What else is the weekend for if not hanging out with friends and drinking a couple of beers? And, what goes better with beer than pretzels?
This is exactly what happened yesterday. It was a planned, semi-thought out gathering of friends. We had gone to the beer/wine/liquor store near us to pick up some drinks for a different occasion a few weeks ago, and knew that we needed to go back and try some others that were recommended to us. There were so many different types of beer that we wanted to try, we decided to make an event out of it. Since we knew that we wanted to have a beer tasting, making pretzels to go with it was a no-brainer.
So let’s get started!
Gather all of your ingredients. Cook’s tip: mix the yeast and water together first to be sure that the yeast you are working with is still active. We had some old yeast that was not foaming up in the proper amount of time (it should only take about 5 minutes) so we bought some new yeast. This was truly a test of “best of” dates on packaging since the old yeast we had said that it was good ’til August of this year.
After gathering ingredients it is time to mix the dough. Once the ingredients are mixed and all incorporated together, the dough will look shaggy and will be a little sticky. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. The way that we made sure that we were not adding too much more flour than what the recipe called for, we mixed the dough using the minimum amount of flour, 3-3/4 cups, and saved the last 1/4 cup for kneading into the dough as needed. We used that last 1/4 cup flour to dust the counter and on top of the dough instead of mixing it all in from the very beginning.
The dough will become less sticky and more smooth as you knead it on the counter. Once it is completely smooth, about 8-10 minutes of kneading, return it to the bowl and let rest, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm spot for 45 minutes. The kitchen we were in was cold, so we had preheated the oven while gathering and mixing the ingredients and then turned it off and put the bowl in the off oven. After this resting time, the dough should have bulked to twice the size and should be soft to the touch. The dough is now ready for shaping.
To shape the pretzels, divide dough into 8 equal pieces. One at a time, roll dough piece into a rope about 22-24 inches long. Make a U-shape with the dough by bringing the two ends up but not touching each other. Cross the ends of the rope near the top (about an inch away from the top). Twist the ends once and then pull down, connecting the ends of the rope to the bottom of the U-shape. This can also be done by twisting the dough in mid-air, but that is definitely the more tricky way. You might also want to make pretzel bites, which is really easy; all you have to do is cut rope of dough into 8 equal parts. We did this since we were sharing with a large group of people and each recipe only makes 8 large pretzels.
I watched this video to help me figure out how to do this: http://www.saveur.com/article/Video/Video-How-To-Twist-Pretzels
Once the pretzels are shaped, place them on an oiled baking sheet and let rest for another 20 minutes. While the pretzels are resting, preheat your oven to 425 degrees and start heating the water and baking soda. Bring the water and baking soda up to a boil. Once pretzels have rested and water is boiling, boil the pretzels, about 3 at a time, until set, about 3 minutes. You might want to turn the pretzels half way through; we used chopsticks to do this. If you don’t have chopsticks, tongs work just as well. This is what gives the pretzels their typical crust and chewy inside, just like a bagel. Place boiled pretzels on sheet pan lined with oiled parchment paper. This is important: pretzels WILL stick to baking sheet if not placed on parchment. (Trust me, as we learned this the hard way) Brush boiled pretzels with egg wash (or leave off for vegan pretzels) and add salt (or other toppings) as desired. Other topping ideas would include (but is not limited to): sesame seeds, shredded cheese, or poppy seeds.
Place baking sheet with topped pretzels in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool and enjoy! I’m sure you already know this, but pretzels are good with mustard, or hummus, or plain and just a little warm. And, of course, I recommend beer as a wonderful thing to drink with them!
Sorry for my lack of pictures with this recipe; I am out of practice of taking pictures of the major steps of recipe, because, as you may have noticed, I have not posted a recipe on here in a LONG time.
Recipe adapted slightly from Joy the Baker:
1 tablespoon sugar
1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1-1/2 cups lukewarm water
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pretzel salt or other toppings
1 heaping Tablespoon baking soda (add it to the boiling water just before throwing in the pretzel dough!)
Stir together sugar, yeast, and 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (105 to 110°F) in a glass measuring cup, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
Whisk together 3 1/2 cups flour and 1 tablespoon table salt in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough. Dust work surface with 1 tablespoon flour, then turn out dough and knead, gradually dusting with just enough additional flour to make a smooth sticky dough, about 8 minutes. (Dough needs to be somewhat sticky to facilitate rolling and forming into pretzels).
Return dough to bowl and cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Turn out dough onto a clean work surface and cut into 8 equal pieces. Using your palms, roll 1 piece back and forth on a clean dry work surface into a rope about 24 inches long. If dough sticks to your hands, lightly dust them with flour. Twist dough into a pretzel shape. (Dough will retract as you form the pretzel.)
Transfer pretzel with your hands to an oiled baking sheet and form 7 more pretzels in same manner with remaining dough, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart.
Let pretzels stand, uncovered, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Bring a wide 6-quart pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add heaping tablespoon of baking soda.
Using both hands, carefully add 3 pretzels, 1 at a time, to boiling water and cook, turning over once with tongs, until pretzels are puffed and shape is set, about 3 minutes. Transfer parboiled pretzels to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining 5 pretzels in 2 batches.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper and oil paper, then arrange pretzels on sheet. Brush pretzels lightly with some of egg and sprinkle with pretzel salt. Bake until golden brown and lightly crusted, about 35 minutes. Cool 15 minutes, then serve warm.