All work (and a few pretzels)
Work has kept my bread making to a minimum the past few months. Visiting all of you at TFL this evening has me pulling the starters out of the fridge and shopping for food grade lye once again. With my family on the road I like to make pretzels just for me. I've been using a boiling water bath with baking soda but I used a link I found here for www.aaa-chemicals.com in Houston Texas and found that they will be offering free shipping November 19th - 23rd. The lye is 8.99 for 2# (the smallest quantity they offer) and regular shipping is 11.99 minimum. If I can wait, I'll avail myself of that window of opportunity, irresistable to internet shoppers, free shipping!
My favorite recipe I've adapted from one posted by the American HomeBrew Association. They require drinking a homebrew (can we substitute a microbrew?) both before and after the pretzel making steps.
4 1/2 tsp of saf-instant yeast
1 1/2 C warm water
2 T sugar
1 tsp salt
4 C high gluten flour
2 T powdered buttermilk
1 well beaten egg
Preheat oven to 450. Cover a baking sheet with parchment and lightly spray with oil. Disolve yeast in warm water, add sugar. Mix salt, flour and buttermilk powder in the mixer or by hand. Add the liquid and mix for 5-10 minutes with the dough hook or knead by hand. Let dough rest and hydrate for about 10 minutes. I divide the dough roughly into six pieces and roll between my palms into a rope about 18" long. Form the pretzels and give the ends a little pasting down by dipping your fingertips in water and pinching the overlapping dough a bit. Disolve 4 tsp baking soda in 4 C water and bring to a boil. I use tongs to dip the pretzels, one at a time, into the boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes turning once. Dry them a bit with paper towels as they come out of the water bath and arrange them on the oiled parchment. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with salt, if desired. Bake at 450 for 12 to 15 minutes or until a deep brown. I've learned that darker is better to my taste.
I have experimented with using other bread doughs to make pretzels with mixed results. I think you need a fairly high protein formula and really active yeast to stand up to all the handling and the water bath. One of my pretzel recipes says that as good as pretzels are hot from the oven they are very bad cold and don't reheat well. I don't agree. I store cooled pretzels in a zip-lock and toast them one or two a day in my wide slot toaster. De-lish! The perfect bread-for-one.