Tuesday, April 29, 2014

boiled soft pretzels

Sometimes something is not broken and I still try to fix it. I am guessing I am not the only one, as evident by the existence of the adage.

Call it curiosity. Call it restlessness. Call it forgetfulness. And sometimes, call it fortuity.

I made some soft baked pretzels a while ago and they were absolutely perfect. I mean, I could not tell them form the real deal you buy on the street at major tourist locations around NYC.

I was having a craving for them this weekend and instead of going to my blog and remaking the recipe I loved so much I looked through the vast amount of recipe print outs that litter my kitchen (much to my husband's chagrin) and came up with this one.

My husband proclaimed this recipe even better than the last. I found them sweeter with a more resistant chew. I will have to make the first ones again to be sure of the winner. Make them and you can be the judge too.

Boiled Soft Pretzels
Makes 8 pretzels, minutely adapted from The Kitchn

  • 1 cup room temperature spring water
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon barley malt syrup, rice syrup, or dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, whisked with 2 tablespoons warm water
  • Coarse sea salt or pretzel salt 
  1. Combine the spring water and yeast in a medium bowl. Let stand a few minutes, then stir to dissolve the yeast. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour, sugar, and salt. Stir with a stiff spatula to form a floury, shaggy dough.
  2. Knead the dough in the bowl for 5 to 7 minutes. If it is very sticky, add the extra flour but try and work it without the extra. The dough has finished kneading when it is soft, slightly tacky, and holds a ball.
  3. Clean out the bowl, film it with oil, and return the dough to the bowl. Cover and let rise somewhere warm until the dough is doubled in bulk, about 1-2 hour, but you can leave it for more time.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.
  5. Working with one piece of dough a time, roll the dough into a long, skinny snake against the counter using the palms of your hands or between you palms. Aim for a rope about 20 inches long. If it shrinks back on you, set it aside, roll another piece of dough, and come back to it after it's rested a few minutes. Lift the ends of the rope toward the top of your work surface and cross them. Cross them one more time to make a twist, then fold the twist back down over the bottom loop to form a pretzel shape.
  6.  Set the pretzel on a parchment-lined baking sheet and continue shaping the rest of the pretzels. When all the pretzels are shaped, cover them loosely with a cloth and set them aside to rise until puffy, 20 to 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place a rack in the middle-bottom position.
  8. When the pretzels are starting to look puffy, measure 8 cups of water into a large, wide pot and set over high heat. Make sure the pot has high sides because the water will foam, nearly doubling in volume, when you add the baking soda. Bring the water to a rapid simmer, then add the baking soda and the barley malt syrup (I used regular raw sugar). The baking soda will make the water foam up the sides of the pot. Stir to dissolve the baking soda and syrup, then reduce the heat to medium to maintain a simmer.
  9. Lower pretzels into the water bath — as many as will fit without crowding (I could only manage one at a time - I am not sure why they need to be done in pairs). Simmer for 30 seconds, then use a slotted spoon to flip the pretzels over. Simmer for another 30 seconds, then scoop the pretzels out of the water and return them to the baking sheet. While in the water bath, the pretzels will puff and take on a doughy, puckered appearance. Repeat with the remaining pretzels.
  10. Place pretzels on parchment or silpat lines baking sheet. Brush the pretzels with the egg and water mixture and sprinkle them with salt.
  11. Bake the pretzels until they are deep brown and glossy, 12 to 15 minutes.
  12. Transfer the pretzels to a cooling rack and let sit until cool enough to handle. Pretzels are best when eaten fresh and hot, but will still be good for up to a day later. Store them in a paper bag at room temperature. Do not store them in a plastic container, they will get soggy and the salt will dissolve - see photo).

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