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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Baked Soft Pretzels

Do you ever get a craving that won't go away until you give in?

I'd like you to meet my craving.  I wasn't craving pretzels, I was just craving something to go with spicy brown mustard.  

I'd been craving mustard since the fourth of July, when I saw a vendor at Fenway Park hold up a fistful of mustard packets to go with the pretzels he was selling.

Nine days later I found myself still craving spicy brown mustard, only now I wanted fresh-baked pretzels as well.  Giant fresh-baked pretzels, like they sell at the Red Sox game!

So I made my own.

Today's Playlist
  • "All My Life"...Foo Fighters
  • "No Rain"...Blind Melon
  • "Hypnotize"...The White Stripes
  • "Badfish"...Sublime
  • "Everybody Talks"...Neon Trees
  • "The Girl Got Hot"...Weezer
  • "Short Skirt/Long Jacket"...Cake

Baked Soft Pretzels
  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 degree) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • vegetable oil, to coat the bowl
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
maldon sea salt flakes or other large-granule salt for topping the pretzels
mustard, for dipping

Gather your ingredients.  All of the ingredients are pictured; you will need to wait for the pretzel dough to rise for an hour before using the four ingredients on the left. The ingredients to the right are the ones that you need to prepare the pretzel dough, which will then need to rise for an hour.

So let's get started!

Put the warm water into the bowl of your stand mixer.  Stir in the sugar and the sea salt.

I did this with a spoon, no need to use the dough hook yet.

Sprinkle the yeast on top and allow it to sit for about 5 or 6 minutes, until it starts to become foamy.

Melt the butter in your microwave (1 minute on HIGH) while you're waiting.

When the yeast has started to foam, add the flour and the melted butter.  Using your dough hook, mix on low speed until combined.  

Once the flour is incorporated, increase speed to medium and knead for about 5 minutes.  You'll know the dough is ready when it starts to pull away from the side of the bowl, and the texture will change from dry and lumpy-looking... smooth and silky.

Use about a teaspoon of vegetable to oil the inside of a medium-sized bowl. 

Place the dough into the bowl and turn it over so that all surfaces are covered with the oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.

When the dough is ready, bring a large, shallow saucepan of water to boil.  The saucepan should be 6- to 8-quart size; make sure it's wide enough to easily submerge the pretzels.  Fill the pan with about 2 to 3 inches of water, being sure to leave plenty of room above the waterline.

While you're waiting for the water to boil, lightly beat the egg and tablespoon of water with a fork.

Place the dough onto your counter.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces.  One piece at a time, form the dough into long strips.  I just hold each piece up high and rub the dough between my hands until I have a rope-shaped strip.  

They don't have to be perfect.  My strips were somewhere between 21 and 24 inches long.  As long as the width is consistent, it's okay if the lengths aren't exactly the same.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Form the dough strips into pretzel shapes.  I lightly press down in the spots where the dough intersects, in the hopes that shape will hold when I boil the pretzels.

It doesn't always work, the pretzel shape often separates.  But that doesn't stop me from trying!

Continue to shape your pretzels, placing 4 on each baking sheet.

Clyde was very interested in the pretzel process.

When the water starts to boil, add the baking soda.  Be careful, it will foam up when you add it, but it will quickly retreat.  Give it a quick stir; now you are ready to boil the pretzels.

Carefully place one pretzel into the boiling water.  Let it boil for one minute.  By the end of the minute, it should begin to float to the surface, as you can see by looking at the upper-right corner of the pretzel in this picture.

Use a large slotted spatula to remove the pretzel from the boiling water.

Place the now-boiled pretzel back onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.  The pretzel in the upper left corner is the one that has been can see how it rises a bit when it boils.  If the ends of the pretzels become loose during the boiling process, simply re-shape the pretzel as you place it back onto the parchment.

Repeat, one at a time, boiling all of the pretzels for one minute each.

The boiling also helps to sort of "seal" the exterior of the pretzel, and when it bakes will create a crunchy crust.

After you've boiled the pretzels, lightly brush the tops with the egg/water mixture.

Sprinkle the salt onto the pretzels.  

I like to use Maldon sea salt's just so pretty!  Use any large-granule kosher or sea salt that you like.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until they are a dark golden brown.

Can I let you in on a little secret?  These pretzels are even better when you reheat them the next day!  Oh, they're fabulous when you first bake them...don't misunderstand me.  How can warm, fluffy, fresh out of the oven baked goods be anything but good?  But when they're twice-baked--they get an extra-crunchy exterior, yet they're still chewy and soft inside.  To reheat them, just place them in your oven as you preheat to 350 degrees, by the time the oven is ready the pretzels will be ready and extra fabulous.

 Serve with mustard for dipping.  Mr. Terrific helped himself to a pretzel before I could even take this picture.

Caitie tried to snatch one, but I protested that she had to wait until I photographed them!


1 comment:

  1. Oh I can picture you swatting at those hands trying to snatch those yummy pretzels. I admire you for actually going through that process. Fabulous results. Now I'm craving them too, so thanks Fran, lol. I think the grocery store sells a frozen version. :(


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