We have all been to the mall, walked by the pretzel store and smelled the wonderful aroma of fresh, salty, warm, doughy pretzels being made (at least I think we all have??). The smell of fresh baked bread products is just incredible. It is comforting.
Here in southern California we are on STORM WATCH 2010. Ridiculous. I think it rained less then an inch yesterday. But, no matter when you live, when it is rainy and cold outside, staying in, eating comfort food and curling up under a blanket and watching a movie always sounds GOOD. So yesterday we did just that. A friend came over and we had a cooking/baking extravaganza (before the movie part began). First on the list, Soft Pretzels.
We were both pretzel making virgins. So we payed close attention to the recipe because the process was foreign to us. After the finished product came out of the oven we we fell in love with them. I have decided I love making these because they only have to rise once. So many yeast dough recipes have to rise, punch down, form and rise again. So by the time the bread it out of the oven it can be 4 hours later. Not with these. Rise, cut into sections, form the dough ropes, shape, boil, bake, eat. Start to finish these take about 2 hours. The hardest part of forming the dough ropes (the shaping of a pretzel is easy, if you choose to do that rather then nuggets).
Learn from our mistakes:
First: We put flour on the surface we were making the dough ropes on. Don’t do that. It made the dough too dry and we were unable to easily roll it or shape it. You can grab either end of the small dough rope and sort of fling it in your arms like a mini jump rope. This will help stretch it out. But what we found while doing this, is the ends can get too thin and the middle stays thick. Soooo, you can to sort of squish the dough through your hands to evenly distribute the dough through the rope, and also do some jump rope action to it.
Second: When you form the pretzels, make them about a medium size (maybe 3-4 inches long/wide). If you make them too big they are more difficult to remove from the boiling water. I had a slotted spoon in 1 hand and a spatula in the other trying to fish the bigger pretzels out of the pot. It would have been easier to just use one of the utensils.
Third: Don’t put too much egg wash on the top of the pretzels. Just a little will give it a nice brown color. If you put too much egg wash you will have a small pool of egg stuck to the bottom of your beautiful, golden brown pretzel.
Okay, now you go and try to make them. You will be SO pleasantly surprised as how easy they are to make, and how WONDERFUL they taste.
Makes 8 LARGE pretzels or about 120 nuggets
Recipe Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 – 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 quarts water
3/4 cup baking soda
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
Coarse sea salt
Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Add the salt and flours and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.
Oil a bowl with vegetable oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Bring the water to a boil in a small roasting pan over high heat and add the baking soda.
Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, about 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 ounces each. Roll each piece into a long rope measuring 22 inches and shape. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make the pretzel bites.
*We made 4 pretzels and used the remaining 4 sections to make pretzel bites.
Boil the pretzel bites (or pretzels) in the water solution in batches. We did about 15 bites (or 2-3 pretzels) at a time. Boil for about 30 seconds (the pretzels will be floating on the top when it’s done). Remove with a large slotted spoon.
Place pretzel bites on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Make sure they are not touching. Brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with the rock salt. Place into the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.
Remove to a baking rack and let rest 5 minutes before eating. Dip in mustard, marinara sauce or a cheese sauce. Or just eat them plain and enjoy the taste of the yummy rock salt on the top.
This obviously makes a lot. After you bake them and they cool, you can store them in an airtight container at room temperature for a day or 2. When you want to eat them, just reheat them in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes. You can also freeze the baked pretzel. Bake the frozen pretzel at 350 for about 20 minutes.