Saturday, April 21, 2012

Homemade soft pretzels

Corin makes me cut off all the crusts from the normal bread I make, but he'll eat pretzels as is, so this is my bread option for not having to eat/toss heaps of crust scraps. I thought I might have trouble fashioning the dough, but it stretched out quite easily, and figuring out the knot is simple once you've done it twice.

Ingredients (for six pretzels):
  • 1 cup, 1 tbsp room-temperature water
 (neither hot nor cold to the touch)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp granulated yeast
  • 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour, pushed slightly against side of bag when measuring (5.4 oz)
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour, pushed slightly against side of bag when measuring (5.4 oz)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • large-grain salt (kosher salt or rock salt)

1) Add the ingredients to a large bowl in order given, and stir until just combined. Cover bowl loosely and let rise 50 minutes.

2) Heat the oven to 450˚, having placed a pizza stone on the bottom rack and a large pan half-full of water on the upper rack.

3) Deflate the dough by stirring slightly, then cut the dough in half. Place half the loaf onto a floured surface, and, eyeballing your best guess, divide it into thirds.

4) Flour your hands and the top of each lump, adding more flour as necessary to keep your hands from sticking. Stretch out each lump into a long, skinny rope; I use a combination of squeezing the dough in one of my fists and pulling the dough slowly outward with the fingers of my other hand, working my way from center to end. I try to get the rope to about the thickness of my thumb. If it pulls too thin you can usually bunch up the thin area and it will re-stick to itself.

5) Twist the rope into a pretzel shape, as seen in the pictures below. Pinch together the places where the dough needs to connect to keep its shape.

6) Place each pretzel as completed on a sheet of parchment paper, in a circular pattern to fit the size of the pizza stone.

7) Mix together the warm water and baking soda and, using a pastry brush, moisten the top of each pretzel. Sprinkle as much coarse salt on top as you desire. (Trim off the edges of the parchment paper as they will brown in the oven at this temperature.)

8) Use a pizza peel to place the parchment and pretzels onto the pizza stone. Bake in the preheated oven, which should be steamy by now, for 12-14 minutes, until golden brown.

9) While those are baking, make the other three pretzels with the other half of the dough, and switch them out when the first batch is done. Let cool for a few minutes and they'll be ready to eat. (If you have any leftovers the next day, reheat in the toaster oven to get the outside crispy again.)

10) Optional: If you like those flavored mall pretzels, you can brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle on a Kernel Season's popcorn seasoning (sour cream and onion, ranch, white cheddar, nacho cheese, parmesan and garlic, jalapeno, chili lime, etc.).

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