Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Soft pretzels! These are so much fun to make. They're a bit of work - it took us a few hours on a Saturday morning - but they're delicious and they freeze really well, so you can continue to enjoy your work for weeks to come. The recipe itself is very wordy, so I'm not going to say much here - just that, if you're looking for a fun and tasty weekend project, this is a great one!
Slightly adapted from Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It.
1 lb 13 oz flour (about 6 c)
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt, plus more for topping
2 tbsp vegetable oil
8 c water
1/2 c baking soda
In a stand mixer bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Drizzle in the oil and 2 c water, then mix with the dough hook on low speed until the dough comes together.
When it becomes uniform and clings to the dough hook, remove the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured countertop. Knead for 7-10 minutes, until the dough becomes uniform, a little shiny and still slightly sticky. (Can you just knead it in the stand mixer? Sure, but I find I rarely get good results that way. Even when the outside of the dough seems good and floury, there is often a really sticky bit attached to the dough hook. Even if I start the kneading process in my stand mixer, I will take the dough out and finish it off by hand.) The dough will have the consistency of an earlobe when finished (this is the way the original recipe describes it and it is SO helpful in determining when the dough is ready!).
Place the dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover it with a kitchen towel and put it in a warm place to rise (I use my oven's proofing function) for about an hour, until doubled.
When the dough is risen, return it to your lightly floured countertop. Stick your finger into the middle of the dough to make a small hole. Widen the hole, working hand over hand, until it forms a ring about 2" thick. Place the ring back on the counter and divide it into 12 equal pieces (divide into quarters, then divide each quarter into thirds).
Remove one piece, covering the rest with a damp kitchen towel and setting them aside. Roll that piece into a rope of about 18". (I found the dough easiest to roll when it had very little flour on it. It was difficult to do on my counter, but I had more success holding it in the air and rolling between my hands, letting gravity do its work.) When the rope is long enough, fold it into a pretzel shape (make a U, turn the ends inward, then twist them together). Pinch the ends to ensure they won't unravel. When the pretzel is formed, place it under the kitchen towel. Continue with the remainder of the dough. When finished, let all the formed pretzels rest 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the remaining 6 c water and the baking soda in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Carefully lay one pretzel into the boiling water.
Cook 30 seconds, flipping once, then drain and remove to the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pretzels.
When all the pretzels have been boiled, beat the egg in a small bowl with 1 tsp water and brush the mixture over the tops of the pretzels, then sprinkle them with kosher salt.
Bake the pretzels for 15-18 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack for 30 minutes (seriously, leave them alone - the texture develops during the cooling process). They are best eaten the day they're made, but they can be frozen in ziplock bags for months (just reheat for 15 minutes in a 350° F oven).