Pretzels are one of my all time favourite snacks. When a pretzel stand opened at my local shopping centre (Garden City, Booragoon for those of you playing along at home) back in 2005/6, I was so excited I think I had one a week for about 4 months. So soft, so salty, so covered in various toppings and with a myriad of dipping sauces.
S-J shares a similar love of the baked good and so we decided to get down to the business of pretzel making. This recipe was super forgiving to our extended periods between getting things done. I made the dough base at my house then pootled about getting ready for way longer than the suggested rising time, before jumping in the car and taking the bowl of expanded dough over to S-J’s house for rolling, boiling and baking. We managed to get all of that done (and baked up the dipping sauce) while her small son napped.
If that doesn’t tell you this is a recipe for you, I don’t know what will.
Slightly adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt (I’m a gentile so there’s not a lot of kosher in my house, SAXA table salt worked just fine for me but is in no way authentic, but then neither is a fat Irish/Australian girl making pretzels)
1 package active dry yeast
2/3 cup baking soda
Shaping and pre-baking
Get your oven VERY HOT, preheat to 230 C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil (or do the oily paper towel trick again). Set aside.
Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an medium saucepan (S-J was in charge of this and a good tip from her is to add the baking soda while the water is cool). You want to make sure that there is a good 3-4 inches of space above the boiling water to allow for the fizz that happens when you add the pretzel in.
While the water is coming up to the boil, turn the dough out onto a slightly bench that you have also giving the oiling up treatment to, cut/pull the dough into 8 – 10 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 40 – 50 cm 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.” Those are Alton’s instructions, I say go watch a YouTube clip about pretzel shaping, or, get S-J to do it for you because she is a pro!
Once you’ve twisted it into shape, lay on the prepared baking trays. Push down on any joins that look like they are coming loose. If there are two of you, you can start a production line of roll, shape, tray, boil, tray, repeat. If not, shape all and then go on the next step.
Gently drop the pretzels into the boiling water, one at a time, for 30 seconds. Get them out of the water using a large flat spatula (these suckers are SLIPPERY, do not burn yourself on boiling baking soda water). Try to let the water drip off a little before you put them back on the baking tray.
Ready to bake
Brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt (or stick little bits of salami on, then sprinkle with cheese and herbs).
Put your trays in the oven for 8 minutes, quickly rotate trays and continue cooking for 5 – 8 minutes longer. You want them to be dark golden brown but not burnt. Let the pretzels cool on a rack for about 5 minutes, or until you won’t burn your mouth off.