Crusts and Dough Hooks

(Issues with WordPress and Comp, sorry for delay between posts)             

               A recent class project found me making Pretzels by hand, so I thought it’d be fun to share the recipe and process! I’d also like to share pictures, but sadly I was only able to take a few… I had so many other things to cook that day I kept forgetting!

            Unlike my other “Making Food” posts, I’ll actually start this one with the proper recipe.

Homemade Soft Pretzels (Via Alton Brown)

1½ cup Water, Warm

Tb Sugar

1 pckg Active Dry Yeast (NOT expired… don’t ask)

22oz/4½c Flour

2oz (½  stick) Butter, Melted

Oil

5 cups Water

1/3 c Baking Soda

1-2 Egg Yolks

Kosher/Sea Salt or other Garnish

            So here we go! Start off the same as any proper raised-dough should, combine the water, sugar (make sure it dissolves a little), and Yeast, and “bloom” for 10 or so minutes. Basically until it starts looking “different.” If you’re lucky it’ll froth and spread or something, though if you’re me likely it’ll probably just look like paint.

            Carefully add one’s Flour and Melted Butter. If you want to do it right, one does this in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, which one then turns on to mix on Medium speed until it “pulls away from the sides.” However, if like me who doesn’t yet have a dough hook, can just do this with your hands until it all sorta comes together and looks good.

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            That’s nice looking dough, right? Well we follow this by transferring it to a bowl; but not just ANY bowl, this one is to be rubbed with OIL! Or, if you happen to have it like I did, leftover melted butter. Why not, they’re both fats, and I know for certain the latter tastes better.

            Cover in plastic, sit in a warm (not hot) area for at least an hour or so until it doubles. High up is usually best, especially above ovens and stoves. Or, if it’s a nice sunny summer day, outside!

            Now that it’s doubled, we can start considering our shape. At this point in time, I’ve found myself highly inspired by some of our local Trucks and Bars in their use of the “Pretzel Bun.” Since it fit with what I was doing, I then went to dividing my dough into 4 sections and rolling each into a ball, which I then sorta squished into a wide patty.

            There’s one more important step before we bake, and anyone who knows about Pretzels has already figured it out. We have to give it a bath. In particular, a Baking Soda bath, made by simmering the Soda with Water (doesn’t matter how big a bath it is, so long as the RATIO is the same and one can easily dunk one’s Pretzel Buns in it). Now, why do we do this one may ask? I myself find it curious, and forgot what Alton said in that one episode of “Good Eats,” so I looked into it.

            Traditionally, these breads (Laugenbrezel) were prepared in a lye solution (thus where the word “Laugen” came from) which is alkali in nature. That basically means it raises the pH of the water (the opposite of Acidic). As the pretzel is dipped, the outer coat raises its pH as well along with “gelatinizing” it. The result of this, upon baking, is the intense browning of the new gel/pH coat, giving pretzels their distinctive color as well as a little different flavor.

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            Given their bath, I now score my buns for a nice little cross pattern (also helps with any possible expansion), wash the top with a mixture of Egg Yolks and a touch of water (also helps with the color), sprinkle with any Salt or other toppings one desires, and bake in a 425F oven. Now, as one noticed, I didn’t mention turning the oven on in the very beginning like you’re supposed to for every single recipe you find that uses an oven. I just don’t think it makes since, cuz if one actually did that first the oven would be on for about 2+ hours before we could even use it.

            On that same note, the actual recipe for a pretzel states 450F. With my large, thick hunks of bread mass, I doubted they would cook as fast as a normal pretzel. Thus, one compensates by lowering the temperature a bit; giving the outside a longer time to brown so the inside can catch up with its rising.

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            And if done right, they should end up looking pretty like this!

            Ready to use for all one’s sandwich, cracker, or just regular munching needs! This size is a bit bigger than regular buns, so I ended up using ½ and ¼ loaves for my own needs. Just note that they don’t really puff up in size, so roll these to whatever width and thickness you want them for in the beginning.

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            For myself, I was also working with some nice Kishka (German/Jewish Blood Sausage) that day. Steamed it in beer for a while and sliced the nice log up.

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            Look at that syrup left in the pan; that my friends is concentrated Doppelbock and Wurst juices. The perfect topping for any meat dish, sort of like my own syrupy au jus.

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            A bit of Mustard and Horseradish on the bottom, and this pretzel bun has got it made. Now all I have to do is learn how to make them smaller…

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