So, now that you know why we feel comfortable eating wheat (in moderation), I thought it was time to share a fun and delicious project my husband and I did on a recent rainy Saturday afternoon.
It may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but when you are craving a soft pretzel, a REALLY good soft pretzel, they’re surprisingly hard to come by. And, I think we can agree that most concession stand “pretzels” (and I use that term loosely) are an insult to good pretzels.
These don’t even come close. They are bland and not doughy enough. Plus, they are made of enriched wheat flour and corn syrup.
No, my husband and I needed the kind of pretzel we can find at our local Main Street pub. Chewy middle, slightly salty (but not too salty), brown on the outside, doughy pretzels. But the pretzels we made on that rainy Saturday were even better … because they were made with ingredients we chose.
First we got to do a little science experiment using warm water plus honey plus yeast … I know, I know, that sounds like too much fun for one day, right? And we were just getting started.
Then the rest of the ingredients went in the bowl, and we let the mixer do the hard work.
I am fairly sure that this was the first time we’ve used both 1) dry active yeast and 2) the dough hook on our mixer. But if you have made cookies and played with Play-Doh, you can do this too.
After it was in a ball, we removed it, greased the bowl with coconut oil, and put the dough back in.
We took a break to play with the kids and get dinner ready, while letting the dough rise.
When it was nice and fluffy, I divided the dough into eight parts. I rolled them out, using my best Play-Doh technique, and made a U shape, then folded the ends over to make a pretzel. I set them on oiled parchment paper before they got their bath.
One pretzel at a time went into a boiling water and (supposed to be) baking soda bath for 30 seconds.
And this is why I should call them 80/20 pretzels. We did not achieve perfection. You will not believe this, but we forgot the baking soda. Yes, that is the part that gives them their glossy, brown exterior. We both thought the other person had added it. Oops. Real life mistake. Luckily, it does not impact taste. So please learn from our mistake and ADD THE BAKING SODA. Aren’t you glad we made that DREADFUL mistake so you don’t have to?
We then brushed the pretzels with an egg wash and added a sprinkle of kosher salt.
And this is how they looked when they were done. Even though we forgot the baking soda, they look beautiful to me.
The backside even had that nice pretzely crispiness.
Oh, come on. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Are you looking for gripping entertainment on a Saturday afternoon and think pretzel making may just be the key to romance? Or maybe it’s something you prefer to do alone. Either way, you’re in luck. I will share the recipe. We modified it from my favorite food science guy, Alton Brown.
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
- Oil of choice, for pan
- 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- 2/3 cup baking soda for boiling water
- Kosher salt
- Combine the water, honey and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. 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. This took about 1 more minute for me.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl, and then oil it well with coconut 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 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
- Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan. If you forget the baking soda, like we did, it still will taste amazing, just not be glossy brown.
- 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 half sheet pan.
- Place the pretzels into the boiling water, one by one, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the kosher salt. Bake until golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes.
- Transfer to a cooling rack.
You could now dip the finished product in a little melted garlic butter … or you could do cinnamon sugar mix on top. Whatever tickles your fancy. I did a little plain butter on mine (surprise). Or, try it with some fig mustard – 2 parts fig jam to 1 part Dijon mustard. But that might just be too wild and crazy.
I’m telling you, they were delicious. Big sis loved them. The babies got a taste or two and seemed to approve. And by using half whole wheat flour and using honey instead of refined sugar, they are not the worst thing you could be eating as a football snack.
The grownups had theirs with a cold seasonal beer. **GASP** More wheat?!! You know what? Pretzels and beer = good.
All in all, this was a kitchen experiment that turned out pretty well. I am really looking forward to making them again. Maybe next time we will remember the baking soda bath. It was really hard for me not to redo the entire project just so I could show you what they were supposed to look like. But I took my own advice … they don’t have to be perfect to be really, really good. Maybe I can inspire someone to try them the completely right way. If you do … please send pics!
Finally, if you cannot tolerate wheat, these gluten free pretzels look like a potential win.
P.S. What dip or sprinkle would you add to your soft pretzel?