Monday, June 21, 2010

Soft Pretzels

I actually found this recipe in a Cooking Light magazine that I have. I just read the recipe one day and decided to make them. I rarely make yeast breads, but I was willing to give this one a try. It was a success!

Soft Pretzels

You'll definitely want to have:

- 2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspons sugar
- 1 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Cooking spray
- 6 cups of water
- 2 tablespoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water in a large bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Add 3 cups of the flour and 1 teaspoon salt to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes). Add enough of the remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands. (The dough will still be slightly sticky). Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees. Unfortunately my house wasn't anywhere near 85 degrees when I made these, so I stuck the bowl in the oven that had been used a few hours before. It was still slightly warm.) Let rise for 40 minutes or until double in size. A good test is pushing your fingers gently into the dough, and if the dough doesn't spring back, it's risen enough. Punch the dough down (like this, POW!), cover, and let rest for five minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions. I did this by forming the dough into a ball, flattening it slightly, and cutting it into 12 wedges. Working with one portion at a time (keeping the remaining pieces covered to prevent drying out), roll each portion into an 18 inch long rope (like Playdoh!) with slightly tapered ends. I didn't really taper my ends, but they still turned out okay. Cross one end of the rope over the other to form a circle, leaving about 4 inches at end of each rope. Twist the rope at the base of the circle, fold the ends over the circle and into a traditional pretzel shape, pinching gently (actually really hard) to seal. Place pretzels on a greased baking sheat. Cover and let rise for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, combine the 6 cups of water and the baking soda in a non-aluminum Dutch oven (basically a big stainless steel soup pot). Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer. Gently lower 1 pretzel into the simmering water; cook 15 seconds, flip carefully with a slotted spatula, and cook for another 15 seconds on the other side. I lowered my pretzels in upside down (ends-side-down) to prevent them from coming un-twisted when I turned them over. Transfer the pretzel to a greased wire rack sitting on some paper towels. Repeat until all the pretzels have been...simmered.
Put the pretzels on an ungreased baking sheet sprinkled with the cornmeal. Mix the egg and the water in a little bowl until smooth, and brush over the pretzels. Sprinkle with kosher salt, or a very little bit of sea salt, like I did. Bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes or until pretzels are a deep, luscious, golden-brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Yield: A dozen pretzels for your family to enjoy. And believe me, they will! Feel free to play with this a little bit; sprinkle the pretzels with cinnamon and sugar or sesame seeds isntead of salt. I apologize for the lack of step-by-step pictures. Those probably won't be used a whole lot for my recipes...

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