Sunday, February 16, 2014

Soft Pretzels

Soft Pretzels

·      1 1/3 cups warm water (110 degrees)
·      2 tbs warm milk
·      2 tbs melted butter
·      2 tbs white sugar
·      2 ½ tsp active dry yeast
·      ½ cup light brown sugar
·      4 cups flour (plus more)
·      8 cups (2 quarts) water
·      ½ cup of baking soda
·      1 large egg
·      Sea salt, kosher salt or pretzel salt

1.     In a glass measuring cup heat water to 110 degrees. Heating water on the stove in a teakettle or using really warm tap water is best; using the microwave to heat the water isn’t ideal. Use a thermometer to insure the water is 110 degrees. Yeast needs water that is between 105 and 115 degrees to thrive.
2.     Pour water into the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Walk away from the mixture for at least 10 minutes. You want to yeast to bloom and foam, and it should smell ‘yeasty’
3.     Add the warm milk, melted butter and white sugar to the yeast mixture and lightly combine with a spoon.
4.     Attach the dough hook attachment to your mixer and add the brown sugar and turn the mixer on low.
5.     Gradually, 1 cup at a time, add the flour into the mixer. The goal is for the dough to pull together and climb up the dough hook. Depending on circumstances you may want to add more flour. Stop the mixer occasionally and feel the dough- it should not be overly sticky to the touch.
6.     Remove dough from the mixer onto lightly floured work surface and knead the dough for 2 minutes. Time yourself because this is an important step, you’re developing the gluten in the dough. If your arms hurt you're doing it right. Use more flour on your work surface to prevent sticking.
7.     Shape the dough into your desired shape: stick, knot or bun. See below for information on how to easily make each shape. Remember these will rise for a time and then also puff up when parboiling, so do not make the shapes very large.
8.     Place onto a lightly floured cookie sheet or cutting board and place in a warm location, generally near the oven with the oven on warm. Warm is the key word here, you do not want any direct heat. You can use an upside down pot to place your cookie sheet/cutting board on so it is not sitting directly on the stovetop. Cover with clean kitchen towels and let rise for 1 hour.
9.     After an hour, bring 8 cups of water to a boil. While waiting, prepare your baking dish by either using parchment paper or by spraying the sheet with nonstick spray. Crack the egg into a small bowl. Also sit out your pastry brush, a small bowl of salt and a slotted spoon.
10. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
11. When water boils remove from heat and place in the baking soda. Move back to the heat. You want a continual boil, so keep an eye on the water and adjust your heat accordingly. If the water foams violently over the top, remove the pot from the stovetop for a moment and turn down the heat.
12. Working in small groups place the dough into the boiling water. Flip each item after 10 seconds and remove after 10 more seconds. Do not boil for longer than 30 seconds.
13. Lift from the water and drain all additional water you can by angling the spoon on the side of the pot. Place on prepared sheet.
14. Work in small groups until you have a sheet full of parboiled pretzels, then brush each one lightly with egg and sprinkle with salt.
15. Bake at 425 for 10 (more or less) minutes depending on which shape you have made, as the smaller pretzel shapes take less time to bake. (Buns, 23 minutes; Knots, 12 minutes, Sticks, 11 minutes)
16. Remove from oven when the pretzels have turned a beautiful, rich, deep brown with some areas of golden brown. Your nose will help you decide when they’re done!
17. Let cool and enjoy! Store in an airtight container.

Making pretzel shapes:

Roll the dough into a long snake using your hands, about 5-6 inches long. If the dough it sticky use extra flour on your hands, as these are easier to knot if they are not sticky. Make a knot in the snake and place onto a floured surface to rise.

Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into sticks. These are actually more difficult to cook than the knots because they have a tendency to break apart when boiling.

Using an amount of dough that nicely fills the palm of your hand, pull the dough into a ball. Stretching the dough in your hand so the top is neat and smooth and the ‘ugly’ parts are hidden at the bottom. This isn’t hard to do but is hard to describe. To make the split top style, slice 1/4 of an inch into the bun after you've boiled it. It will open while cooking.