Wednesday, December 21, 2005

tis the twisted season

Winter is here again, another year has come and almost gone.

Made pretzels for the first time last night. Beckey's a real pretzel fan, so I figured I would give it a shot.

Here's the recipe I used:

Soft Pretzel Recipe

Servings: 6 large or 12 small

3 ½ cups of flour
4 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp. salt (sea salt preferably)
1 tbsp dry yeast, dissolved in the water
1 cup water (120°) fairly warm but not hot.

2 tbsp baking soda mixed with 1 Cup hot water (in a small bowl)

Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water (in a small bowl)

Directions: Mix water/yeast, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor, or a large mixing bowl. Add flour and mix until dough is smooth. Add more flour if sticky. (If possible let the dough sit overnight in a bowl or plastic container in the refridgerator.)

Divide the dough into 6 or 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope, a bit thicker than a pencil, but not quite as thick as a cigar. Shape into an upside down U shape on your table. Bring the ends together and twist them. Flatten the ends and bring to the top of the pretzel and press in the dough to secure making it look like a pretzel. Place on a greased cookie sheet.

Now let the pretzels rise for 30-45 minutes in a warm place or till about double in size.

Boil 4 cups of water and add 2 tbsp. baking soda. Drop the pretzel in there for about 10 seconds and then lift out with a strainer or pancake turner. Place back on cookie sheet. This will give a nice chewy crust. If you skip this, the crust will be crispier.

Brush with egg wash. This gives the pretzel a nice shiny glaze.

Sprinkle with toppings like
coarse salt (grind rock salt in a coffee grinder); garlic and parmesan cheese; Cinnamon and sugar; or sesame seeds.

Bake in a hot oven 450 degrees (225 degrees C) for 10-12 minutes or until well browned. (Interesting note: Homemade pretzels and soft pretzels are often made much the same way as bagels, by poaching them in boiling water before baking, the difference being that bagels are usually poached in salt water rather than water and baking soda.)

So how did they taste? Pretty good. Nice golden brown crust, nice and soft with a tiny bit of tooth, and the inside was nice and chewy, although a bit more dense than I would like. Several adjustments needed to be made:

1. You may need more than 1 cup water. The dough was not very soft/sticky, and it was clumping together while being mixed. I think a softer dough will yield a softer, chewier pretzel.
2. I don't think the dough rose enough after the knotting.
3. Rolling them out was tricky, because the dough was too dry, I think. I found wetting my hands from a little bowl of water gave me the necessary traction. This may not be necessary if the dough is sufficiently soft.
4. I would try with a slightly longer boil time than 10 seconds, or maybe more baking soda in the water mixture. I was hoping the dough would have a bit more "tart" kick, somehow.

In other baking news, time to go to the store to buy supplies to bake Grandma's bread.

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