Last night I was out of dessert for the little GP's, and just like old Mother Hubbard, I went to my cupboard, and it was bare. Okay, maybe not bare, but it had very little sugar and very little cocoa powder. I was also low on butter, so I searched through the mountain of recipes I have in my Mastercook and came up with pretzels. Hardly any sugar and butter, no cocoa and I still had yeast left from when I made Moomie's Buns. Saving me a trip to the store, bonus! Picking up one item from the store drives me bonkers. I don't know why, maybe because I spend so much time at the grocery store, maybe because I hate jumping in the truck during hottest part of the day to get there. Either way, I hate it, so I don't do it.
Onto the recipe. Can I just say making pretzels is pretty simple? I cannot tell you how much better homemade is than the store bought ones, and so easy to make too! No need to buy them again. But here is a tip, active dry yeast and rapid/instant yeast are not used the same. I followed Alton's instructions for combining the sugar, salt, and water in a bowl then adding yeast. When I returned to my mixing bowl, after the 5 minute foaming stage, there was no foam. I am not a baker, as I said before, but I have baked a few yeasty treats before and have picked up a thing or two. When using rapid rise yeast it works a bit different than active dry. If using rapid rise, add it to the flour, not the water, and heat your water to 120-130 not 110-115, unless you want dead yeast like me. Poor little yeasties.
After I fixed my yeast faux pas, I continued on with the recipe exactly the way Alton instructs. Very straight forward recipe. All of his are, which is why I love them so much. Now, mine looked like a 5 year old rolled them out, except for one or two that were pretty enough and actually resembled a pretzel. These are the ones I am showing you of course. Looks aside, they were sooooo yummy! Isn't that what matter's the most?
I have read a few comments about these being like a Philly pretzel, on that I will disagree. When I think of Philly pretzels, I think of the ones that they sell downtown on the streets. Those are very dense and chewy, and sticky too. These were not. They had some chew, but were not dense at all. I found 14 minutes in my oven produced a nice dark brown pretzel that was crusty on the bottom, soft and chewy in the middle, and devoured in less than a minute. I used a little melted butter mixed in with the oil to brush on the foil instead of all oil like Alton instructs. Using a little butter gave mine a nice crusty buttery bottom, I love buttery bottoms. I like buttery anything. It makes everything better. Oh, and here is a tip, Alton tells you to use parchment for a reason. That reason, so you don't have to peel your pretzels off of the foil and burn the crap out of your fingers like I did. So don't be like me, use parchment. Maybe I should have gone to the store after all?
I already have visions of pretzel variations dancing in my head. Cinnamon and sugar, onion for my hubby, maybe a bit of melted chocolate. You could do so much with this basic recipe and I plan to. The hardest part of making pretzels was waiting for them to cool 5 minutes before eating. My family loved them, yours will too. And if they don't, send them to me, with some spicy brown mustard, cause that's how I roll.
Risen dough, don't you just want to poke it?
Misshapen pretzels out of their bath and ready for the oven. Remember, don't be like me, use parchment.
Pass the mustard?
Alton Brown’s Homemade Soft 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
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.