Thursday, July 22, 2010

Buttery Soft Pretzels

• 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
• 1 teaspoon white sugar
• 1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
• 5 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup white sugar
• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

• 1/2 cup baking soda
• 4 cups hot water
• 1/4 cup kosher salt, for topping
1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center; add the oil and yeast mixture. Mix and form into a dough. If the mixture is dry, add one or two tablespoons of water. Knead the dough until smooth, about 7 to 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in hot water.

4. When risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Once all of the dough is all shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution and place on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes, until browned.

*I replaced the oil with butter and used less flour. Why is the baking soda bath is necessary: Old world Germans used to dip their brezels (pretzels) in a solution of sodium hydroxide (lye) and water before baking. Lye is a very strong and caustic alkaline. Because most people aren't comfortable mixing lye and water to make pretzels, baking soda - a much weaker alkaline - is now used in most pretzel recipes. Once the pretzels begin baking, a 'Maillard reaction' occurs. This is a chemical reaction sortof like carmelization, which allows the exterior crust to become a deep rich brown color. The reaction accelerates in an alkaline environment, which - you guessed it - has been provided by the baking soda bath. The baking soda, and resulting reaction, is also responsible for the unique taste of a pretzel. Without the baking soda bath the pretzel exterior ends up pale/white, and taste more like bread. This baking soda / lye bath step is paramount in making a pretzel a pretzel.

Here's what I will do next time I make a batch: After dividing the dough into 12 pcs., roll the dough out into a rope at least 20-24" long. The dough will expand. Spray "I Can't Believe Its Butter" after I place the pretzels on the sheet and sprinkled coarse salt. I tried this on 3 pretzels from my first batch and they were better tasting. Use a rack that's up higher in the oven to prevent burning of the pretzels bottoms.
These are better than Auntie Anne's!! The changes I made = I used 4 cups of flour instead of 5. I used organic pure cane sugar and All Natural sea salt and instead of vegetable oil (I used super healthy 'Organic Virgin Coconut Oil by Tropical Traditions') and also used that to grease the bowl the dough was to rise in. After putting the pretzels in the soda/water mixture, I put them on parchment paper which I sprayed with Olive Oil spray (instead of greasing) and then I sprinkled Kosher salt on the tops of them (on a few others I did cinnamon w/Raw sugar). The oven temp. seemed way to high even at 415, so on the second batch I decreased it to 400 degrees for 8 minutes - they got browned very quickly on top. After removing them from the oven I brushed melted UNsalted butter over the tops and bottoms of them - saturating them with butter (I did not put any more salt on after the butter). Loved the recipe -- the rolling took a while,didn't have a lot of patience - I didn't roll them on the table, I just rolled them between my hands vertically until the 'snake' became long and thin.

WOW!! These pretzels are absolutely amazing. They were soft and chewy on the inside, awesome flavor, with that great authentic thin "pretzel" crust on the outside. I spooned the melted butter over them after baking which soaked in and was just perfect. Next time I will bake at maybe 415 or lower to keep them from being too brown before being done in the middle. Tip: let dough rise in your oven, no heat, just turn on the oven light. Provides a draft free, warm place for dough to double flawlessly. Also use a damp kitchen town instead of plastic wrap to cover bowl and you won't have a dry crust to your risen dough. I do this with all of my bread recipes!

I've found the sea salt is the absolute best thing to top them with (but be sure to use kosher salt in the dough), Excellent recipe! I've found it is best to add 3.5 cups of flour and slowly mix in the final half cup as I'm kneading the dough. I've made these at least 4 times in the past 2 weeks. They freeze up great! Just thaw and pop in the oven for a couple minutes for an awesome snack!!

I made them as the recipe stated, using the dough hook on my mixer. I added flour until the dough was no longer sticky, so I do not know exactly how much I ended up using. When rolling out the dough I came up with a trick. You need to make them much thinner than you think, so i rolled small pieces into thin (like about the thickness of a finger) sticks, then joined two together to get them as long as I needed them to twist. I made the dough quite thin, but they puff up a lot, do not worry! I also dipped my pretzels in the baking soda mix, which I think really makes the whole pretzel. When they cook they get this browned yumminess on the bottom, that tastes JUST like the ones at the mall. I just drizzled them with butter and a little kosher salt when they came out warm... they were gone right after that.

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