Saturday, September 11, 2010
Twisted and loopy
I love soft, flavourful breads. All breads are flavourful, you may argue. Well, most home-made breads are indeed flavourful but I find that store-bought breads are mostly pretty bland and have no character (I am talking about the loafs that are pre-packed and have a 2-week shelf life!). Since I successfully baked my first loaf about seven months ago, I think I've eaten store-bought bread less than five times. Why buy when you can bake, right? Sure, baking takes time (unless you have a bread machine -- but where's the fun in that?). Also, baking my own bread means I can add any herb/nut/grain/seasoning I like depending on my mood. Now that's really swell especially since I love herb buns and they're not that easily available in stores.
So, anyway. I was in the mood for some bread making and was mentally going through a list of breads I could possibly make. What about Pretzels? I've never made them before even though I've read quite a few recipes and articles about making a good pretzel. Why not? I was feeling relaxed (a four-day weekend would get anyone to relax, right) and adventurous. So, why not?
Usually whenever I get a craving for pretzels (not very often, thankfully) I head over to Auntie Anne's Pretzels for a sour-cream and onion or cinnamon flavoured knot. I like em. So the question is, could I make mine as nice?
I used a recipe I had earlier bookmarked from thefreshloaf.com, a great resource of you like making bread. I intended to make the Laugenbrezel or the Lye Pretzel -- a basic pretzel that is first dipped in boiling water+ a drop of Lye and then baked. The recipe on thefreshloaf however skips the lye bath, deeming it unnecessary for homemade pretzels. Ok, great. Am all for skipping a lye bath for it kind of reminds me of a tic bath I have to administer on my dog, Mojo, from time to time. Urrgh.
As it turned out, my pretzels weren't as pretty as auntie anne's but they were really tasty. Especially the ones with grated cheese topping. Not bad (pat on back, pat on back) :)
Home made pretzels
Makes 6 large pretzels
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp brown sugar
2-3 cups bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm milk (approximately 110 degrees)
1 egg (for egg wash)
1 saucepan boiling water
Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of your electric mixer and mix until the dough forms a ball. Use 2 cups of flour first and add more, if necessary. I used a little less than 21/2 cups. Mix it for about five mins on low speed (speed 2 on my Kenwood) and then anpther 5-7 mins on 4 until the dough is all smooth and shiny.
Remove the dough and form into a ball. Place in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise till double the size, about an hour.
Degas the dough gently and then transfer onto a work surface.
Preheat your oven to 220C.
Cut the dough into 6 pieces. Roll each one into a short log, cover with a towel and let the dough relax for 5 to 10 minutes. This makes it easier to roll it out and stretch it.
Roll each log into long ropes about as thick as your index finger, 15cm in length. You may have to let it rest as you roll/shape them.
To shape the pretzel, form the dough into a"U". Cross the ends and cross them again. They fold the crossed ends downwards. Confused? Check out THIS site for guidance.
Once all 6 have been shaped, bring a saucepan of water to boil.
Now, using either two metal spatulas or a big wire strainer (the kind you use to deep fry stuff) dip each pretzel in the boiling water (one by one) for about 10 seconds. Drain and place on a baking sheet.
Brush each one with egg wash and sprinkle with salt and any topping of your choice: poppy seed, sesame seeds, nuts, onion powder, grated parmesan, etc.
Bake for about 15 mins or till nice and golden.
Eat it while its hot!