Monday, November 9, 2009

I'm A Softy For Chewy Pretzels

Soft, chewy, homemade pretzels.  These begin with an Alton Brown recipe which are almost always a guaranteed success. I'm a huge fan of Good Eats.  Alton Brown is so fantastic.  Who knew cooking should be offered as an alternative science class - sure would beat chemistry! I can only say this having recently conducting a little experiment of my own while making these pretzels. Alton probably would have gotten a good laugh from it, my kitchen however, got a good scrub the next day.

Just so happened I had some coarse sea salt at home.  These were pretty salty so instead of dipping them in the salt I would recommend just sprinkling them

Mmmm..These are ready for the oven. The boiled pretzels dipped in butter and then in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.

= ((  Not the desired look, but absolutely the desired taste!!  - Next time I'll wait to dip them in all the deliciousness until after baking them.  (I should have been smarter than to trust the first cinnamon sugar pretzel recipe I found online - not sure who published that but clearly either they a) didn't actually make those pretzels or b) the sugar they're using doesn't "caramelize" like mine does. Just FYI: terms like "caramelize", unless referring to onions or creme brule can often times carry an alternative meaning - in this case "caramelized" actually means "burnt". It just sounds a lot better : p  besides, it honestly tasted good - my roommate said so too.)

Below is Alton Brown's soft homemade pretzel recipe. But one last thing, I should finish telling the story I started, you know, about the science experiment.  Well, it so happened I was trying to multi-task (obviously a required skill for baking - but one that takes practice).  I had the water boiling and was rolling out my dough when suddenly I realized I had forgotten to put my 2/3 cup of baking soda into the water... a very vital ingredient apparently, so I quickly took my bowl full of baking soda and just start pouring it into the boiling pot of water.... BIG mistake! Instantaneously, my stove became flooded with salt water as the pot of the baking soda solution erupted everywhere! (yes, I purposefully chose to use the term "erupted".) After it dried my kitchen looked like a salt mine...If you've ever been to one you know exactly what I'm talking about.. Or maybe you can imagine salt deposits from well water or ocean water.  Luckily it was a quick clean up because the salt just chipped right off.  Now, little scientist, are you ready for the recipe!?

This makes 8 large pretzels or 12 smaller pretzels

Soft, Chewy, Homemade Pretzels
  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt (or cinammon and sugar - or try herbs etc.)


Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda (remember to add this first!) to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. (Alternatively, you can choose to skip the salt and then brush them with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar *after* baking them) Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

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