This post was a lot more difficult for me to get up than I thought it would be. I had planned to update on Monday, saying I won't be around much for a week or two (to post or comment on other people's blogs) because we're moving this weekend! But now it's Wednesday night and I really want to sleep and I'm still not done packing and cleaning. I can't wait to be settled into our new place and to have a baking extravaganza in our new kitchen. Anyway onto the pretty pretzels.
I've wanted to make soft pretzels for a really long time but as with many other food things I want to make, I never got around to it. Well I caught part of an episode of Alton Brown's Good Eats when he was making pretzels, and I was inspired again! So I made them and they were glorious. Glorious is probably not a word you will often hear with pretzels but they really were. They were so incredibly easy to make - the dough came together beautifully, and after sitting for an hour it rose into this wonderfully soft lovely dough.
And then there's the 30 second boiling in water and baking soda! That was an exciting experience. I thought the pretzels would come apart in the water, but they stayed in tact. The only downside to this was that for me the baking soda water bath caused the baked pretzels to have a weird feeling in my mouth (I'm guessing because baking soda is much more basic than most foods we eat). Other people that tried it didn't have this weird feeling in their mouth as I did, so it might just be me but I don't think so. I think Alton said the reason you boil them is to denature the proteins so that you can get a hard skin (while still maintaining a soft interior). And yes this did happen, though I expected the skin to be harder. I found another recipe (Sherry Yard) that uses sugar, baking soda, beer and water for the boiling liquid so I'll definitely be trying that - hopefully with better results.
There are some weird slashes throughout my pretzels because I didn't punch down the dough before I divided it up, and then I pushed the air out of the dough after I started rolling it (which caused the dough to be flat, and then folded, etc you get the picture). And apparently I don't know how to twist a pretzel! There's supposed to be an extra twist - next time! And now when I'm looking at the pretzel pictures, it looks like the pretzels are hugging themselves with their two little arms. Yes you can tell that I'm tired. But seriously - when you look at food pictures too long you do start to see things like this! Anyway I will definitely be making pretzels again, and I am dying to try the homemade mustard that Alton made in the same episode. I would've made it this time but I didn't have any mustard seeds.
Adapted from Alton Brown
Makes 8 pretzels
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
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 450F. Prepare 2 baking pans with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Set aside.
Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in a large pot.
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.