Another great challenge for We Knead to Bake, the baking group of Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen, created with the intent to bake a different bread every month in 2013.
I made soft Pretzel time ago, and was very satisfied, so I was more convinced to give a new try for crunchy hard ones.
Afew word by Aparna about what pretels are, but you can find more funny tales about the origin on Wikipedia:
The authentic German Pretzel, the Laugenbrezel, has a dark brown, crispy, salty crust, and inside a soft dough. It has a plump body, and thin, crispy (not dry) crossed arms. The Hard or Crunchy Pretzels are an American invention!
The story goes that one morning sometime in the late 1800s, a baker at the Munich Royal Café, was preparing some sweet pretzels for his guests. Instead of brushing them with sugar he accidentally brushed them with the sodium hydroxide solution being used to clean and disinfect the bakery countertops! Instead of binning his dough he went ahead and bake them anyway. The resulting pretzels came out of the oven with a unique brown crust, soft centre, and delicious taste.
There many stories about the shape too. A popular one is that the shape resembles a praying monk (back then the praying position was arms crossed with the hands on the shoulders).
The taste of the Pretzel comes from its dunking in the soda bath. Originally a solution of lye was used for this bath but lye is highly corrosive and needs to be handles with care. A baking soda solution works just as well, and once you’re done, pouring it down your sink will give help unclog the drain if necessary!
I followed the recipe Aparna gave us but had to make it just a little different as did not have enough all-purpose flour for it: so I went for 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 2 cups kamut flour.
Crunchy/ Hard Pretzels
(Adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe)
1 3/4 cups warm water (about 40C or 110F)
1 3/4 cups warm water (about 40C or 110F)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tsp active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (a little more if necessary)
2 tsp salt*
6 cups water
2 tbsp baking soda
egg wash (1 yolk + 2 tbsp water whisked together), optional
Pretzel salt or coarse salt crystals
*you might want to cut down on the salt a bit
Can be made by hand but it is easier with a kneader.
Put the warm ware, sugar and yeast in a bowl and mix. Keep aside for about 5 minutes or so until the yeast activates and becomes “frothy”.
Put this, the flour and the salt in the processor bowl and knead until you have a soft, smooth and elastic dough that is slightly sticky to touch, but pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If your dough feels too wet add a couple of tablespoons of flour to get the required consistency.
Shape the dough into a ball and pace it in an oiled bowl, turning it to coat it well. Cover and let it double in volume. This should take about an hour or so.
Deflate the dough, so that almost all the air is removed. Lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough out into a 12” by 12” square. Then using a pizza cutter divide the square into 36 smaller equal sized squares by cutting into six 2” wide strips both vertically and horizontally. The purpose of this exercise is to get 36 equal sized bits of dough!
Now lightly oil your palms and your work surface. If you add too much of oil you will not be able to roll out the dough into “ropes”. Flatten each square of dough and then roll it up as tightly as you can. Now place the “rolled” bit of dough on your work surface and using your hands, roll it out into a uniform “rope” of about 15” length. It will be thinner than a pencil.
You can leave them as “sticks” instead of shaping them into pretzels. If you want them shorter, you can halve them. Remember baking time will differ depending on the shape of your pretzels. The baking temperature is the same whether you shape them into sticks or pretzels.
If you would prefer to make pretzel bites then do not roll the dough out into a square. Just divide it into 4 portions and then roll each portion into a “rope that is about 1” in diameter. Cut each rope into 1 1/2" bits. Roll each ball into a long rope about 1” in diameter. Cut each rope into 1 1/2" bits. Then proceed to boil them as given in the instructions below. Bake the pretzel bites at 210C (425F) for about 15 minutes.
Shape it into a pretzel and place it on a greased plate or sheet. Working as quickly as you can, repeat with as many pieces of dough that you can bake as one batch while keeping the other bits of dough covered with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out. It is better to work in batches to get better results. Place the shaped dough on the greased plate/ sheet leaving about 1/2" space between them.
First prepare your baking sheets. It is a good idea to line them with parchment paper which is lightly brushed with oil. This makes them easy to remove after baking and also protects your baking sheets from the soda solution.
Now prepare the soda bath. Bring 6 cups of water to boil in a deep pan/ pot. Add the baking soda carefully. It will bubble up and froth a bit and then settle down. Using a slotted spoon or a spatula, gently slide about 5 to 6 pretzels, one at a time, into the bath. Let them cook on one side for 10 seconds. Flip them over and cook them for another 10 seconds. Do not cook them for more than 30 seconds in total, or your dough will become slimy.
Remove the boiled pretzels with a slotted spoon and place them on the parchment lined baking sheets. If using the egg wash, brush it over the pretzels, and then sprinkle it with the salt.
Bake them at 180C (335F) for 40 to 50 minutes until they’re deep golden brown in colour and hard. Cool them on a rack and store them in airtight containers or they will become soft and chewy.
This recipe makes 36 hard pretzels.
This recipe also goes to Susan's weekly YeastSpotting