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Friday, April 19, 2013

Soft Pretzels

I have been waiting forever to make these pretzels, but wanted to do it when I wasn't feeling any sort of time crunch.  This has been April vacation week for me and other teachers and students in the Boston area.  It began Monday with the tragic marathon bombing.  Then today, four days later, I woke up to what seemed like a scene from a movie.  A shoot-out in the streets, ending with a fugitive on the loose and an entire city on lock-down.  The streets of Boston are eerily deserted as people stay in their homes so police can search for the remaining bomber.  Can this possibly be real life?  Unfortunately it is.  I can only hope that this ends with no one else hurt and a feeling of justice for all those affected.

My daughter is too young to know or understand these tragic events and for that I am grateful.  So I have been trying my best to enjoy this time with her despite the overwhelmingly upsetting thoughts and emotions that sometimes overcome me.  Today we made these delicious, completely satisfying, totally worth the wait, pretzels.  It seems crazy to do something so enjoyable and everyday while all this craziness happens around us, but life must go on.  If we don't enjoy this all too short life with our loved ones, then the bombers have truly succeeded.  So spend time with friends and family and if you can, help those in need.

If you'd like to help those that have been affected, here is a link with options as to what you could do:

Soft Pretzels
adapted from Alton Brown
makes 8 pretzels

For the dough:
1½ cups warm water (110-115° F)
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 package dry active yeast
22 oz. all-purpose flour (about 4½ cups)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for greasing the bowl

For finishing:
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. water
sea salt (or pretzel salt - but I didn't have any laying around the house)

To make the dough, first mix the yest with the water and let stand for 10 minutes.  Combine this with the sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed to dissolve the yeast.  Add in the flour and melted butter and mix just until the dough comes together.  Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly greased with vegetable oil, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, about 50-55 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450° F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Bring the water and baking soda to a boil in a large saucepan or stockpot.

Divide the dough in 8 equal pieces.  Roll each piece out about 24-inch long.  Then form each into a pretzel.  (First make a U, then cross each end over eachother.)  Boil the pretzels one at a time for 30 seconds each.  Transfer with a slotted spoon (I used a spatula) to your lined baking sheets.  Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 12-14 minutes until deep golden brown.  Let cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes.  Serve with your favorite mustard or dipping sauce.

I made 4 of the 8 immediately and I froze the other 4 pretzels before the boiling process.  I will update this post after I make the frozen pretzels to let you know how they turned out.

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