Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday part 2 - Soft Pretzels Are Just Dreamy

You Guys.

I've been dreaming of soft pretzels for weeks. I think it started when I saw an article about them in the Times or something. They seem like the world's best snack, somehow. Very grab-able, easy to eat in one hand while driving, for example.

So just before I made the soup for Jenean, I started the dough for the pretzels, I used (and slightly modified) a recipe that claimed to be
just like Aunt Annies. It looked a lot like the Alton Brown recipe, minus the boiling water step.

I mixed:
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/4 tsp yeast

and stirred to dissolve it, then mixed in:
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt

Then the recipe called for 1 cup bread flour and 2 cups all purpose flour. I didn't have any bread flour, so I used this "white whole wheat" flour I got at Trader Joe's the other day.

I fired up the kitchenaid and sent that dough on its way. (My sister rallied my parents and my grandma to join her in giving me that kitchenaid for my 30th birthday, and it remains one of the awesomest gifts I have ever gotten. Thank you Neanie).

Part way through the process it seemed like the dough was too stiff for the machine, so I took it out and did some kneading by hand. There's a funny story about that, but I feel like this is going on too long already so I'll skip it. I left it to rise for an hour near the radiator which was actually warm, unlike every other day (meanwhile I practiced!), punched it down, let it rise another half hour.
Then I divided the dough into 12 pieces, and one at a time rolled them into snakes (felt like 2nd grade art class!), very long and thin (almost twice as long as this very blurry picture shows), then pulled the ends up into a U shape, crossed them over each other and pressed the ends into the bottom of the U.

Then as per the Aunt Annie's recipe, I filled a slightly-bigger-than-pretzel-sized bowl with warm water and dissolved a couple tablespoons of baking soda in it. That recipe just had you dip the formed pretzels in the baking soda water before putting them on a baking sheet.

After I did the first 6 pretzels that way, I decided to go a little test-kitchen-y and try Alton Brown's method with the remaining six, which is to bring that baking soda water to a boil, and boil each pretzel for 30 seconds, then drain on a rack, before putting them on the baking sheet to rise for another 15 minutes.

During this whole process, my cat Oz was loitering around the kitchen hopefully, thinking I was in there to give him dinner (note my grammatically correct use of the word hopefully. I include this aside as a loving tribute to my grandma, who felt passionately about many things, high on that list being the proper use of the word hopefully). Anyway, Oz had to wait.

After all the pretzels were formed, variously dipped or boiled, and briefly risen, I brushed them with melted butter and baked them in a 450 degree oven for 12 minutes, turning the baking sheets 6 minutes in, and swapping the two sheets top to bottom, too.
The verdict on boiling versus dipping? Boiling. It wasn't that fussy a process, actually, and the boiled ones had a better texture and browned up prettier.

When they came out of the oven I brushed them with more butter, sprinkled them with kosher salt, and then finally ate one! And man, it was really good. (Don't worry, I fed the cat eventually).
Part 3 (the final part, don't worry) of Friday's cooking and eating coming soon: Squash Sesame Noodles with fried tofu.

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