Friday, September 16, 2011

Bread Baking Babes Get Twisted

For September let's gather around the kitchen table as the fabulous Bread Baking Babes delve into the past...610 AD in fact...and we can decide if we believe that these bread morsels were used by monks of that time to teach little boys to pray or to reward them for staying quiet during Mass...or both. That's the story behind Soft Pretzels, called Bretzels in German. The traditional shape resembles hands folded in prayer. Even if it isn't true, it's true that soft pretzels are a county fair and mall favorite snack food. I've included directions for the traditional salted soft pretzels and for the more contemporary cinnamon sugar ones. However you flavor them, they give you a chance to have fun shaping the dough.

They make a wonderful snack, are pretty easy to make, get their chewy, slightly craggy exterior from a dip in a caustic boiling bath.

After the dip the pretzels are put on parchment lined baking sheets (I used a silicone mat instead),

brushed with the egg and water mixture, which gives them a shine (and a double dose of egg wash, with drying time in between gives an even shinier finish), then sprinkled with a topping. Here is your chance to get creative, or you can go classic by using pretzel salt or kosher salt.

One baker added roasted garlic to the dough. Bet they would be good with chopped rosemary, too.

They puff up slightly in the oven and turn an appealing dark golden brown. I used a single egg wash but next time plan to let the first wash dry, then give them another dose of egg wash right before putting them in the oven for a more lacquered look. I might also throw a few ice cubes into a pan on the bottom of the oven for a crustier crust. For authentic pretzels the water bath should contain lye...a weak solution but still a bit dangerous to work with. Most of the recipes I saw used baking soda instead. I'm giving instructions for boiling the pretzels in the baking soda enriched water. You could also just dip them in water than has baking soda dissolved in it, but the 30 seconds in the simmering water seemed to firm up the dough, making it easier to handle the shaped pretzels.

The only major difference between the MyRecipes Soft Pretzel recipe and mine is that they called for 3 1/4 cups flour. I found that I only needed 2 1/2 cups of flour, and I was careful to measure by spooning the flour into the measuring cup. Too bad that there was no weight measurements. I suspect that would have been better. As you can see this amount of flour created a nice dough to work with. This rope is less tapered at the end but still made a nice pretzel shape.

The traditional dip for the salted ones is a good mustard. If you like beer these are great with beer...and maybe some cheese for a light lunch. Sweetie preferred the cinnamon sugar ones.

So let's gather around the kitchen table for September and bake up some soft pretzels! If you are having folks over to watch a ball game you might want to double the recipe. If it's just you, these don't keep well (neither airtight nor at room temperature) so your best bet is to make 'em plain and freeze what you don't eat freshly made. You can brush the thawed pretzel with water, sprinkle on the salt and re-heat in the microwave or oven and they will be soft and yummy. For the sweet and spicy ones, just reheat and dip in melted butter and then into cinnamon sugar.

Saturday morning: OK, my brain was sooo tired yesterday when I posted (not to mention I'd had some wine before hand) so I completely left out three important messages:

1) I really, really hope you will bake these Pretzels and become a Bread Baking Buddy! They are pretty easy, lots of fun, and yummy. To become a Buddy and get the Pretzel badge you just e-mail me at "plachman-at-sonic-dot-net" and include your URL for your post and a photo. You don't need a blog and you can write about the bread, with photo, in email and we'll post that. We do want to know something about your bread baking experience or how you liked or didn't like the bread. We need your e-mail by September 30 so that I can post a round-up. The last official date to post is September 29th (Thursday). Looking forward to getting lots of e-mails!

2) Please be sure to visit the rest of the Fabulous Bread Baking Babes to see how beautifully they have made their pretzels! The links are to the right.

3) I'm sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for Yeastspotting, the weekly extravaganza of wonderful yeasted recipes. Visit often to be inspired and impressed.

Soft Pretzels
Found at MyRecipes:
(NOTE: Because I only used 2.5 cups of flour, I made 8 pretzels, not 12)
• YIELD: 12 servings (serving size: 1 pretzel)

1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (about 14 1/2 ounces) (I used 2 1/2 cups total)
1 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
6 cups water
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cornmeal (Didn't use this on the silicone mat)
1 teaspoon water
1 large egg
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a large bowl, and let stand for 5 minutes.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 3 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes). Add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel slightly sticky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top.

Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 40 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°.

Divide dough into 12 equal portions. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll each portion into an 18-inch-long rope with tapered ends.

Cross one end of rope over the other to form a circle, leaving about 4 inches at end of each rope. Twist the rope at the base of the circle.

Fold the ends over the circle and into a traditional pretzel shape, pinching gently to seal.

Place pretzels on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 10 minutes (pretzels will rise only slightly).

Combine 6 cups water and baking soda in a nonaluminum Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer.

Gently lower 1 pretzel into simmering water mixture; cook 15 seconds. Turn pretzel with a slotted spatula; cook an additional 15 seconds. Transfer pretzel to a wire rack coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining pretzels.

Place pretzels on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Combine 1 teaspoon water and egg in a small bowl, stirring with a fork until smooth. Brush a thin layer of egg mixture over pretzels; sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes or until pretzels are deep golden brown.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

from Cooking Light OCTOBER 2005
To make Cinnamon Sugar Soft Pretzels: (see photo at top of post)
When you put on the egg glaze in the above recipe, don't add any toppings. When the pretzels are baked and still a little warm, dip them in melted butter (I used unsalted) and then into a cinnamon-sugar mixture. I made 4 of the pretzels as cinnamon sugar ones and used 1/2 stick of melted butter (and there was plenty left over), plus 1/2 cup sugar and about 1 teaspoon cinnamon (I like cinnamon) but make use the cinnamon amount that suits your taste.


  1. These were so much fun to make! Thank you for a wonderful choice this month and I promise to get mine posted soon.

  2. Wow, your photos are really fantastic.
    These were really good and loved twisting!

  3. I love pretzels.... Lye? I wonder would that would do - other than smell horrid in the kitchen...
    They are beauties!

  4. Thanks for a wonderful challenge Elle... we ate them all with the speed of light :)

  5. Your pretzels look gorgeous!

    I can't wait til it's time to shape these (he dough is rising now...). I only hope that my pretzels will look as beautiful. I already know they're going to taste great. How could they not?

  6. YES! Pass the mustard.
    Can't wait to "buddy-up" and try these with cinnamon and sugar, too. Or rosemary and onion...

    I LOVE pretzels; they are an indulgence I allow myself and I really can be quite disappointed by them, but these look like everything they've advertised themselves to be!!

  7. oh that shaping, looks so easy! Really nice choice Elle, I've overcome my fear of throwing dough in water. Again.

  8. I was surprised how quickly these came together despite all the hands on. My very first pretzels, yay! And they were quite tasty. :)

  9. Anonymous2:36 PM

    These are soooo good and very easy to make. They are soft and chewy, juts the way they should be.I sprinkles some sesame seads on my salty pretzels, which looks and taste great. It was my first time to make soft pretzels but I will be making them again and again. I will never buy soft pretzel again.