The Daring Bakers, that illustrious and intrepid group of folks world-’round that takes on a monthly challenge de four and posts the results together on the same day is two years old this month. In honor of this great group (which happens to be the reason I started blogging), I spent part of this afternoon making the very first challenge, homemade pretzels. Ah, who am I kidding? The husband wanted them. But happily his craving for East Coast street food coincides with the anniversary of that great day that Ivonne and Lis started baking together in public…
Without further ado, my sincere and humble nod to the first Daring Bakers
Seriously, Santa, please bring me a decent camera!
But you get the idea. We chowed down on these with some fine organic yellow mustard from Trader Joe’s and I have to say, they were pretty yummy. Far better than those things you get at the movies. Probably no match for the authentic NYC sidewalk stand, but hey, I’ll take “almost as good as sidewalk bought.” Plus they were fun. And I’ve never made them before. And there was beer.
This is a very easy recipe. Because I’m not going step by step through the recipe like I normally do, I’m going to make my comments up front here.
1. My pretzels were mostly too fat (pictured specimen excepted). They don’t need to go on a diet, but they do need to rolled thinner. Also, it took me so long to roll all eight of them, the first four had re-risen by the time the last four were ready for the oven. My suggestion – either haul ass and roll a lot faster than I do, or bake them in batches.
2. As directed in the recipe, we ate one warm, right out of the oven. It was very bready, kind of fluffy, definitely not pretzely and rather disappointing. Thinking I (or possibly my weirdo oven) had flubbed it, we abandoned the pretzels and figured we’d just go for a walk and pick up some beer and nacho cheese to drown our sorrowful pretzels. They didn’t have any fakin queso at the local liquor store, so we settled for the beer and figured we’d just use extra mustard. Turns out, the waiting is the hardest part, but it’s also the most helpful part. Waiting about an hour made the pretzels…more like pretzels. I don’t know how exactly to explain it, but letting them sit around definitely improved the little guys. And that’s not just the beer talkin.
3. Last but certainly not least, thank you to Lis and Ivonne for starting this fantastic group. You ladies are wonderful and have done all of us crazy folks who think spun sugar, kitchen scales and pizza stones are more fun than a trip to Disneyland a huge service by making a place to do our thing together, no matter how far apart. Happy birthday to you and thanks for letting me play.
Hot Buttered Pretzels
Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.
For the dough:
- 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 package (2-1/4 tsp.) instant yeast
- 1 cup warm water (you may need a little more)
For the pretzel topping:
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 tsp. sugar
- kosher salt
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
- Combine all the dough ingredients in a large bowl with your hands. Work the ingredients together until you can form a ball. If the dough is very dry, add a bit more warm water until it comes together. The dough will look messy, but don’t worry about it.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and begin kneading by pushing the dough away with the heel of your hand, and then folding it back in onto itself. Push the dough away again and then fold back in. Continue this motion, working the dough until it’s smooth. This should take anywhere from 8 to 10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can knead the dough in a mixer with your dough hook for 5 to 6 minutes).
- Once the dough is done, sprinkle some flour on the dough and put it in a large, oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 30 minutes to an hour. It will rise considerably.
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Dissolve the sugar in the warm water and set aside.
- Divide your dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece out into a long rope that’s roughly 24 inches in length. (Don’t make it too long or your pretzels will be too thin.)
- Taking hold of the ends of the rope, cross the rope over itself to form a circle with about 4 to 5 inches on each end that are sticking out. Twist the ends over themselves and secure each end on either side of the pretzel.
- Carefully dip the pretzel in the water and then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.
- Sprinkle the pretzels with the kosher salt and let them rest for about 15 minutes.
- Put the pretzels in the oven for 6 minutes, then rotate the trays and bake for an additional 6 minutes. Keep an eye on the pretzels so that they don’t burn.
- Remove the pretzels from the oven and immediately brush them with the butter. Keep brushing them with butter until you’ve used it all.
- Serve the pretzels warm with plenty of mustard or another condiment of your choice.