Sunday, April 24, 2011

Give Us This Day...Holey Bread

Tiny bunny ornaments on a white feathered tree.  Lots of pink eggs and a trio of yellow chicks on my windowsill.  Jelly beans, peeps and Peter Cottontail.  I am very aware that there is another whole story to Easter.  But ours was still really good.

Our treat on Saturday afternoon was soft pretzels.  Hot and twinged with that classic baking soda metallic taste right out of my own oven.  A tiny bowl of mustard on the side.  Stirring up memories of standing on a street corner in New York City as a little girl eating them hot out of a folded piece of paper.  You may not be aware of the fact that there is another whole story to pretzels.  The Italian monk, the Catholic tradition of abstaining from eggs and butter during Lent making this simple flour and water recipe the perfect treat, the crossed loop of the dough resembling prayerful hands.  Really fun stuff to know about a simple treat.  Even if you leave that part out, they're still really good.

Soft Pretzels
This is a fast and easy treat.  You can go from a pile of ingredients, to 6 hot pretzels, to a full belly in under 1 hour.

5 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1/2 cup baking soda
water for boiling
coarse salt

1.  In a large bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and warm water.  Let it sit until it gets foamy.  Then add the salt and flour, stirring well to make a soft dough.  Add additional flour a tablespoon at a time until the dough stops sticking to the sides of the bowl, then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 minutes until the dough gets smooth and elastic.  Add more flour, a handful at a time, to keep it from sticking to you and your surface.

2.  In the largest skillet you own, dissolve the baking soda in 4 cups of water.  (You need the water in your skillet to be about an inch deep.  If you use a huge skillet, or a smaller one, you may need to adjust the amount of water you use.  The ratio of baking soda to water is 1/4 cup for every 2 cups of water.)  Heat the mixture slowly until simmering.  Don't let it boil wildly out of won't mess up the pretzels but you'll be stressed out by the hot water and might end up splashing yourself unnecessarily.

3.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Divide your dough ball into 6 equal sections and roll each piece into a rope about 16 inches long or about 1 inch thick.  Twist into a pretzel shape and let each formed pretzel sit out on your counter for about 5 minutes.  Using a large spatula or slotted spoon, submerge each pretzel in the simmering water for 30 seconds.  Remove and place on a WELL greased baking sheet that has been sprinkled with coarse salt.  While the pretzel is still wet, sprinkle additional salt on top.

4.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  Eat immediately.  The salt on top of these gets wet and makes the bread soggy if you try to store them in an airtight container.  If you have any leftover it is best to leave them open to the air even though this causes them to get a bit hard.  We always just make enough to eat right away...that's how they are best!

1 comment:

  1. Mmmmmmmmmm.
    My bet is that yours beat Auntie Anne's at the mall.
    This could count as dinner, right?