Today I learned something important: Pretzels can be really awesome. Homemade pretzels have been on my list for a while now, and I just kept putting them off. To be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan. And, well, my jaw doesn’t work so good sometimes and pretzels can be a real workout for the ole temporomandibular joint. But yesterday I made them. And they changed everything I’ve ever thought about pretzels. Seriously, I thought that I would take a nibble and then let John work his way through the pile. But after one bite I was ready to fight to the death for my second pretzel. Needless to say, these pretzels didn’t last 8 hours before being claimed by loving tummies. So I now know: T\there is not much better than a hot-out-of-the-oven pretzel, and I thank Sherry Yard a thousand times for sharing this recipe in her cookbook.
And did I mention they’re pretty simple to make? You start out with a dough.
After the dough proofed I flattened it into a rectangle and chopped it into 8 pieces.
Then came the fun part: shaping. I think I got a tad carried away with the kneading, thinking gluten development was essential for the classic chewy pretzel. It made shaping them into ropes a bit trying, but eventually they got there. It’s important to get the dough fairly thin, because it’s going to be a lot thicker when you’ve finished.
I let the shaped pretzels proof a bit more on some oiled parchment.
Then I boiled (actually simmered) them. I think what made this recipe awesome was the amber beer in the simmering liquid, you could really taste it in the final pretzel!
I put them back on the parchment, brushed them with oil and sprinkled them with coarse sea salt.
Then into the oven they went until they were nice and toasty. And let me tell you, absolute perfection. I highly recommend this recipe to the pretzel fans and skeptics out there.
RECIPE (adapted from Sherry Yard):
Makes 8 pretzels
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cups warm water
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 TBSP light brown sugar
3/4 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil, plus more as needed (I used olive oil)
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 quarts water
1/4 cup amber beer
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 TBSP coarse sea salt
Make the dough:
- In a measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in the water and let sit for 5 minutes, or until cloudy. Add the buttermilk, brown sugar, sugar, and vegetable oil and mix well.
- Place the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the liquid mixture and knead until smooth.
- Brush a large bowl with vegetable oil. Scrape out the dough and place in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Line 2 half sheet pans with parchment paper and brush with oil. Lightly oil your work surface and your hands. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and press into a 6-inch square. Cut into 1 1/2 by 3 inch rectangles. One at a time, shape each piece into a pretzel. (Cover the pieces you aren’t working on with plastic.) Roll each piece out into a 24-inch long rope. Shape into a U, then crisscross the ends halfway up, twist them together like a twist-tie, and pull the legs down over the bottom of the U. Place the shaped pretzels onto the lined baking sheets. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until not quite doubled.
- While the pretzels are rising, place racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Cut the parchment the pretzels are on into squares to facilitate lifting and transferring the pretzels into the water bath.
- In a 10-inch-wide stainless-steel pot, combine the water, beer, baking soda, and brown sugar and bring to a simmer. Two at a time, lift the parchment square with pretzel and carefully reverse the pretzel off the parchment into the simmering water. Cook for 10 seconds and flip, using a skimmer or slotted spoon. Cook for another 10 seconds, and with the skimmer, lift above the pan to drain. Then transfer back to the baking sheets, rounded sides up. Brush with vegetable oil. Dust with coarse salt.
- Bake, switching the sheets from top to bottom and rotating from front to back halfway through, for 15 minutes, or until the pretzels are chestnut brown. Remove from the oven and serve warm. Be sure and check the bottoms, mine got a little toasty!
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