After about 4 months I may finally be getting the hang of retirement. The winter veggie garden is in and growing, little todo projects are either underway or completed. I drew the plans for a new display shelf and front entry way table, I just need to pick up the wood to start construction.  I am now pretty familiar with our new kitchen so am comfortable baking a few things, both tried and true and new and exciting.

Early this morning I made the cheesy soda bread which turned out very well. I was invited to watch the 49ers play tomorrow at a neighbors and wanted to bring something along for a nosh that will go well with a nice stout. Let me be clear, the 49ers are not playing at my neighbors, I am going to my neighbors to watch the 49ers on TV. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, there is a batch of London Porter fermenting nicely too. After lunch I decided to do a practice  batch of pretzels. You may know I do practice everythings if what I bake is to be made public. I actually made 4 cakes for Grace’s baptism cake. Anyway,  I saw a YouTube video on how to make pretzels (not to different from bagels) plus I have two other recipes so decided to merge the three and see what happens.

The following directions are adapted from a recipe by Diane Kometa and some techniques from Emma Christensen of the Kitchn.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup regular milk (not fat-free milk)
  • 4 ½ tsp. white sugar – regular table sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast – ¼ ounce or 2 ¼ teaspoons
  • 5 ½ cups flour – poured & leveled – not scooped flour!
  • 3 ½ Tbs. unsalted butter, melted – cooled slightly
  • Vegetable oil
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 Tbs. light malt powder
  • 4 Tbs. baked baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 Tbs. water
  • Kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Heat the water in the microwave for 20-30 sec to achieve a temperature of about 120-130 deg then combine with the cold milk in a large measuring cup for a resulting solution temperature of 110 to 115 degrees F. Add the sugar and salt to the warmed water and milk and stir to combine. Sprinkle in the yeast and mix with a fork. Allow the mixture to sit for about 5 minutes or until it becomes foamy.
  2. Pour the foamy mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and add the melted, cooled, unsalted butter and flour. (I add the flour a cup at a time to be sure it mixes well.) Mix on low speed for until combined and no dry flour remains in the bowl. Scrape the bowl as needed. Continue to mix for about another 7 minutes or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth. Scrape the dough from the hook if it comes up to far. Note: The dough may begin to pull away from the bowl after only 2 minutes, but may look a bit pulled or shaggy and still be sticky. It is not done kneading until it is smooth to the touch and no longer sticky.
  3. Remove the dough from the bowl and form into a ball. Wipe out the bowl, if necessary and grease it with 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Place the dough ball back into the bowl and turn over a couple of times to coat thoroughly with the oil. Cover the bowl with a dish towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm area , free from drafts or cool air (a microwave, turned off is a good location), for about 1 hour, until the dough has risen and doubled in size.
  4. When the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and position the oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Line a large (15″ x 20″) baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with Bakers Joy. Set aside. Note: You may need 2 baking sheets to avoid crowding the pretzels. If only one small, puny sheet is available, make one batch of pretzels and keep the remaining dough covered, so it does not become dry. Between batches, allow the baking sheet to cool, before filling with remaining pretzels.
  5. In a large, wide pot (6-8 quarts) add 8 cups of water, baked baking soda and malt powder. Stir to combine and bring to a full boil. Place a plate lined with paper towels nearby, as well as the kitchen spider or slotted spoon.
  6. In the meantime, dampen a kitchen towel with water and set aside. Lightly grease a clean work surface with some vegetable oil (spraying with Bakers Joy worked well too). Remove the dough from the bowl, place it on the work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Cover the pieces that you’re not rolling with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, so they don’t become dry. Using the palms of your hands, roll each piece of dough to a 24-30 inch long rope and then shape into a “U”. Grab the ends of the rope and cross them over each other once or twice and then bring the ends down to the bottom of the ‘U” and press them down to seal, forming the shape of a pretzel. Place the pretzels onto the greased parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with a damp kitchen towel to prevent the dough from drying out, while you continue to roll the remaining dough. You can also cut some of them into 1 ½” logs to make nuggets
  7. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water (egg wash). Set aside.
  8. One at a time, lower each pretzel into the boiling water mixture for about 30 seconds. I push them down underwater a few times to assure the top is treated as well. The pretzels will puff up while boiling. Using a kitchen spider or slotted spoon, carefully remove the pretzel from the water, blot slightly on paper towels and then place back onto the parchment lined greased or sprayed baking sheet a few inches apart.
  9. Using a pastry brush, brush the top and sides of each pretzel with the egg wash and then sprinkle with coarse salt.

Place the pretzel filled baking sheet on the upper oven rack and bake for about 7 minutes. Open the oven and quickly rotate the baking sheet so that the pretzels that were facing the front are now facing the rear of the oven. It may seem like a pain, but it’s quick and easy and will ensure even baking. Continue to bake for another 7 minutes or until pretzels are dark golden brown. Remove sheet from oven and place pretzels on a wire rack to cool slightly before serving. Outrageously good if served warm. Mildly spectacular if served later.

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