Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Homemade Soft Pretzels

For as long as I can remember, I have loved cotton candy. I would beg my parents for a bag whenever we visited our town's summer fair, and I always devoured the bag in a matter of hours. Now, I'll attend fairs just to buy cotton candy. It's sad, really. But as much as I love cotton candy, I will never be able to make my own (rentable cotton candy machines aside). And that is a shame, because I'll only enjoy it at summer fairs. Eight or more months without something so sickeningly sweet and delicious? A near-tragedy.

But there's some consolation: there are other festival foods that you can make at home. Candy apples, caramel corn, and my personal favourite: soft pretzels.

Soft pretzels are just a bit more difficult to prepare than a typical pizza dough recipe. Once the dough has risen, you divide it into pieces, roll it into ropes, shape it in the typical pretzel shape, and toss it in a boiling baking soda/water bath for 30 seconds a piece. A little labour-intensive, but not much when you consider how spot-on the recipe is. You'll swear it's festival grub.

Served warm and alongside melted Cheez Whiz that's been diluted with a splash of milk -- it's not healthy, but to me, it's necessary -- you'll have a hard time paying $3 or $4 a pretzel from now on.

Homemade Soft Pretzels - Recipe from Alton Brown & Food Network
Yields 8

* 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 2 teaspoons kosher salt
* 1 package active dry yeast
* 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
* 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
* Pretzel salt

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 an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

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 half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, 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 and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.


matty October 8, 2008 at 10:17:00 PM EDT  

The best soft pretzels I have ever eaten!

Parker October 10, 2008 at 1:12:00 PM EDT  

Very cool... never even eaten one of these, but they look so cool.

valmg October 11, 2008 at 11:01:00 PM EDT  

I've never made homemade pretzels but that made me think about trying it.

Haley October 15, 2008 at 6:25:00 PM EDT  

I've always been amused by the guys that make pretzels in the mall or at fairs. This sounds like a great recipe; I'll definitely be trying it out! Thanks!

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