Saturday, May 28, 2011

Soft Pretzel Recipe

Anyone who has been to a hockey game with me knows that I have an obsession with soft pretzels.  They are among my favorite foods and hockey is just not the same without them; however, this is not the only time that I like to enjoy a bit f pretzelly goodness.  As far as I'm concerned, waking up in the morning is a good excuse to enjoy a pretzel.

When I was a kid, The Altoona Mirror printed a fantastic soft pretzel recipe.  It was the perfect combination of sweet and salty.  They were pliable but still had enough bite.  Unfortunately, this prized recipe was lost and my family has been without this recipe for nearly fifteen years.

One day, while living in Pittsburgh, and doing yet another futile archive search for this recipe, I gave up the ghost and decided to recreate the recipe on my own.

I began with a basic internet and recipe book search.  I remembered that the recipe was fairly simple, so I eliminated any recipe with more than a handful of ingredients.  I donned my science goggles and set to experimenting.  After careful combination of the recipes, this is what I came up with.

Lisa's Basic Pretzel Recipe
3/4 Cup Warm Water
1/2 Tbsp Active Dry Yeast
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 1/2 Cup Bread Flour

Boiling Solution (This is for use later)
7 cups Water
1/3 cup Baking Soda

Mix water and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Sprinkle yeast on top and allow it to rest until it becomes "foamy" (depending on the ambient temperature this takes about 8-15 minutes).

Slowly add the flour and mix well.  As the dough gets more difficult to mix, you can begin to knead the dough on the countertop while continuing to add more flour.  Keep adding flour until the dough loses its stickiness and takes on a pliable but non-gooey texture.  In the past, I have had to add as much as 1/2 cup of extra flour to get the right consistency.  The recipe is very forgiving.  Don't panic about accidentally adding too much flour.  Just keep adding the flour slowly and you'll get a feel for it.

Allow the dough to rise in a large bowl which has been sprayed with cooking spray and covered with a dish towel (20-40 minutes).

Divide the dough into 8 pieces.  On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a foot long rope and twist these ropes into pretzel shapes.  Allow these doughy proto-pretzels to double in size one more time.  This is a good time to preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare your boiling solution.

Put your 7 cups of water and 1/3 cup of baking soda into a large saucepan and bring it to a rolling boil.  Boil each pretzel in the solution for 30 seconds, flipping half way through.

Bake the pretzels at 450 degrees for 8-12 minutes on a lightly greased baking sheet.  I like my pretzels to be extra dark.  Adjust your baking time according to your own taste.

I have devised variations of this basic recipe, but I'll talk about that later.

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