Sunday, October 6, 2013

Soft Pretzels

Something about Fall made me want to eat pretzels. Or we can blame the pregnancy. Whatever! We used to get these AMAZING pretzels from a Dutch market in Maryland, and I've never found anything quite like them. But they make the pretzels right there in front of you... so how hard can it be, right? So I set out to try, and I have to say they were pretty delicious! But just a word of warning - they really have to be eaten the same day. (We tried to keep a few, but no.)

Recipe adapted from the Brown Eyed Baker, who adapted it from Alton Brown

1½ cups warm water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
4½ cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Boiling water
About 1/4 cup baking soda
1 egg white + 1 tablespoon water, whisked together (for egg wash)
Coarse salt, for sprinkling
Melted butter (3-4 tablespoons)

1. Combine the water and sugar in a mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to foam.
2. Add the flour, salt, and butter. Use the dough hook attachment to mix on low speed until all of the ingredients are combined. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Remove the dough from the mixer and place in a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and brush with the vegetable oil; set aside. [**This is important! I was too lazy to get out the parchment paper and it was beastly to get the pretzels off the pan! And then the chemical reaction from the baking soda left marks on the pan. Just so you know.]
5. Pour boiling water into a 9x9 glass pan (or whatever you have - a shallow dish) until it is about 2/3 full. Add baking soda and stir to combine. (The 1/4 cup is a really rough estimate - I really just dumped some in.)
6. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. [**Another note: I made nearly twice as many pretzels with this recipe - maybe mine were just small?] Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Holding each end, whip the center of the rope in toward itself so the U-shape catches and spins a couple times. Lay it down carefully, bringing the two ends down to meet the bottom (center of what was the U). Basically, make a pretzel shape.
7. Place the pretzels into the boiling water and baking soda, 2 or 3 at a time (however many will fit comfortably), for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large, flat spatula. Place the boiled pretzels on the baking sheet. Brush the top of each pretzel with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt.
8. Bake until they are just starting to brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and brush with melted butter, making sure not to remove all the salt! Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

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