Monday, October 08, 2007

twisted, with a twist

The first time I ever made homemade soft pretzels, maybe 3 or 4 years ago, it was like magic. I was so amazed when they came out of the oven that they really did turn out just like real pretzels. A crisp, golden crust, a chewy soft interior, exactly what you think a pretzel should be like. Well, this time was no different. Even though I knew that it would work since I'd done it before, I was still strangely surprised when it did. J-Cat was amazed, he couldn't believe how authentic they were and proceeded to eat about a half dozen in one evening. I don't know why he doubts me.

A pretzel starts out just like any bread, which means that I get to lug out my favoritest of favorite appliances - the stand mixer.

Hello Lover!

So pretty, that pistachio color, and it makes any kind of bread dough infinitely easier. For this batch, I decided to replace some of the flour with whole wheat flour, for some semblance of healthiness. It did not negatively affect flavor or texture, and actually looked pretty cool.

Shaping the pretzels is pretty simple, and here you see the three steps for creating a very classic shape.

The key to getting the perfect pretzel crust is a quick poach in a baking soda bath, followed by an egg wash and the sprinkling of coarse salt. I didn't have any pretzel salts, so I used coarse kosher salt. Of course, now there's salt all over the living room rug...

These are incredible when they're still warm, and went perfectly with my Oktoberfest meal of brats & sauerkraut.

Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from

2 cups warm water (100 - 110 degrees)
1 tbsp sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 to 2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp salt
2 tsps canola oil
2 tbsps baking soda
1 egg
Coarse or pretzel salt
Vegetable oil cooking spray

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine warm water and sugar, stirring to dissolve. Sprinkle with year and let sit 10-15 minutes; yeast should be foamy.

2. Add 1 cup of the white flour to the yeast mixture, and mix on low until combined. Add salt, the remaining white flour, and 1 cup of the whole wheat flour, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat on medium-low until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, another 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup more whole wheat flour, and mix on low 1 minute. If the dough is still wet and sticky, add the remaining 1/2 cup flour. Transfer to a lightly floured board and knead about 10 times or until smooth.

3. Coat the sides of a large mixing bowl with the oil. Transfer dough to the bowl, turning dough to coat all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.

4. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. Punch down the dough, then transfer to a lightly floured board Knead once or twice, then divide into 16 even pieces (about 2 1/2 ounces each). Cover with plastic while you work on each pretzel.

5. Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip. Twist into pretzel shape as shown by the photo, then transfer to the baking sheet. Keep shaped pretzels covered with a kitchen towel as you work on the remaining dough. When they are all shaped, let rest for 15 minutes, to rise slightly.

6. Fill a large, shallow pot with about 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Add the baking soda to the boiling water and reduce to a simmer. Drop 3 or 4 pretzels at a time into bath and poach for 1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to remove the poached pretzels back to the baking sheet.

7. Beat the egg with 1 tbsp water. Brush each pretzel with the egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Best eaten warm, or keep at room temperature, uncovered, for two days.

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