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June 6, 2012
Pretzels

After a long, long, long break, hopefully I’m finally back!

And to celebrate the return, the first recipe is something really close to my heart.  I love working with all kinds of food, but baking, and especially yeast doughs are my absolute favorite.  And why the title?  Because the best thing to do with yeast is pretzels!

This recipe for salty, buttery bread pretzels can even be prepared in a breadmaking machine:  just use the dough function to prepare the dough, then shape it by hand and bake it all the same.

First, in a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1-1/2 teaspoon instant dry yeast.  This amount of yeast is somewhat less than an envelope, which is normally about 2-1/4 teaspoons.  In the meantime, preheat your oven to as low as possible – 100 degrees or even less.  Once the oven reaches the temperature, turn it off.

Ingredients

All the ingredients – note that you may not need the whole cup of water!

Prepare about a cup of lukewarm water as well – however, you will probably need less.  Add about 1/2 cup at first, and keep adding more water until a soft, moist, but kneadable dough forms: it took about 3/4 cup for me.  Once the dough has gathered itself, turn it out to a floured bread board, and knead it until completely smooth.

Pre-kneading

Before kneading

Once smooth, put it back in the bowl, cover it with a towel, and put the bowl in the prepared oven.  This way, the warm, dark, and draft-free environment will help the yeast activate and do its work, and the dough will rise faster and easier.

Smooth

Smooth!

Once it doubles in bulk – in about 30-35 minutes – turn it out once again, and very gently knead it to press out some of the air – actually, CO2 – generated by the yeast, then put the dough ball back in the bowl for another rise.

Rising

First rise

The second rise is usually faster, as the yeast is already active and “at work” – closer to 20 minutes.  After the dough is ready, take it out of the oven, and start preheating to 450 degrees.  Gently pat the dough down as you turn it out, then cut it in 16 pieces.  Just keep halving each piece to make sure the sizes are about equal.   Roll each piece out into a long, thin rope, then shape a pretzel out of it.

Cutting

Chunks of dough

Shaping a pretzel

Roll the dough to a rope; cross over the ends, then twist them once again before securing to the bottom of the pretzel

Place the pretzels on an ungreased cookie sheet, then cover them generously in egg wash.  The pretzels bake ready in about 10-12 minutes.  While they are still hot, brush each pretzel with softened butter, then sprinkle lightly with coarse Kosher or sea salt.

Cookie sheet

Egg washed

Buttering

Butter ’em up

Pretzels

Salty, buttery pretzels

Enjoy your meal!

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