Sunday, November 4, 2012

Soft Pretzels

We always trust Alton Brown's recipes, so we relied on one of his to make soft pretzels for the first time last weekend.  It takes a bit of time and effort, but the result is a ton of light and buttery pretzels with a crispy outer crust.  You can make them as large or as small as you like.  These would be great to make for a party or football game.  They are delicious hot out of the oven, but not quite as good reheated.  We had them with mustard, but next time we'll try making a cheese sauce too.  We sprinkled a couple with cinnamon and sugar and that was also pretty tasty.  
  •  1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 22 ounces all purpose flour (about 4 1/2 cups, but we measured ours with a scale)
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • vegetable oil
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cups baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Kosher salt for topping

Combine the water, sugar, and kosher salt in a bowl or measuring cup and sprinkle the yeast on top.  Mix and allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.  
In a large bowl, combine this with the flour and butter and mix until all the dry ingredients are combined.  You can use a stand mixer or do this by hand.  We did it all by hand and they turned out fine.  

Once combined, knead the dough in the bowl until it is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl- about 4 to 5 minutes.  If using your stand mixer, do this on medium speed.  Remove the dough from the bowl, oil it well with vegetable oil, and then return the dough to the bowl making sure it is fully coated in oil.  
Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let it rise for about an hour or until dough has doubled.  It will rise faster in a warmer temperature. You can't really tell from the picture, but our dough did rise and it was very smooth and stretchy.  
Cut your dough into 8 even pieces for large pretzels, or cut each of those in half to make smaller pretzels or pretzel knots.  You can really do them as big or as small as you would like, as long as you keep the thickness of the rope the same size.  
Oil your hands before rolling so they don't stick to the dough.  Press your piece of dough into a rectangle, and literally roll the dough up.  Then continue rolling with your hands until it has stretched out - 24 inches for the large pretzel, or 12 inches for the knots.   Meanwhile, heat your water with the baking soda until it comes to a rolling boil.  Use a wide pot if you want to do more than one at a time.  Also, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

We did a combination of large pretzels and smaller knots, because we couldn't really get our big pretzels to stick together.  Plus they are pretty big for a serving size.  To make the pretzel shape, take one end of the rope and circle it around, connecting a little past half way down.  Do the same with the other side and be sure to press the ends down so they stay together.  Not sure if that description make sense, but here is what they look like. 

When you've rolled out all your pretzels, you can begin boiling them.  (Or do both at the same time if you have a helper)  Drop one or two pretzels into the water.  Cook for about 30 seconds each, remove with a slotted spoon, and place on the parchment paper.  

Continue this process until all of the pretzels have boiled.  Brush the egg yolk mixture on top of each pretzel generously.  
Sprinkle with salt or other desired toppings.  Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the tops have turned dark golden brown.  Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.  

Enjoy warm, plain or with a dipping sauce.  So good!!

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