Thursday, October 4, 2012

Soft Pretzels

So, I've talked about it before I know, but clearly we all agree that jeans shopping is the worst part about the going to the mall.  And if jeans shopping is the worst...soft pretzels are hands down the best.

Seriously, I know some people may disagree with this (I'm looking at you Cinnabon people), but there is nothing more enticing than walking through the mall or airport are smelling that sweet sweet aroma of freshly baked pretzel dough...buttered and salty just calling out to you.

If I'm alone at the mall or the airport...all bets are off.  I don't know if it's being engulfed by a sea of strangers, the fluorescent lighting, or the inconvenience of leaving the building, but something about the mall and airport are very enabling for me when it comes to bad eating.  

Not that these are the worst thing you can eat (that would be you again, Cinnabon...) but don't even worry about that, because you no longer even need to GO to the mall when all you really want is a delicious soft pretzel.  Here, friends.  Here is the answer.

All you need is a little yeast activation time and a little dough rising time.

And you should probably have kosher salt.  But seriously...the possibilities are endless.  Cinnamon and sugar...garlic...cheese melted on them...  I prefer mine plain with butter and salt, but I have a pretty primal appreciation of plain dough flavors that other more refined palettes may lack.  

Anyway, these are so so good.  Do it.  Butter.  Salt.  Dough.  Oh it lunch time yet?

Soft Pretzels
(makes 12, adapted from allrecipes)

4 tsp yeast
1 tsp white sugar
1 1/4 cups water
5 cups flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
Olive oil spray
2 Tbsp baking soda
1 cup hot water
Kosher salt, to taste
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Dissolve the yeast and 1 tsp sugar in a small bowl with 1 1/4 cups warm water.  Let it stand about 10 minutes until creamy-looking.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, white sugar, and salt.  Make a well in the center and pour in the oil and the yeasty mixture.  Mix until it forms into a dough.  You may need to add up to 3-4 Tbsp additional water to keep it moist.  If extra water is necessary, only add it 1 Tbsp at a time, mixing well between each addition until the dough is soft but not sticky.  

Knead the dough about 7 minutes or until smooth.  Spray a large bowl with olive oil spray and place dough in the oiled bowl.  Cover with a clean, damp cloth.  Allow the dough to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.  (A nice trick for letting the dough rise as it gets cooler outside is to turn your oven light on--leaving the actual oven off--and leave the dough in there.  This creates a draft-free warm rising area at just the right temperature.)

Once the dough has risen (remove it from the oven if it was rising in there), preheat oven to 415.  

Dissolve baking soda in water and pour into a shallow dish.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 pieces.  Roll each piece until it is about the thickness of your index finger.

Twist each rope of dough into the shape of a pretzel.  Once all of the pretzels are shaped, dredge each on both sides through the baking soda wash.  Do not skip this step, it is very important for creating the pretzel flavor.  Place each dipped pretzel on the baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.  

Bake at 415 for 8 minutes.  While baking, melt butter in a small dish in the microwave.  As soon as the pretzels come out of the oven, brush them with butter.  Best served warm, but you can also double wrap them in plastic and freeze them once they're cooled.

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