Pretzel Bites

When going out with friends after work, one of our go-to sides to order is a soft pretzel.  I never used to like pretzels, but they have grown on me quite a bit.  So last week, when I was having some friends over after work, I thought that it would be fun to try making soft pretzels.

Of the batch I made, about half of them turned out.  I think my inexperience with bread making as a whole is part of why only about half of them turned out in a way I was willing to serve them, but this recipe from epicurious was a great starting point.  I used a recipe for cheese sauce from another site, which I’ll post in a day or two.

Pretzel Bites

Pretzel Bites

1 c warm water
1 envelope active dry yeast
3 c bread flour or all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp coarse kosher salt
2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter, well-softened
Vegetable oil for bowl

Place yeast in warm water and begin the blooming process, which should take about 10 minutes.  While yeast is blooming, mix together flour, salt, and brown sugar.  Add the butter and water mixture and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and make sure the dough is coated in oil (I think I had too much oil, which might be part of the problem).  Cover with a cloth and let rise for 2-3 hours, until doubled in size.

Punch down the dough and divide into quarters.  Form each quarter into 4 balls.  At this point, begin boiling 8 cups of water with 1/2 c baking soda.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Roll each ball into a 12-inch long rope and cut each rope into six pieces.

After the water is at a boil, add pretzel bites in small batches to cook for 30 seconds, then transfer with a slotted spoon to baking sheets.  Sprinkle with salt before they dry.  Continue this process, returning the water to a boil between batches.

Bake the pretzels in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes.  Immediately transfer to wire racks to cool.

*Note: the baking soda in the boiling water is what helps the pretzels to brown during the baking process.  This was verified while I made one batch with less baking soda in the boiling water and I could not get that batch to brown — they only turned golden.

I also think I used too much vegetable oil in the rising process, which led to a bit of a flavor I didn’t love in the pretzels.  I plan to make them again at some point to check out the flavor difference.

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