Soft Pretzels

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I love snacks.  One of my favorite snack-themed meals is meat and cheese with a perfect baguette.  All with a glass of wine.  Pure heaven.  it’s essential wine tasting supplies.  And while I don’t always have the perfect baguette — or sourdough boule — it doesn’t get any simpler than that.

After my first taste of San Francisco sourdough bread I was itching to jump on the bread making bandwagon.  I had only made challah with my mom before, but with my skills in the kitchen, I thought, how hard could it be?  As it turns out, really really hard.  After 4-15 failed attempts (I lost count) I gave in and returned to cupcakes and booze-filled brownies.  Besides my starter not “growing,” my bread coming out to be a hard brick, the patience that I just do not possess proved to be a problem.  It’s almost as important as the starter itself.  Ok, not really.  But you definitely need it.

I like baking because of the precision, the exactness.  Sure, we all made magical concoctions in our backyards when we were five, involving grass, avocados, and those sweet grass flowers.  Or, was that just me?  Well now I prefer the specific spices and the precise method for mixing scones and whipping egg whites.  Bread takes precision too.  it just doesn’t always go according to plan.  And when I can’t control the outcome of anything, I lose it.  Like seriously, Godzilla on the loose.  Which is why I love this recipe.  Oh so much.

I never knew pretzels could be this good.  Or that I wouldn’t screw up bread.  I even surprise myself.  My only memories of eating pretzels is grabbing one on the streets of New York City as I am running from class to babysitting to Pilates   You know, after I ate my cupcake.  This didn’t really bring back any memories because, they are way better than any Manhattan street pretzel.  Fluffy, salty, and perfect.  I used sea salt for these, because that’s all I had and I am doing that again.  After 3 people ate 9 pretzels in 30 minutes it was decided that these need to make a comeback.  Good thing I’m hosting a Super Bowl party this weekend.  Pretzels dipped in cheese and mustard if you are adventurous awesome?  Yeah, I thought so.

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Soft Pretzels

*from Alton Brown
makes 8-10 pretzels

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  • 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 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. 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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