Post # 337 Pretzel Maker

January 28, 2015 at 12:05 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I love kitchen gadgets and get suckered regularly at Walmart and Target into spending another $20 on a machine that’s going to make donuts just like I can get at the bakery, or muffins, bagels, cupcakes, cookies, pizza, mini-loaves, etc.  I generally use them once and never again.  I’m always disappointed because they never result in a product that matches my memory or taste buds.  So when I saw The Pretzel Maker machine, I steered clear of it.  I didn’t buy it for two reasons.  First, having been burned (pun intended) by baking machines before, I didn’t want to be burned again.  Second, in learning the burn, I also learned there really aren’t short cuts to good cooking.

I really like pretzels.  I don’t eat the dried, hard version of pretzels anymore even though at one time in my life I practically lived on them.  No, once I “discovered” soft pretzels, I never looked back.

I read a long time ago that soft pretzels were the original pretzel and the hard ones were a happy accident of over cooking.  I don’t know if that’s true or not.  It’s one of those stories of the type that if it isn’t true, it should be.  Just a side note.

So, I don’t eat pretzels every day.  Usually, I only eat pretzels when I’m near an Auntie Ann’s Pretzels shop.  Sometimes, I want pretzels and I’m nowhere near a shop where I can easily buy the number of pretzels I want.  So then, I play with the idea of making homemade pretzels, but I have to make so damned many of them that I can’t eat all of them so usually half of them get thrown away.

Well the obvious answer is freezing them.  I read for a long time about freezing dough of any kind.  The general consensus was freeze after cooked.  There were exceptions.  Bread dough can be frozen after the first rise.  But for the most part, cook then freeze.  So that’s what I did.  Then I had to find a pretzel recipe that tasted like the pretzels I could get at the stores.

Well, this was the obvious answer, right?:

Pretzel Kit

It’s a good kit, makes great pretzels, but look how many.  10!  The weight on the box is two pounds!  I can’t eat two pounds of dough.  And I don’t particularly want to eat pretzel’s for days on end.  (Chocolate chip cookies is a different matter.)  But, it’s a good solution.  Here’s another:

Pretzel Kit 01

Slightly better volume, but not much.  And, to be honest, I don’t always have pretzel kits hanging around the house.  But I always have flour.  And I can always adjust amounts to make the number of pretzels I want.  So again, the search was on.

Alton Brown has the best recipe I’ve found.  It makes 8 large pretzels, but cut the amounts in half and you’ve got an afternoon snack.  And, although it seems complicated, it’s not really.  And it’s a great way to get kids involved in cooking at the end with shaping and stuff.  Use a stand mixer if you’ve got one.  If you don’t, go to the mall and buy pretzels.

  • 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 (I use kosher 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.

Shaping the pretzels is where the kids can get involved, and the cook can get most creative.  Take a strip and wrap around a hot dog and you’ve got something good!

pretzel dog

Another really good pretzel shape is pretzel sticks.  So easy and just made for dipping in anything.

pretzel sticks

I’ve eaten so many of those I didn’t eat for another entire day.  Good stuff, indeed!  Then there’s another favorite:

pretzel bites

Pretzel bites.  They can be plain for filled.  Guess which is my favorite.  I like filling them with all kinds of things.  It’s limited only by your imagination.  I’ve had them filled with cheese and jalapeno.  Chocolate is good.  Bacon is good.  Jam is good.

Another way to make them good is to sprinkle them with something other than salt.  Try cinnamon and sugar.  Try candy sprinkles.  Try crushed rock candy.  Try powdered sugar.  Try garlic powder.  Try barbeque rub.  Try anything you like, just remember to put a little melted butter on them first so the coating sticks to the pretzel.

Enjoy

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