Finally my post for We Knead to Bake! Whew! what a month we have had with my father’s surgery and Father-in-laws abscess draining and the subsequent rise and fall of his sugar… I hope we are on a even keel now!
So my worries and miseries apart here we go….
For this month for WE KNEAD TO BAKE Aparna set us to make Crunchy/ Hard Pretzels.
I love reading Aparna’s writeup to the bakes that we make they are so very informative and detailed! Hats off! So here is what Aparna has said ,
“ 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!
Pretzels are usually brushed with an egg wash after the soda bath and this is what gives them their characteristic shine. Then they’re sprinkled lightly with coarse/ sea salt crystals before baking them. ”
Like Aparna I left out the egg wash and the sprinkled salt on my Pretzels, one set got freshly ground pepper and salt treatment. We also sprinkled brown suagr on one!!And you can do the same if you want to.
This is a good video to watch before starting on making the pretzels. It’s for making soft pretzels but the dough shaping and soda bath technique is the same.
Crunchy/ Hard Pretzels
(Adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe)
- 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 if you’re going to sprinkle salt on the pretzels while baking.
- You can knead by hand but it is easier with a machine.
- Mix and set aside the warm water, sugar and yeast in a bowl about 5-10 minutes until the yeast activates and becomes “frothy”.
- Add the active yeast, the flour and the salt in a bowl and knead until you have soft, smooth and elastic dough that is slightly sticky to touch, but pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If the 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.
- After an hour or after the dough has doubled in volume deflate the dough, so that almost all the air is removed.
- Lightly flour your work surface and knead the dough and make 36 smaller equal sized squares by cutting into six 2” wide strips both vertically and horizontally.
- 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.
- Shape it into a pretzel and place it on a greased plate or sheet. Work quickly make as many pretzels as you can bake as one batch while keeping the other bits of dough covered with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out. This will give you better pretzels.
- Place the shaped dough on the greased plate leaving about 1/2″ space between them.
- Prepare your baking tray line them with butter paper, lightly oiled. This makes them easy to remove after baking and also protects your baking tray from the soda solution.
- Meanwhile get the soda bath ready. Boil 6 cups of water in a deep pot add the baking soda carefully. It will bubble up and froth a bit and then settle down. Use your slotted spoon gently slide about 5 to 6 pretzels( as many as you can bake in one batch), 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.
- These can be baked as “sticks” instead of shaping them into pretzels or short sticks. The baking temperature is the same whether you shape them into sticks or pretzels only the time will differ.
Linking to Aparn’s We Knead to Bake.
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