels

I love pretzels.  So much.  They can satisfy nearly any food craving, easily covering carb and salt frenzies.  And if you want something sweet you can dip them in chocolate. Chocolate!  What more could you want?


But earlier this week my stomach did not want.  It did not want anything at all, in fact.  I thought that maybe it was on overload, from all the baking, and also stress from the ridiculous semester I'm attempting.  Now I'm thinking it was just bored, because yesterday I bought myself an early birthday present (it will be featured in many posts to come, don't worry), one so exciting it seems to have jolted my poor tummy back to normal. So today was a good day, because today I wanted pretzels.

Although they look complicated-- what with all the twisting, and the kneading, and the yeasting-- pretzels are quite simple and basic to make.  I love all the downtime, as it allows lots of time to do homework (and also absolutely nothing productive!).  But a word of caution: do not spend all morning before you bake meticulously scrubbing your kitchen, because boiling the pretzels in the baking soda water will fuck that shit up.  




Homemade Soft Pretzel Recipe
from Alton Brown (god I love him)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

Vegetable oil, for pan

10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda

1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt

Directions:
Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix 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 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.


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