July 7, 2014

Soft Pretzels

soft pretzels

soft pretzels with mustard and red pepper hummus

I fell in love with soft pretzels when I was a teenager and saw and smelled the warm and salty pretzels being sold by vendors on the streets of New York City.  Between the drive to the train station and riding the train into the city I was always a little motion sick and the smell of the pretzels as we exited Grand Central was wonderful.  This was when New York street food was mainly hot dogs, pretzels, knishes, chestnuts, and falafel.  It was an instant love affair.  I could not wait to eat those salty treats.  I had a particular craving for salt and bread as a teenager as I could not get enough soft pretzels.  I started a tradition of making soft pretzels on the last day of school with my kids that fell away as they have grown into teenagers but my daughter no longer will let me forget and now we make them together around the last day of school.  She loves these treats especially with mustard and hummus.

Soft Pretzels

1½ cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4 ½ cups (22 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Coarse salt for sprinkling

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.
Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined.
Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in a large pot or Dutch oven.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope.
Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel.
Place onto the parchment-lined sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, (I boil two at a time) for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula.

Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture.
Sprinkle with the salt.
Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes.
Rotate pans in oven halfway through baking. 
Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Adapted from Alton Brown

ace and I made pretzels
My daughter making pretzels
2006-7-11 ace
Enjoying a pretzel on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
passing clouds

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