Saturday, July 27, 2013

Love Knots | Soft Hot Buttered Pretzels

If you had to choose between an Alton Brown recipe and a King Arthur Flour recipe for soft pretzels, what would you do?

Tough choice.After all, Alton Brown is almost as exhaustive as Christopher Kimball when it comes to figuring out the very best way to make something.

On the other hand, when you're baking, what better authority than the royalty of  King Arthur Flour?

Although nearly a toss-up, in the end I chose the King Arthur Flour recipe because it seemed just a tad simpler and, since this was to be a  lesson with my little 8 year old cooking student, simpler was the way to go.

With school out for the summer, Wyatt and I had plans to make "bread" things since we had more time than during the school year.

We started with a quick bread.  Then moved on to sweet rolls. But to make things interesting (and educational) we conducted our own little experiment.

We made a "quick sweet roll," a recipe that used just baking powder instead of yeast. His job was to take both versions homes and test them out. I was surprised that the "quick" sweet roll -- an America's Test Kitchen recipe --  beat out the traditional yeast rolls. (And I forgot to get pictures before Wyatt took them all home!)

So we moved on to these pretzels -- if I knew that they were this easy -- and fun -- to make, I would have made them a long time ago.

With this success under our belt, we may move on to regular, real bread!

Soft Hot Buttered Pretzels
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
7/8 to 1 cup warm water*
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons baking soda
coarse, kosher or pretzel salt, optional
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
*Note from KAF Bakers: Use the greater amount in the winter, the lesser amount in the summer, and somewhere in between in the spring and fall. Your goal is a soft dough.

  • To make dough by hand, or with a mixer: Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat until well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, until it's soft, smooth, and quite slack. Flour the dough and place it in a bag, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
  • While the dough is resting, prepare the topping: Combine the boiling water and baking soda, stirring until the soda is totally (or almost totally) dissolved. Set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm (or cooler).
  • Preheat your oven to 475°F. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with vegetable oil spray, or lining it with parchment paper.
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces (about 70g, or 2 1/2 ounces, each).
  • Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Pour the baking soda/water into a inch square pan.
  • 8) Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 28" to 30" long), and twist each rope into a pretzel. Working with 4 pretzels at a time, place them in the pan with the baking soda/water, spooning the water over their tops; leave them in the water for 2 minutes before placing them on the baking sheet. This baking soda "bath" will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color.
  • Transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt, if desired. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes. (We sprinkled half of our pretzels with cinnamon sugar, half with salt. Sugar for Wyatt, salt for me.)
  • Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they're golden brown.
  • Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you've used it all up; it may seem like a lot, but that's what gives these pretzels their ethereal taste. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave.
Makes 8 large pretzels.