Soft Pretzels - Alton Brown Style
I love soft pretzels - who doesn't? I just never seem to get them outside of fair settings.
And then the other week, Alton Brown did a show on homemade pretzels - it was a sign! So I went to the food network's site and I grabbed the recipe. (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/homemade-soft-pretzels-recipe/index.html)
1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt (note, I simply used Kosher salt)
ALTON: Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.
So Alton's all into proofing the yeast - and I must say that I only do this because the instructions say so. At some point I'll stop since I'm really only convinced this is a leftover from poor production methods of old - but look, it bubbles:
ALTON: Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
Now it's all about letting the KitchenAid do the work. I add the melted butter and the flour. You may notice Alton's recipe does specify flour by weight. I actually do have a scale where I can zero out my mixing bowl with ingredients, so I'm able to pour 22 ounces of flour exactly. From here, I let the mixer do it's thing for 5 minutes until the dough is nice and ready:
ALTON: Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Rising time. Recipe calls for an hour, but this is fast-acting - in 30 minutes, I'm more than doubled:
ALTON: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.
I tear my into 8 pieces and lightly oil my counter so I can roll these into ropes and form them into pretzel shapes. I'll admit that it's not as supple as I'm expecting it to be, but that's okay. While I do this, I have water boiling on the stove and the oven preheating:
Hint from me to you - do put in the baking soda before the water is boiling - if you think you see white crusty stuff on the sides of the pot, you do. I added the baking soda while the water was boiling and got a mini-science experiment. Luckily no spillover, but I laughed. I basically boiled each pretzel for 30 seconds and scooped it out with a wire scoop (this gives the pretzel texture):
At this point, I give the pretzels an egg wash and bake them for 13 minutes. Look what I get:
If you're wondering - but is it a chewy, doughy piece of pretzel goodness? Well - take a look at this crumb:
Yes, this is good stuff - I will be making this again!