Sunday, January 3, 2010

Soft Pretzels

I have always been a fan of soft pretzels. They are crisp and browned on the outside and light and moist on the inside. I think that they really are the perfect treat. I have a old stand-by recipe for them that I make often but decided to change it up and try out a new recipe. I used a recipe I found in Peter Reinhart's new book, Artisan Breads Every Day. I was so fond of his first book, The Bread Bakers Apprentice that I signed up to be a recipe tester for this new book. I had an awesome time testing recipes and was excited for the release of the book. The first thing I did when I bought the book was flip to the acknowledgement section and try to find my name. :) Enough about me, back to the pretzels...

These pretzels do require a bit of planning since the dough needs to be made a day (or up to 4 days) in advance but the wait is well worth it. Although this will not become my new favorite pretzel recipe it is definitely something I will make again. This recipe just did not represent to me what soft pretzels are all about. Maybe it was not quite sweet enough on the inside, maybe it was not as light and airy as what I expected either. I don't know, it just seemed like something was off. Next time I make this recipe I think that I would shape the dough into a large loaf and make a loaf of pretzel bread. For now I will stick to my other soft pretzel recipe.

Soft Pretzels
Adapted from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day(pgs 128-131)

4 1/2 cups (20oz) unbleached bread flour
1 3/4 teaspoons (.4oz) salt or 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons (.75oz) brown sugar
1 teaspoon (.11oz) instant yeast
1 1/2 cups (12oz) lukewarm water (about 95 degrees)
2 tablespoons (1oz) vegetable oil or melted butter
8 teaspoons (2oz) baking soda, for dipping
2 cups (16oz) warm water (about 100 degrees), for dipping
1 egg white, for dipping (optional)
Pretzel salt or coarse kosher salt, for garnish

Do Ahead
-Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl. Whisk the yeast into the lukewarm water until dissolved, then let it sit for 1 minute to hydrate.
-Pour the yeast mixture and the oil into the dry ingredients. If using a mixer, use the paddle and mix on lowest speed for 30 to 60 seconds. If mixing by hand, use a large spoon and stir for about 1 minute. A course ball of dough should form.
-Switch to the dough hook and mix on the lowest speed, or continue mixing by hand, for 2 minutes. The dough will become slightly smoother. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
-Continue to mix with the dough hook on medium-low speed, or mix by hand for 3 minutes, adjusting the water or flour as needed to form a smooth, firm, but slightly tacky ball of dough. If the dough is very tacky or sticky, add more flour.
-Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 1 minute to make any final adjustments. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a clean , lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and immediately refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days. (If you plan to bake the dough in batches over different days, you can portion the dough and place it into two or more oiled bowls at this stage.)

On Baking day
-To make the dipping solution, stir the baking soda into the warm water. Whisk in the optional egg white (this will add a little shine, but it's optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pour the baking soda solution into a shallow bowl or small pan. -Remove the dough from the refrigerator and immediately divide it into 2 ounce pieces, or 3 ounce pieces if you prefer larger pretzels. Roll each piece into a rope about 17 inches long, tapered at the last 3 inches of each end (if the rope shrinks back after rolling, proceed to the next piece and return a few minutes later, after the gluten has relaxed, and roll the rope again to the full length). Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat. If the parchment , mist it with spray oil to prevent sticking. Form a piece of dough into a pretzel shape, then place it on the sheet pan.
-As soon as the pan is filled, carefully dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution to thoroughly coat it, then put it back on the pan. Sprinkle on salt to taste, but be aware that a little goes a long way. (See the variations below for other garnish suggestions.) Dip and pan all of the pretzels./

-Bake for about 8 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another to 10 minutes, until the pretzels are a rich brown.
-Transfer the pretzels to a wire rack and cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

You can substitute whole grain flour for some of the bread flour. If you do so, add 1 tablespoon of water to the final dough for every 7 tablespoons of whole grain flour you use.
You can top these pretzels with many garnishes other than salt. Sesame seeds are very popular, or try a savory or spicy seasoning salts or a sweet streusel topping. Another option is to scatter a good melting cheese on the surface for the last 3 minutes of baking. Or, for a decadent delight, drizzle them with chocolate glaze after they come out of the oven and have cooled a bit.


Carrie said...

I love soft pretzels and need to make them again!

Donna-FFW said...

So sorry that they didnt live up to your other recipe as they took a long time. They certainly look wonderful though. Happy New Year to you!

Jade said...

I tried prezels a few months ago and they were a disaster. I will have to try them again. Yours are beautiful!

Khadija El Mary (Mamatkamal) said...

I love Pretzels. Can't have enough of them. Thanks for the recipe.

Joyce said...

Thanks for your honest opinion of this recipe as I think after preparing them for 4 days and then just saying they are so so would make me nuts but knowing me I would still eat them all:)

Katy ~ said...

So disappointing for if you feel this is a not-quite-perfect recipe, but your pretzels look very good, however. I've never tried them, though I love working with bread, must be all the work involved, grins. Accolades to you for doing the work for us and sharing your opinion!

teresa said...

these turned out so pretty! my kids would love these.

Julie said...

Mmm...they sound wonderful! I'm wondering where your go to recipe is...I'll look for it!

megan said...

My babysitter brought over a store bought dough to make soft pretzels with the kids, this recipe looks so much better... Funny thing is I have the same books, but have been so bread and pizza focussed I never even noticed the pretzel recipe!

smilinggreenmom said...

These look wonderful but I have to say that I l ike the look of your original soft pretzel recvipe bc it looks way easier LOL! I cannot wait to try these using Kamut Khorasan Wheat flour for added nutritional yums! Thank you :)

smilinggreenmom said...

*sorry - I noticed some typos and that bugged me so I re-did my comment :D
These look wonderful but I have to say that I like the look of your original soft pretzel recipe bc it looks way easier LOL! I cannot wait to try these using Kamut Khorasan Wheat flour for added nutritional yums! Thank you :)

taco seasoning said...

that's very nice and i love soft pretzels too.

Michael said...

Great recipe! I have tried it and it was very easy to do. The measurements are very precise and the taste is awesome. Thank you for sharing this with us. It went really well with a hot cup of coffee made from one of my automatic espresso machines at home. Kudos!