pretzels

Pretzels

As early as 610AD at a monastery in Southern France or Northern Italy, monks used scraps of dough and formed them into strips to represent a child’s arms folded in prayer. The monks offered the warm, doughy bread to children as a bribe if they memorized their Bible verses and prayers. They called it a Pretiola, Latin for little reward. The Pretiola then made its way into Germany where it became known as the Bretzel or Pretzel. Today they are a typical street food in the U.S.

1 ½ cups warm water (110 to 115° F)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
22 ounces flour (about 4 ½ cups)
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
vegetable oil, for pan

10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
sea salt for sprinkling

Combine the water, sugar and 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, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable 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° F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan.

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. (If you’re making rolls, roll into approximately 5×3-inch sections.)

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large spatula or spider and return them to the sheet pan. Brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 14 minutes, giving the pans a spin half way through. Let cool at least 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 pretzels
(Perfect recipe by Alton Brown)

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