Saturday, January 25, 2014

Soft Pretzels

From Nebraska came a box of holiday cheer. Sent to our family from Goody over at Eat The Blog. The box contained many cool treasures, among them was a neat book called, "Cooking Up U.S. History"
This recipe for soft pretzels comes from that book. A section of the book is called The Mid-Atlantic States. Pennsylvania is being classified as part of the mid-atlantic states. Mister and I just traveled the PA to visit the Flight 93 Memorial so this recipe chimes right along with the theme of this part of the world tonight.
I have made the pretzels twice. The first time we actually formed the dough and twisted the dough into the classic pretzel shape. What a hassle. The pretzels were difficult to manage in the baking soda water and although the flavor and texture was fantastic, the shape was pathetic. This time, we opted for the pretzel nuggets. Shapes are important with respect to many things. Not soft pretzels. Make 'em long, or circular.
I melted a little processed cheese food like product with some skim milk and made a delightful cheesy dipping sauce. Geez, maybe I should hunt around for some gouda or something but, the block of orange cheese has been floating around since Christmas. In the words of the great Emily Litella.... "Nevermind." The pretzels are outstanding.

Homemade Soft Pretzels

1 package of dry yeast
1 and 1/2 teaspoons of white sugar
1 cup of very warm water divided
2 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons or more of coarse salt
cornmeal for dusting the pan
baking soda for dipping the pretzels

  1. In a small bowl dissolve the yeast with the sugar and 1/4 cup of the warm water.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt, Then stir in the remaining 3/4 cup of the warm water.
  3. The yeast mixture should be foamy by this time and ready to add to the flour mixture and stir thoroughly.
  4. Put the mixture on a floured surface and let it rest for 5 minutes.
  5. Wash and dry the large bowl and grease it well.
  6. Knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes, adding more flour as you go if the dough is sticky. Most likely you will need to keep sprinkling the dough with small splashes of flour. Kneading dough is fun.
  7. Put the dough back into the well greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  8. Let the dough rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  9. Punch down the dough.
  10. Cut the dough into 8 pieces.
  11. Roll each piece into a 16 inch long rope.
  12. Cut the rope into approximately 16 pieces. Bear in mind the longer the rope the more pieces, the smaller the pretzel bites.
  13. Let the pretzels rest on a floured surface under a towel for 15 minutes.
  14. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  15. Simmer one quart of water with 2 tablespoons of baking soda in a manageable size cook pot.
  16. Line your bake sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal.
  17. A FEW pretzels at a time tip them in the simmering baking soda water for 20 seconds on each side. Fair warning, work quickly with this because the pretzel dough will quickly become smoosh. Remove quickly with a slotted spoon.
  18. Place the pretzel nuggets on the cornmeal lined bake sheet. Sprinkle with the coarse salt.
  19. Bake 10-12 minutes or until light brown. In reality my baking time was longer. Just watch for the classic golden brown color.
  20. Serve warm with some type of fabulous dipping sauce.
On our way to the Flight 93 Memorial we came upon Auntie Anne's pretzels at one of the rest areas. Cinnamon Sugar nuggets are pretty delicious. Make this recipe your own by rolling the warm pretzels in cinnamon and sugar or another flavored coating of your choice. 

Unbaked pretzel nuggets waiting for the baking soda dip.

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