Monday, August 4, 2008

Pillowy Pretzel-y Goodness

Lately I have been hearing pleas from my dedicated readers (namely Hubband and very good friend T.) to post more often.  I have gotten out of sync as far as menu planning and shopping thanks to some home improvement projects recently, but for the next few weeks time is going to be on my side and I'm hoping to update this pet project more frequently. I've got a few ideas in mind that I hope will translate to shareable, photograph-worthy meals. No guarantees...I have a slight perfectionist streak, and if you're going to take time out of your busy day to read this blog and look at my photos, then you deserve only the best. I don't like posting something that didn't work out unless I've got a solution or alternative. This is my last catch-up post, at least for a little while. 
I made these rolls for our July 4th celebrations, continuing my habit of planning on a recipe I've never tested to feed guests. Those golden rules of entertaining were meant to be broken, right? Fortunately for me, the gamble paid off, and everyone seemed to enjoy these little beauties. They had a real pretzel flavor and a slight sweetness, and I loved the moderately dense, chewy texture. We served them as a dinner roll, but I think they lend themselves to endless uses. I'm dreaming about making a breakfast egg sandwich with them. Hubband has casually mentioned them several times since, so I think I'll have to make them again soon. 

Bavarian Pretzel Rolls 
slightly adapted from RecipeZaar

I shaped them into typical round buns, but a knot or old-fashioned pretzel shape would be fun to try. I did actually end up making this recipe twice in a night thanks to unreliable yeast in the first batch (shame on me for trying a new brand), but I really didn't find this recipe to be difficult. Just be sure to closely read the instructions before beginning. I prefer a heavy sprinkling of salt on the dough to really enhance the flavor, but I'm leaving the amount open for your personal preference. 

1 1/3 c warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees F, if you're inclined to check)
2 Tb warm milk (same temp as above)
2 1/2 tsp (one packet) active dry yeast
2 Tb butter, melted
1/3 C light brown sugar
4 C all-purpose flour (next time I'm going to try substituting half whole-wheat flour for fun)
kosher salt or pretzel salt
3 quarts water 
1/2 C baking soda

Fit the dough hook attachment to a stand mixer. To the bowl, add 1/3 C of the warm water and the yeast and let stand 5 minutes or until foamy. Add the remaining water, the milk, melted butter, and sugar and mix to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the mixer and add the flour, then begin mixing on lowest setting to prevent a flour cloud from erupting. Increase the speed to medium low, and continue mixing until the dough forms a nice, pliable but firm dough ball. It shouldn't be very sticky, so add a few Tb of flour more if necessary. 
Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Knead by hand for about 2 minutes, until the dough is nice and smooth, and then use your hands to form the dough into a 12-inch long cylinder. Cut into 12 even pieces. Cover the pieces with a damp paper towel, and then place a piece of plastic wrap on top of that. Let sit for 10 minutes, during which time they should start to rise. 
Set aside the plastic wrap for later, and discard the paper towel. Pat each piece of dough into your desired shape and arrange on a lightly floured surface, leaving about an inch of space between them. Lightly spray the piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray, and cover the rolls. Let them rest and rise for an additional 30 minutes. 
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425 F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly spray the parchment with cooking spray. 
In a large stockpot, bring two quarts of the water to a boil. Keep the remaining quart nearby and hot. The water will diminish as you boil the rolls, and if you don't add water to the pot as you go, the last rolls will taste unbearably of baking soda. I learned this the first time I attempted pretzels a few years ago. Keeping the fill-up quart of water hot just means you'll have less time waiting for the pot to regain the boil. Once the first 2 quarts of water boils, carefully add the baking soda. This will cause a big profusion of bubbles, and if you haven't used a nice big pot, you will likely have quite a dangerous mess on your stove, and possibly your person. Please be careful. Drop two rolls into the boiling water at a time and boil for 15 seconds. Turn them, and boil for 15 more seconds. Carefully remove with a slotted spoon, let drain over the pot, then place on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining rolls, adding water as necessary to keep the pot at the same level you started with. 
Bake the rolls on the upper and middle racks of the over until they are browned all over, anywhere from 8-15 minutes depending on your oven. Rotate pans from back to front and top to bottom halfway through baking for even browning. Let cool for about 5 minutes on the pans, and then transfer to a rack. 

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