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Soft Pretzels

March 4, 2009

Oh Wow.  It is 4:00am and I am updating my blog.  You see I awoke at 3:30am in the middle of the night with a craving for a midnight snack.  And after 30 minutes of tossing, I could not get these soft pretzels out of my mind.  I plan on taking them into work later today but I *had* to try one first.

Now, I’m no connoisseur of soft pretzels, but this I know: this is one delicious treat.
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Now, the omnivore in the house is very honest with me when it comes to my cooking.  And both you and I ought to appreciate this honesty.

For you it means that I’m only showing you blog-worthy eats, and for me it means that I’m not wasting ingredients on recipes that my family doesn’t love.  But I can’t really remember the last time I made a recipe that the omnivore didn’t like, right honey?

“Some of your pretzels look like dog-poop,” said the honest-omnivore-husband as I was shaping these soft pretzels.  Hmph.  Now I’ve got two things to say about that:

1) As someone who actually works in the dog-poo profession, if your dog’s poo resembles a soft pretzel, please take the pooch to the vet.
2) I bet the omnivore won’t say anything like that again because it lead him to taste all of ZERO pretzels.

(Actually, each pretzel requires quite a bit of dough to form the shape, so I didn’t really have extras to go around the Branny-household.  All pretzels but the obligate taste-tester were destined for work.)

Soft Pretzels (8 traditionally shaped pretzels, lightly adapted from Alton Brown)
• 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt
• 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
• 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
–I used 1 cup AP, 1 cup WW flour, and the balance in bread flour because I ran out of AP flour.  I’m not running a bakery here, people, I might run out of ingredients every now and then.
• 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. Place dough in a well oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow bowl to 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.  When you dump in the baking soda, beware of foamy overflow!

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.

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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.

*And if you aren’t eating these babies the day you bake them, I highly recommend reheating each pretzel in a toaster oven for about 5 minutes.

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