Pretzels in the Dorms

When I think of pretzels I think big and soft, not thin and crunchy. Which usually leads me to the mall. The mall is home many a pretzel shop. When I was but an adolescent, one of my favorite things about going to the mall were the delicious pretzels.

Today pretzels are enjoyed all over the US, not only in malls, but also street corners of large metropolitan areas in the NorthEast. This is another dough recipe, so grab your flour and left over yeast packets and get ready to get messy.

Pretzels are very similar to bread in the fact that they use dough. They have this in common with almost all other recipes that use dough actually. Which is largely the same recipe prepared in 100 different ways.

For the dough you’ll need:

  • 1 1/4 oz. package yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup milk (room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cups flour

You’ll also need:

  • Boiling to near boiling water
  • About a cup of baking soda (give or take)
  • Salt (preferably the big stuff)

Dissolve the yeast into the warm water and set aside. In a large bowl mix together the milk, sugar, melted butter, salt and egg. Add about half the flour and mix until smooth. Add the yeast mixture followed by most of the rest of the flour. Mix until you get a dough consistency, then kneed it for 5-10 minutes using whatever flour you have left over to dust the kneading surface. Put the dough into a well greased bowl and wait for an hour.

After the wait comes the fun part, the rolling. Cut off a piece of dough small enough to easily fit in your palm (even if you have small palms don’t worry). The first thing you’re going to do is press it down into a small rectangle, and roll the rectangle up like a burrito making sure not to trap any air in it. Next begin to roll it, like a snake out of play-dough. You want to get it to about 24 inches long and very thin. Don’t worry if it looks too thin, chances are that it’s not, plus it’s going to rise while baking.

Preheat oven to 400-450 degrees.

After you have your snake the most essential part comes, the shaping. Unless you want a bunch of pretzels shaped like snakes you’re probably going to want to fold it to look like something else. We all know what pretzels traditionally look like, but feel free to make anything you want.

About this time you’re probably wondering how this is going to turn out differently from any other kind of bread. You want a pretzel consistency, not bread shaped like a pretzel. In order to achieve this state the outer pretzel needs to brown at a much faster rate than normal. To do this we must drastically raise the pH level of the outside of the pretzel. With a higher pH level the outside will brown a lot faster.

Pour the baking soda into the near boiling water and give the uncooked pretzels a 30 second bath. Sense baking soda is a base, this will work to lower the pretzel’s pH enough to see significant browning. If you want to go one step further make an egg wash by mixing the yolk of one egg with a few tbsp water and brush a little on top of each pretzel right before baking. Salt now if you have it.

Throw the pretzels into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until sufficiently brown. Pretzels are best enjoyed warm, so eat them right out of the oven if you can.

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