I must be out of my mind. It seems that even the deep August heat can’t curb my constant craving for homemade carbohydrate treats.
Last week I slaved over a pot of 350 degree vegetable oil to fry some fresh doughnuts and this week I hovered over a pot of boiling water cooking up some traditional soft pretzels.
I will admit that these pretzels weren’t nearly as satisfying as the homemade doughnuts. I found the shaping and the subsequent boiling a little bit trying of my patience. I realized half way into the pretzel making process that I was in not mood for shaping and tending to yeasted dough. I was in the mood for instant carb gratification. I should have just hit up the drive through for some french fries.
Begrudgingly, the pretzels got made and adorned with grill seasoning instead of pretzel salt. I like the course flakes of salt, pepper and spices. Of course, served warm with a little brown mustard, my frustrations mostly melted away. The mess in my kitchen…. that was another story entirely.
Do I sound cranky? I certainly don’t mean to.
I say give these pretzels a try if you have a lazy Saturday afternoon, sometime in cool, crisp late October, not (not!) mid August. Silly silly Joy the Baker.
Soft Seasoned Pretzels
adapted from Gourmet, March 2004
1 tablespoon sugar
1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pretzel salt or grill seasoning
1 heaping Tablespoon baking soda (add it to the boiling water just before throwing in the pretzel dough!)
Stir together sugar, yeast, and 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (105 to 110°F) in a glass measuring cup, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
Whisk together 3 1/2 cups flour and 1 tablespoon table salt in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough. Dust work surface with 1 tablespoon flour, then turn out dough and knead, gradually dusting with just enough additional flour to make a smooth sticky dough, about 8 minutes. (Dough needs to be somewhat sticky to facilitate rolling and forming into pretzels).
Return dough to bowl and cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Turn out dough onto a clean work surface and cut into 8 equal pieces. Using your palms, roll 1 piece back and forth on a clean dry work surface into a rope about 24 inches long. If dough sticks to your hands, lightly dust them with flour. Twist dough into a pretzel shape. (Dough will retract as you form the pretzel.)
Transfer pretzel with your hands to an oiled baking sheet and form 7 more pretzels in same manner with remaining dough, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart.
Let pretzels stand, uncovered, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Bring a wide 6-quart pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add heaping tablespoon of baking soda.
Using both hands, carefully add 3 pretzels, 1 at a time, to boiling water and cook, turning over once with tongs, until pretzels are puffed and shape is set, about 3 minutes. Transfer parboiled pretzels to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining 5 pretzels in 2 batches.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper and oil paper, then arrange pretzels on sheet. Brush pretzels lightly with some of egg and sprinkle with pretzel salt. Bake until golden brown and lightly crusted, about 35 minutes. Cool 15 minutes, then serve warm.
• Dough can be mixed and kneaded in a standing electric mixer fitted with dough hook.
• Pretzels are best the day they are made. (When they are kept overnight, salt may dissolve.)