I loohuhuhve soft pretzels. Remember that episode of The Office? If my employer offered a Pretzel Day, they would have my undying love and affection. (For that day, at least.) But, alas, no such luck. If I want a hot, chewy soft pretzel, I either have to brave the malls and their nascar driver parking lots (yeeeuck) or make my own.
Last year I was on a stuffed pretzel kick. (Cinnamon sugar coated pretzels stuffed with cream cheese, for example. Or just salted with asiago cheese oozing from the center … ridiculously good, but a pain-in-the-neck to make). This year, I’m back to appreciating the ease and simplicity of the plain ole salted pretzel that can be dipped into so many different things. Or just eaten plain and steamy warm, with those delicious grains of salt falling on my tongue as I chew.
The recipe below comes from Martha Stewart’s web site, but I’m giving credit to Smitten Kitchen because its proprietor demonstrated to me the irresistable adorableness of the miniature version. I’m serving these at all of my parties this holiday season.
(They didn’t brown evenly, as you can see in the pictures, but that’s an issue with my oven, not the recipe … although, to be sure, you might want to increase the amount of baking soda from 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup.)
|Miniature Soft Pretzels|
Makes 16 full-sized or 32 miniature*
|2||cups||warm water (100°F to 110°F)|
|1||packet||active dry yeast|
|5 to 6||cups||all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting|
|2||tablespoons||baking soda (Note: this seems awfully skimpy for such a large batch to be poached. I’d go with a 1/4 cup.)|
|Coarse or pretzel salt|
|Vegetable-oil cooking spray|
Pour warm water into bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. In a small bowl, combine water and sugar, and stir to dissolve sugar. Sprinkle with yeast, and let sit 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy.
Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and mix on low until combined. Add salt and 4 cups flour, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat on medium-low until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup flour, and knead on low 1 minute more. If dough is still wet and sticky, add 1/2 cup more flour (this will depend on weather conditions); knead until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a lightly floured board, and knead about ten times, or until smooth.
Pour oil into a large bowl; swirl to coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.
Heat oven to 450°F. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray (parchment paper, ungreased, also works). Set aside. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, divide into 16 pieces (about 2 1/2 ounces each) or 32 if making miniature pretzels, and wrap in plastic. (Note: I use a silicone mat for rolling out dough these days. For this particular dough, I needed absolutely no flour on the rolling surface.)
Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip. Twist into pretzel shape; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels; eight will fit on each sheet (you may need a third sheet if making miniatures). Let pretzels rest until they rise slightly, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill large, shallow pot with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Add baking soda**. Reduce to a simmer; transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute, turning each pretzel over halfway through. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached.
Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze***. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, or eat warm. Pretzels are best when eaten the same day, but will keep at room temperature, uncovered, for two days. Do not store in covered container or they will become soggy.
* Since I was only testing my miniaturization technique and didn’t need 32 to do so, I halved this recipe. Keep the yeast amount the same; halve everything else.
** If you’re going the 1/4 cup route, add the baking soda just a few shakes of the measuring cup a time; otherwise, your water will suddenly boil up and over the edge of the pot. Trust me on this one. (See the photo above – all those bubbles were the result of just a tiny shower of baking soda.)
*** To be perfectly honest here, I used only egg white, not the entire egg, as I’ve never used a pretzel glaze consisting of yolk and all (did you notice the yolk still in its shell in the photo above?). It’s interesting, though, and I might try it sometime.