Saturday, January 26, 2008

Pretzels, Pretzels

Well, after a tutoring job this morning, I was looking forward to coming home to bake some brioche as I've eaten the last of the rolls I bought in England. Alas, I could not find a recipe online that had the ingredients listed on the Tesco bag and I've decided to wait until a day when I have a bit more courage and time, maybe during February vacation in a couple of weeks.

In my quest to find inspiration for a baking challenge today, I came across the Daring Baker's Blogroll and saw that they were first started by a pretzel competition. I love the big, soft pretzels and try to get them whenever I'm in a mall with an Auntie Anne's or other pretzel shop. Since none of the malls closest to me seem to have an Auntie Anne's, I vowed to learn to make my own and I felt like today was the day!

I tried to find a pretzel recipe that was easy to follow, being the pretzel-making virgin that I am, and came across this recipe on Recipezaar.

Before I started the pretzel dough, I got started on the pizza sauce since I love to dip my pretzels in that. I've found that the quick sauce recipes I've tried just don't have much flavour and that they taste better the next time I use it, so I wanted to give the sauce as much time as possible.

I didn't have any bread flour, so I just used regular all-purpose flour for my pretzels. My dough still looked pretty floury when mixed, but the recipe said not to mix it too much, so I just tried to trust the recipe.

While the dough was rising, I preheated the oven and added some extra tomato paste and Italian Seasoning to the sauce since it didn't have a lot of flavour. I also prepped the baking soda and water mixture. I always read all of the reviews on Recipezaar before I try a recipe because there tend to be helpful tips and a few people said they halved the water mixture or thought there was too much. I didn't find that to be the case. I have plenty left over, but I felt I needed that much water and baking soda to easily dip the pretzel.

I saw that the nutrition facts on Recipezaar said a serving size is 70g, so I took out my scale and measured each wad of dough as close to 70g as possible. I then tried rolling the dough into ropes. That wasn't very easy. In my mind, rolling meant that the dough had to roll completely over since the ropes are round. I found that the key to rolling them easily was to just rock the dough and not completely roll it. By rocking it, I got that round, rope shape and didn't break or squish the dough.

I put them in the oven and found that portions of the parchment paper seemed to burn. I was worried at first that 500F was too high, but then realized it was water spots from the dipping mixture. My fears over the parchment paper made me take the pretzels out of the oven a little earlier than I probably should have, but they looked done and I thought it had been 4 minutes. As I was dipping them in the butter, I realized they were a bit sticky and soft still, but I didn't think I could put the back in the oven at that point. I didn't have any large pretzel salt, but I did just use some regular coarse salt and that seemed to work just fine.

Even slightly undercooked, these pretzels were so good that I ended up eating all five! My boyfriend was still at work, so couldn't help me and they are best when hot. I have a lot of dough left over, but I'll save that for dessert tonight and will just leave them in the oven a bit longer this time, when the whole pretzel is golden brown instead of just portions.

This was so easy once I got the hang of the rolling that I will definitely plan to make these again!

Updated to add that the second batch turned out better than the first. I cooked the remaining six pretzels at 475°F just in case the oven had been too hot. They turned out perfect and my boyfriend enjoyed them as well.


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