Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mmm... soft pretzels.

Fresh pretzels are sooo good. I've been looking around online for a good recipe, and there are so many variations! My go-to bread cookbook, The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, called for a lye bath before baking. I have no idea where to get lye locally, and I didn't want to wait for shipping, so I moved on. There were recipes calling for everything from just a spritz from a bottle of water, spraying lemon juice on them, a dip in plain boiling water, and a dip in boiling water with baking soda. To egg wash or not to egg wash. There were so many options! I decided I wanted a recipe with a boiling water/baking soda bath. Finally I decided to start with Alton Brown's soft pretzel recipe: Yields 8 pretzels, or whatever other shape you want to make!

  • 1 1/2 c warm water (110-115 degrees F)

  • 1 T sugar

  • 2 t kosher salt

  • 1 package active dry yeast

  • 22 oz all-purpose flour (approx. 4 1/2 c)

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

  • vegetable oil, for rising bowl

  • 1/3 c baking soda

  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 T water

  • pretzel or kosher salt

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until mixture begins to foam. Add the salt 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, approx. 4 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, and oil the bowl well with the vegetable oil. Put the dough back in the oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Alton used a giant roasting pan for the baking soda bath. I didn't have one, so I used a 3 qt capacity frying pan. I filled it up almost all the way, then added 1/3 c baking soda. Bring this to a rolling boil.

Meanwhile, turn the dough out on a lightly oiled work surface. If you want to make all pretzels, divide the dough into 8ths. Take each portion and roll it into a 18 or 24 inch rope. Then shape into a pretzel. I found I had the best luck shaping the pretzels by twirling the dough between each hand like a jump rope, then twisting it into place as i laid it back on the work surface.

After you've shaped all your pretzels, place them one at a time in the boiling baking soda bath for about 30 seconds. Return the boiled pretzel to your baking sheet and brush with the egg wash. The pretzels should be noticeably more puffy after their bath. Bake your pretzels until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.

Variation!! I took half of the dough and decided to make pretzel buns for sausages or hot dogs. I shaped them into what seemed to be a vague hot dog bun shape, then boiled and egg washed them as before. They took about 4 extra minutes in the oven due to their size. I got the marks in the top from snipping the dough with scissors after the egg wash. No idea why they look all cracked though.