November 3, 2012 § 10 Comments
I know they might look like blobs, but I assure you that the picture below does indeed contain pretzels. Despite their form, they have a nice shellack on the outside, and the insides are nice and soft. Most importantly, they taste like pretzels – that bready, tangy, salty flavor that just begs for mustard. Or cheese sauce. Or a brushing of melted butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar. Don’t you just love a food that can bend to your whims?
I went on a pretzel binge a few years ago and made this recipe several times. Everyone who tried them loved them. And then, for some reason, I forgot about them and stopped making them. Perhaps it was some sort of pretzel burn out. Whatever it was, Beau asked me about a month ago, “What happened to those pretzels you used to make, and why aren’t you making them anymore?” So, I told him I would make some – but I never did. And then a week passed, and he asked again for pretzels, and I told him I would make some – but I never did. And then another week passed, and he asked again for pretzels, and I told him I would make some – but I never did. And then another week passed, and guess what? He asked me for pretzels and even though I didn’t even remotely feel like making pretzels, I made some just so he wouldn’t ask me again.
Because it is the way our family works, the minute Jade heard I was actually making the pretzels of yore, she got upset because she had been asking for chocolate chip cookies for weeks in a similar fashion and none had materialized. Sigh. Anyway, one bite of these pretzels reminded me how much I love them, and they certainly are good football-watching food, if you’re into that sort of thing. Now that I’ve got these off my list, I’m on to cookies…
They look easy at first glance, and they are, but these pretzels do end up being a little time consuming with the rises and then boiling and then the baking. If you’ve never poured baking soda into boiling water before, watch out! It bubbles up pretty furiously, so your tallest pot is a good thing to use.
1 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons warm water
1 envelope active dry yeast
1/3 cup light brown sugar
4 cups bread flour (or use all-purpose if that’s what you have)
2 quarts water
1/2 cup baking soda
Kosher salt, or other large-grain salt
Place water, yeast and sugar in the bowl of stand mixer and stir until combined. Let sit until mixture is foamy on top, about 10-15 minutes. Add flour and mix on medium-low with dough hook until a firm, pliable dough forms.
Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until dough is smooth, about 2 minutes. Roll dough into a large log and cut into 20 pieces. Roll pieces into balls and place on a floured surface. Cover with plastic wrap that has been coated in cooking spray. Let rest 10 minutes.
Roll a ball of dough into a 12″ rope between your palms. Form into a ‘U’ shape on your floured surface. Cross the two arms of the U over each other, twist, and flip them down so that the ends overlap the curved part of the U. Press lightly to adhere. Repeat with the rest of the dough, arrange the pretzel shapes onto a floured surface, and cover with plastic wrap that has been coated with cooking spray. Let rest 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425º and arrange racks in the middle and top of oven.
Have a wire rack set next to the stove. Place 2 quarts water in your largest pot, and bring to a boil. Add baking soda (careful!) and slide in 4 of the pretzels – do not overcrowd the pan. Boil 30 seconds, flipping halfway through. Remove from water with slotted spoon and place on rack, right side up. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat with remaining dough, in batches.
Line two baking sheets with parchment or foil; coat with cooking spray. Place half of pretzels on each sheet. Bake 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Cool on sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks. Serve warm or room temperature, with mustard, if desired.
I froze half the batch, and they can be frozen up to a month. Thaw pretzels, then place in a 350º oven until warm.
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Recipe adapted from Gale Gand via Food & Wine.