April 25, 2012

The Versatile Pretzel

Working with yeast doughs is becoming more and more enjoyable for me, and I’ve now made this soft pretzel dough three times. As my confidence has grown, so has my curiosity about what more can be done with the dough. Each experiment has yielded a new dish that I’ll be happy to make again. Since April 26th is National Pretzel Day, this is the perfect time to share!

The soft pretzel recipe is adapted from Home Baked Comfort (Williams-Sonoma) by Kim Laidlaw, which is an awesome recipe book. I’ve made half a dozen recipes so far and there are many more I’ll be making.

Soft Pretzels
1 C warm water, 110º F
1 package active dry yeast
1 T sugar
3 T olive oil, plus more for pans
3-1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 t salt

7 C water
1/3 C baking soda

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine water, yeast, and sugar and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Add the olive oil, flour and salt. Using the dough hook attachment, knead on medium-low speed until dough is smooth, about 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, and place in a bowl. Cover with plastic film and proof in a warm, draft-free area until doubled, about 1 hour.

If making soft pretzels, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, brush with olive oil, and set aside. Divide the dough into 12 pieces, rolling each piece of dough into a long rope, about 12 to 18 inches, depending on how thick or thin you want the pretzels to be. Take one rope and lay it horizontally on your counter. While holding an end in each hand, bring the two ends together to form a circle and then criss-cross the ends and firmly push them to the bottom of the circle to form a pretzel shape. Once shaped, place on the prepared pans.

Heat oven to 400º F. Fill a large, wide pan with 7 C of water and 1/3 C of baking soda and bring to a boil. Gently place 2 to 3 pretzels in the boiling water for 50-60 seconds, turning once with a spatula or slotted spoon. Remove and place back on baking sheets. Once all of the pretzels have been boiled, sprinkle with coarse salt and bake until browned, about 12 minutes. Boiling them is what gives these pretzels their beautiful color and true pretzel taste so don’t skip this step. Best enjoyed the day they are made.

For the pretzel dough pizza, I made two small pizzas, about 7-inches each and had dough left over for a few pretzels. I also made the water mixture to boil all of the dough, but in the future I will only do that if I am making strictly pretzels. The dough for the pizza was prebaked for about 5 minutes and then the pizza was constructed and returned to the oven for the dough to complete baking and the toppings to heat through.

For the pretzel dogs, I made a half batch of dough and portioned it equally into 4 pieces (next time I’ll divide it into 6) and then shaped each piece into a flat rope, about 12 inches long. I rolled each beef link in dough and baked for 14 minutes on a parchment lined sheet tray.

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