Buttery, Chewy Soft Pretzels

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Fear not, bread-loving readers: I have not abandoned my resolution. Fortunately, this resolution doesn’t formally include blogging, as I certainly haven’t been keeping up with the blog part. As my schedule has gotten busier and busier, it gets harder to give this project the time it deserves. So while I maintain the weekly baking, documenting it has been tough.

One of my recent baking exploits is what I’m calling a french onion bread: a standard french bread loaded up with golden brown, sauteed onion and freshly grated parmesan cheese. I added these right into the dough when it was still a little bit wet (before all the flour is added). The rise time was a little longer than usual, but the flavor was just right: subtle, sweet onion, with salty, savory cheese throughout the loaf. I didn’t manage to get any photos, unfortunately.

Most weeks I end up baking at least two or three times: maybe just a few rounds of sourdough bread, a rustic loaf, or maybe pizza. Last night we had a tasty pepperoni and onion pizza with a spicy herb crust (including crushed red pepper, basil, oregano, and garlic). We piled on some garlic and herb cheese we bought at the South Bend Farmer’s Market last weekend. Today I’m baking a nice big loaf of french bread to accompany our roast beef dinner.

But I am still eagerly seeking out new recipes to try. Yesterday, watching some NCAA basketball, I whipped up a batch of soft, chewy pretzels slathered in butter and coarse salt. The recipe made eight medium-sized pretzels, and Amber and I made short work of them. Carbs be damned.

Like my flatbread, I started with a recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.

Soft Pretzels

adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, who originally got it from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups (10 1/2 to 13 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 cups warm water (1 cup set aside)
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • kosher or other coarse salt

Directions

Mix the flour, sugar, yeast, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1 cup of warm water. Knead for at least 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and soft. Let it rise in a lightly greased bowl, covered, for about 30-45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Line two baking sheets (or one large one) with parchment paper or coat with non-stick spray.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and divide it into eight equal pieces. Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the remaining cup of warm water and the baking soda, and place it in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Make sure the baking soda is thoroughly dissolved; if it isn’t, it will make your pretzels splotchy.

Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 28 to 30 inches long), and twist each rope into a pretzel. Dip each pretzel in the baking soda wash (this will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color), and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them lightly with your coarse or kosher salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for another 5-10 minutes.

Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. I fit them all on one large sheet, but if you’re using two baking sheets just bake one at a time.

Remove the pretzels from the oven and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave.

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