Buttery Soft Pretzels
Yesterday it was summer. Today it's mid-November. WHAT IS GOING ON??
Well, as much as I can't believe that I am living in the month/season that it currently is, I believe the weather. And the weather is quite chilly. People are saying "brrrr" as they step outside and dreaming of pumpkin spice lattes and hot cocoa as they bury their faces into their chunky scarves and jackets.
And all of this tells me that it's time to start making some warm, comforting foods. The weather speaks, and I listen.
But the weather was very specific this time around. The weather didn't just hint at any warm, comforting provision. Nope, the weather explicitly wanted something fluffy and doughy and warm and buttery. It wanted bread. Fresh homemade bread. With crunchy salt on top. In a pretzel shape. Yes, the weather requested homemade buttery soft pretzels. Really, the wind whispered it as it passed by the other day. So I obliged. And made fresh, homemade, buttery, soft, hot pretzels with crunchy salt on top.
Like I said, the weather speaks, and I listen.
After I made the soft pretzels and finished photographing them for the blog, I placed them on the kitchen table and walked away for a few minutes. When I returned, all the pretzels, except for half of one, were gone. And I was pleased. Because firstly, there was still half a pretzel left for me. Secondly, it was all the proof I needed that the pretzels were gooooood. And thirdly, nobody thought of spreading any substance or matter on the soft pretzels before he/she scarfed it down. Because the pretzels are amazing on their own and don't need any enhancements.
Now, I'm not saying that a pretzel dipped in cheese sauce or mustard or pesto or some good ole melted cheese would harm anybody. I'm just saying that these condiments are not absolutely required here.
Because these pretzels are so soft and fluffy. And buttery. And warm, if you serve them right out of the oven. Or toaster. Or microwave. And better than any frozen or mall versions. And please make them. Make them your next Sunday activity. It'll be the most perfect Sunday activity. These buttery soft pretzels are definitely worth the effort.
The pretzels you see here were my first attempt at making homemade soft pretzels. I've always been hesitant to attempt these because I had no idea how to shape the dough and boil the pretzels to attain those lovely ridges and indents seen all over the pretzels. I was afraid that after all the work I'd put into making them, the pretzels still wouldn't bear any sort of resemblance to the soft pretzels seen in the mall, on the street corners of New York, and from the box in my freezer.
Well, I was pleasantly surprised. Not just at the final outcome. Not just at how beautiful the pretzels turned out or at how good they tasted but at the relative simplicity of the process. The dough is easy enough. And once you make it and allow it to rise, there are only 2 extra steps involved. First, you have to shape the pretzels, which is done by rolling out a piece of dough into a long strand and then making a preztel shape (explained below). And after the pretzels are shaped, you drop them into a bath of boiling water and baking soda for 40 seconds before baking them in the oven. And that's it.
Whoops, I forgot two very important parts - sprinkling the coarse salt on top of the pretzels before baking them and brushing them with melted butter as soon as they're out of the oven. Cuz without these additions, we can't really call them buttery soft pretzels, can we?
Mmmmm... I want one RIGHT NOW. But of course, they're all gone. We already went over this.
Warm and comforting? Check. Soft and fluffy? Check. Buttery, just a tiny hint of sweetness, and slightly salty? Check.
I think we're good here.
Buttery Soft Pretzels
Adapted from Alton Brown
Yield: 8 large pretzels
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 package instant dry yeast
1/2 stick butter, melted
4 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
10 cups water, for boiling
2/3 cup baking soda, for boiling
-1 egg, for brushing
-Coarse salt, for sprinkling
Optional: Melted butter (about 1/4 stick), for brushing
Place warm water and sugar in bowl of machine mixer fitted with a dough hook. Sprinkle yeast on top. Let sit and foam for 10 minutes.
Add in melted butter, flour, and salt and mix on low-medium speed for a few minutes until dough is smooth and releases from sides of bowl.
Gather dough into ball, place into an oiled bowl, and cover and let rise in a warm spot for an hour, or until doubled in size.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 450 F.
Place the 10 cups water and the baking soda in a large pot and bring to a boil.
While water is heating, shape pretzels. On an oiled surface, divide dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long, thinnish log (around 30 inches long). Shape the log into a 'U,' then cross the two ends of the rope over each other, twist once, and press onto the bottom of the 'U', forming pretzel shape.
When water reaches rolling boil, drop shaped pretzels in, one at a time, for 40 seconds. Remove pretzel from water with slotted spatula and place onto prepared baking sheet.
Brush each pretzel with beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until more brown than golden (for that dark pretzel color).
If using, brush each pretzel with melted butter, then serve.
On a completely unrelated note, or perhaps my eyelashes: