January 15, 2013

Soft Pretzels

I recently saw a few recipes for soft pretzels pop up on blogs I follow including Brown-Eyed Baker. I decided that would be a good baking project for our second morning in our new temporary home. Baking helps make life feel a bit more normal despite being in a new town where we know no one. Eek. No wonder I'm baking.

These turned out fairly well. My pretzel shapes collapsed on me during the boiling water phase, but the texture is wonderful. I might have eaten two of them as an early lunch. Might have.

Soft Pretzels
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast (1 packet)
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
10 cups water
2/3 cups baking soda
1 egg yolk + 1 Tbsp. water, whisked together (for egg wash)
Coarse salt, for sprinkling

Combine the water, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to foam.

Add the flour and butter. Use the dough hook attachment to mix on low speed until all of the ingredients are combined. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove the dough from the mixer and place in a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and brush with the vegetable oil; set aside.

Combine the water and baking soda in a large, wide pot (a Dutch oven works perfect for this). Bring the mixture to a rolling boil.

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 baking sheet.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 2 or 3 at a time (or however many will fit comfortably given the size of your pot – don’t crowd them), for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large, flat spatula. Place the boiled pretzels back on the baking sheet, brush the top of each pretzel with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake until dark golden brown in color, about 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving. Makes 8 pretzels.

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