Thursday, March 18, 2010

Soft Pretzels

I love making yeast dough. Maybe because I felt so accomplished the first time I made it, maybe it's the smell as it's baking. I don't know. I just know I would make something with yeast every day if I could.

I decided to start experimenting with soft pretzels because I remember just loving pretzel rolls when I was working in Ohio. It was the first time I had ever seen anything like it, and I just loved them.

My affection for soft pretzels continued while I lived in California - since I was a vegan for a time while I was there, a pretzel was about the only thing I could eat at baseball games. Now, I didn't go to many baseball games - but since I'm not really into the sport, it's all about the green grass and the food when I do go.

Oh, who am I kidding - now I just eat soft pretzels as an excuse to eat tons of yellow mustard. Did you know that putting yellow mustard on a burn will help calm the burn down? Try it sometime, it really does work. Your roommates and/or family will look at you very strangely, however, if you try to put it on a sunburned face though.

I was generally happy with this recipe. However, I caution you - these little suckers like to stick to the pan, so spray generously, or use parchment paper.

Soft Pretzels

1 T. or 1 package active dry yeast
2 cups warm (about 105 degrees) water
2 T. brown sugar
5 1/2 to 6 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt, or 1 T. kosher salt

Poaching liquid:

2 quarts water
1/4 cup baking soda
2 T. brown sugar
1 egg, beaten with 1 t. water
coarse or pretzel salt (or sea salt, which is nice in this recipe)

Mix yeast, water, and sugar together in the bottom of your mixing bowl, and let sit for about 10 minutes, until foamy. Add salt and 4 cups flour, beat until well combined. Add enough of the remaining flour to get a nice, but wet dough (the dough is kind of sticky, but works well). The best way to add enough flour is to add 1/2 cup at a time, mixing after each addition, until the dough isn't sticky to touch.
Knead with dough hook or by hand for about 3 minutes, until slightly smooth and elastic. Put dough in a oiled (I use Pam) bowl, turning to coat the top of the dough with some oil. Cover with a clean towel, and let rise about 1 hour, until dough doubles, and looks like this:

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, deflating it as you go. Divide the dough into 16 pieces. The easiest way to do this is divide in 1/2, then each piece in 1/2. Do this 2 more times, and you should get 16 fairly evenly sized pieces. Roll the dough into 18" long strips, and shape like a pretzel. Let rise while you work on the rest of the pieces.

Once you have finished shaping the dough, let it rest for about 15 minutes. While it is resting, prepare your cookie sheets by spraying them with cooking spray or using parchment. Prepare your poaching liquid, getting it hot enough to just under a boil. Poach each pretzel 1 minute on each side, putting on prepared baking sheets when each is finished. It's best to do this only three at a time - since they can be a little difficult to turn if there are more in the pan.

Brush each poached pretzel with your egg and water mixture, and top with salt. Bake at 450, for about 12-15 minutes, until golden or dark brown. Let cool or serve warm.

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