Sunday, February 16, 2014

Soft Pretzels

I haven't had one of these pretzel in years. Probably a decade. But they are kinda special to me because when my friends and I turned 15, a group of us raided the local mall handing out our resumes like Halloween candy, and one of my friends and I ended up getting our very first jobs at Pretzelmaker. I had to google to find out that there aren't many left here in BC anymore, and their menu now has changed to include all these other funky items. Pretzelmaker back then was simply like the pretzels at a concession stand at the arena. Very simple, oversized soft pretzels. You can get them with plain salt and butter, or, my favorites used to be either parmesean or cinnamon sugar. I could almost smell the butter thinking back. And I literally would smell like butter everytime after work. I was also a spectacle for those walking by our store in the mall. People would stand on the other side of the window watching me roll out the dough into a rope, and twirl it in the air (like I was taught on the job) to twist the dough into a pretzel. It became a couple years of fun and learning the value of working 'hard' for a dollar, and also teenage drama with my friend and I crushing on highschool boys we used to work with. Oh, the teenage years.

So, because I wanted to play with the dough hook attachment to my kitchenaid again, I was looking up bread-y recipes and found this one. And what is better than being able to experiment in the kitchen as well as re-living some of the memories of my carefree teenage years?

Even though when working the dough, it seemed to be a little more tough and elastic than what I remembered it to be, the end result was just the same. Almost two decades later, I still remember how to twirl that dough. Of course, simply twisting it into its shape isn't hard and just the same, but twirling them in the air like I used to know is just more fun. We didn't have a baking soda soak at Pretzelmaker, but this recipe called for one... and it helped with giving the pretzels a golden brown. The pretzels were ever so lightly sweet, and perfectly chewy and bread-y. Just how I remembered it. I even remember the 8-to-1 sugar vs. cinnamon ratio for the cinnamon sugar coating. I did one up with cinnamon just for old times sake, but I much prefer the simple salt and butter now. 

This recipe was adapted from with some of my own changes : 

Makes 12 (but I halved the recipe and made four in hopes to have even larger pretzels)

4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tsp white sugar
1 1/4 cup warm water (110 F/45 C)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
salt, for topping

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in 1 1/4 cup warm water. Stir and let it stand till bubbling has stopped. About 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl attaching to stand mixer, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the oil and yeast mixture. Mix and form into a dough using dough hook. If the mixture is dry, add one or two more tablespoons of water. Knead the dough until smooth, about 5 minutes. (If kneading by hand, 7 to 8 minutes). Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (Put in an oven, without turning it on, but turn on light).
  3. Preheat oven to 415 degrees F. Grease baking sheets.
  4. In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in 4 cups hot water; set aside. When risen, turn dough out and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Once all of the dough is shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda-hot water solution and place pretzels on baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt.
  5. Bake in preheated oven until browned, about 8 minutes.

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