Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Homemade Pretzels

So… I’ve finally conquered my fear of yeast! YAY! Now, I look forward to making LOTS more bread/yeast recipes. I must say I couldn’t of done it without a great supporting cast of tools. I finally bought a pastry mat. This pastry mat was really cool because it’s cloth, and you scrape and press the flour into it to make it non-stick. It also came with a rolling pin cover. The one I got is very similar to this. I’ve already made a handful of sugar cookies (to be seen on the blog soon!), and now the pretzel dough with the help of the pastry cloth, and I really like it. Another tool that came in super-handy was my handy scraper. It was very useful when trying to move the dough around as I was kneading it, and also, I LOVED it once it came time to separate the dough into 8 equal portions. I easily halved the dough, and continued to do so until I had 8 portions. It cut into the dough very easily. Also, I used the scraper to press the flour into my pastry mat before beginning.

When it came time to make the pretzel shapes, I didn’t have a hard time making the shapes. They were so cute and pretzel-like. The problem I encountered was when I tried to transfer them from the baking sheet to the boiling water. They lost a lot of their shape. Some of them were also pretty slippery when I was trying to remove them from the water. But I think that just takes more practice. If anyone has any suggestions on how to get the pretzels into the water without them practically falling apart, please share your tips!

These pretzels were SO soft, and delicious and chewy. It’s like NIGHT AND DAY comparison between this, and the crap you get at a concession stand. These were addictive! I enjoyed mine with honey mustard, and The Boy had regular mustard. The Boy did have one request. He said next time make them Cinnamon Sugar, like the ones at the mall!


Soft Pretzels

from Joy the Baker, who adapted from Gourmet, March 2004


1 tablespoon sugar
1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pretzel salt or grill seasoning
plus 1 heaping Tablespoon baking soda (add it to the boiling water just before throwing in the pretzel dough!)


Stir together sugar, yeast, and 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (105 to 110°F) in a glass measuring cup, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

Whisk together 3 1/2 cups flour and 1 tablespoon table salt in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough. Dust work surface with 1 tablespoon flour, then turn out dough and knead, gradually dusting with just enough additional flour to make a smooth sticky dough, about 8 minutes. (Dough needs to be somewhat sticky to facilitate rolling and forming into pretzels).

Return dough to bowl and cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Turn out dough onto a clean work surface and cut into 8 equal pieces. Using your palms, roll 1 piece back and forth on a clean dry work surface into a rope about 24 inches long. If dough sticks to your hands, lightly dust them with flour. Twist dough into a pretzel shape. (Dough will retract as you form the pretzel.)

Transfer pretzel with your hands to an oiled baking sheet and form 7 more pretzels in same manner with remaining dough, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart.

Let pretzels stand, uncovered, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Bring a wide 6-quart pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add heaping tablespoon of baking soda.

Using both hands, carefully add 3 pretzels, 1 at a time, to boiling water and cook, turning over once with tongs, until pretzels are puffed and shape is set, about 3 minutes. Transfer parboiled pretzels to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining 5 pretzels in 2 batches.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper and oil paper, then arrange pretzels on sheet. Brush pretzels lightly with some of egg and sprinkle with pretzel salt. Bake until golden brown and lightly crusted, about 35 minutes (mine did not need to bake anywhere near this long, but mine also appear to be thinner than Joy the Baker's). Cool 15 minutes, then serve warm. (I also only needed to cool mine for 5 minutes or so before serving. But perhaps that's just impatience.)

Cooks' notes:
• Dough can be mixed and kneaded in a standing electric mixer fitted with dough hook.
• Pretzels are best the day they are made. (When they are kept overnight, salt may dissolve.)

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