March 10, 2013

Homemade Soft Pretzels

I might not believe someone if they told me these soft-baked pretzels were super easy to make. I might think, Who makes soft-baked pretzels unless they have an inordinate amount of time on their hands? 

I'd probably be super skeptical of the whole thing, though very interested. But since I made these soft, chewy, salty pretzels myself for our German-inspired book club menu, I can vouch first-hand that they are in fact simple, streamlined, and quite easy -- so, listen up beginner cooks!

For all the writing and talking I do, it's surprising that I'm actually a "show, don't tell" type of learner. I'd rather see what I'm getting into before diving into the task, so I'll do the same for you here. You'll see how easy it really is to make these soft-baked pretzels. The only thing I can't share with you first-hand is the scrumptious and warm end result!

So gather all your ingredients....

Test that water temperature to be about 115 degrees....
I've killed yeast too many times for that!

Add the water, sugar, and kosher salt in the mixing bowl and stir to combine, then pour the yeast on top. 

Add the flour and butter and let the dough hook do its work. 
Put away you ingredients in the meantime. Hum a tune. Wipe your counter.

When that dough is nice and smooth, take it out of the bowl, spray the bowl with cooking spray, return it to the bowl and cover it to let it rise in a warm place.

Get ready for the fun part!!

Divide that dough up into 16 pieces, then roll each piece out into a rope and cross each end over each other to make cute little pretzel bows. 

Guess what? It doesn't matter if they're not perfect. Or if they're pretzel nuggets, rolls, or rods instead.

I put mine on a baking sheet and froze since I wouldn't be baking them until a couple days later. Once they were frozen on the sheet I piled them all into a plastic freezer bag, but you can just skip that step and put them straight onto an oiled baking sheet instead. 

Preheat your oven to 450.... Get your egg wash ready and your Kosher salt on the side....

Pour 2/3 cup baking soda into 10 cups of boiling water. Check out that crazy foam!!

Drop those pretzel babies into the bath one at a time! All right, I admit my impatience made me do it two at a time.

Once they float to the top, rescue them back onto the baking sheet.

Once they're all out of the bath and back on the baking sheet, work your egg wash magic and sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until deep golden, or looks like the picture below....

Cool on racks for 5 minutes before gorging on them while they're still hot!

See, you can do it, too! It's well worth the effort (pretend it was very involved and arduous, and you'll impress your friends and family to no end).

Maybe you'd like some spicy brown mustard with that? Cheese dip? Pants with an elastic waistband?
I'd recommend being prepared with all of the above.

Homemade Soft-Pretzels: makes about 16 palm-sized knots.
1.5 cups water, warmed to about 115 degrees
1 T. sugar
2 t. kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4.5 cups all-purpose flour
2 oz. butter, melted
Vegetable oil spray
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk, beaten
extra kosher salt

Combine water, sugar, and kosher salt in the bowl of a standing mixer with dough hook attached. Stir to combine, then add the yeast on top and allow to foam, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and butter and mix on low speed until well combined.

Change to medium speed and knead until smooth and pulling away from sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Add more flour, 1 T. at a time, if the dough seems too sticky. 

Remove the dough from the bowl, spray the bowl with cooking spray, and return the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly spray with cooking spray. 

Bring 10 cups water to a rolling boil. In the meantime, divide the dough into 16 pieces and roll into a long rope. Hold each end of the rope and cross them over each other to create a pretzel knot. Press the center of the knot to adhere dough and ensure it keeps its shape in the boiling water. Place on the baking sheet, and repeat until all 16 are created. 

Pour 2/3 cup baking soda into the boiling water, then add the pretzels 1-2 at a time. Remove from the water after 30 seconds or it rises to the top. Return to the baking sheet. Brush each pretzel with egg wash and sprinkle generously with salt.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, turning to evenly brown if necessary. Cool 5 minutes on a wire rack, then enjoy! Best eaten immediately, but if you must store them do so in a brown paper bag. 

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