I’ve been eating a lot of white carbs lately. I just finished baking up a batch of Italian bread which I’m already 1/4 of the way through eating. I also may have devoured the equivalent of 8 servings of bread at my Nonna’s this evening.
It’s this sugar free Lent business. I’m craving sugar in all its forms. I can’t even tell you how many dates I’ve eaten since Ash Wednesday.
Or maybe it’s not Lent at all. A few weeks before Lent began I had been itching for some pretzels. I had one when I was in Orlando and had been craving it since.
The Key to Killer Pretzels:
I had made pretzels before, but this recipe from Good Eats is by far the best one that I’ve tried. It had the perfect colour, flavour, and texture.
The key to making soft pretzels with a chewy interior and a crispy, deep brown crust is an alkaline bath.
By putting the pretzels in a boiling solution with a ratio of 15 parts water : 1 part baking soda, the starches on the outside of the pretzel will gelatinize and break proteins in the dough down into smaller chains that will be able to create that deep brown colour once they are baked without overcooking the interior of the pretzel.
To get an even deeper brown colour, brush an egg yolk onto the pretzels before baking.
Side Note: In the episode, Alton Brown mentions that he uses this alkaline bath for making bagels. But, please don’t. Bagels are much better when they have a bit of sweetness to them. For a sweet chewy bagel then you want to use a sugar-water bath instead (like in this recipe)
Homemade Soft Pretzels
from Good Eats
Makes 8 large pretzels (ie. not nearly enough)
1-1/2 c warm water
1 T sugar
2 t salt
2-1/4 t instant yeast
22 oz all-purpose flour, (4-1/2 c)
2 oz butter, melted
10 c water
2/3 c baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 T water
Combine the water, sugar, and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. (If not using instant yeast, allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam)
Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with pan spray.
Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined sheet pan.
Place the pretzels into the boiling water two at a time, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt (I didn’t have pretzel salt or coarse salt so sprinkled lightly with sea salt, but for the most part they were nude)
Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack.