A few months ago my friend and I went to an NBA game. She gave into temptation and ordered a "fresh, hot pretzel" from the concession stand, and....it was neither fresh, nor hot. It was cold, hard and tasteless. The only thing that even remotely resembled a pretzel was the shape (remotely resembled). It was pitiful and it had me now really wanting a "fresh, hot pretzel".
Then last Saturday when I was looking for a reason to warm the house (joking), I saw this recipe and it gave me flashbacks of those really great, flavorful warm pillowy pretzels that go so fantastically on their own (with a really nice beer), or even with avocado and melted cheese, or whatever you want. I quickly ran to my kitchen cabinet to check I that I had baking soda, because by quickly boiling pretzels in water with baking soda, they are supposed to become browner on the outside, while keeping chewy on the inside. I have not done too much experimentation with this, but it does seem to be true.
B called just after I mixed up the yeast, sugar and water, and so I got a little distracted. And by the time that I went back to it, it had really foamed up. So I just mixed in the flour, salt and butter and let it sit covered on the window sill. In under an hour it had risen to more than double and was really airy and light. So I am thinking that B needs to bother me more often when I am baking.
The next part of boiling and baking took a little bit of juggling and as a result ended with the kitchen covered in flour and some splashes of boiling water and a few dirty cookie trays...BUT all ended deliciously. When the first tray came out of the oven, I stood there and tasted one. It was REALLY good. So I tasted another. And then just a few more a few minutes later to be really sure. Perfect pretzel taste! Salty. Malty. Chewy. Warm. Amazing. Although, the best compliment that I got about these was from my 9-year-old neighbor. He said he really loved them because his favorite foods were bread and salt. Kid, you and me got something in common.
Pretzel Nuggets (Adapted from David Lebovitz)
Makes about 70 pretzel nuggets
- 1 2/3 cups (390ml) tepid water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 1/4 teaspoon (1 envelope) active dry yeast
- 3 3/4 cups (530g) all-purpose or bread flour, plus up to 1/4 cup (35g) more, if necessary
- 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, tepid or room temperature
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 quarts (2l) water
- 1/4 cup (80g) baking soda
- 1 tablespoon malt or rice syrup, or agave nectar, or brown sugar
2. Mix in the flour, along with the melted butter and salt. Use a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon until it’s too thick to stir, then scrape onto a lightly floured countertop.
3. Knead it gently, adding a little bit more flour until does not stick to your hands. (You may need 3-4 more additional tablespoons to get it to the right consistency.)
4. Cover the dough in the bowl with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
5. Preheat the oven to 450ºF (232ºC). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly oil them. This is important. Do not use a silicon mat, they will not cook. An do not use nothing because they will really stick!
6. Bring the water, baking soda and syrup (or brown sugar) to a boil in a large, wide pot. It will foam up so make sure the sides are high enough to handle that.
7. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece until they’re logs about 14-inches (35cm) long. The dough will be very elastic, so roll each one partially, then let them all relax for 5 minutes before you finish rolling them out.
8. Using a dough cutter or chef’s knife, cut the dough into 2-inch (5cm) pieces. When you have enough pieces, drop them into the boiling water. Cook for 1 minute, stirring the dough bits in the water very gently at the halfway mark, encouraging the bobbing doughs to get covered on both sides with the hot liquid.
While you are cooking the first batch of pretzels, start working on the other pieces so they are ready to boil. They will come out better if the dough hasn’t had too much time to rise again.
9. Remove the first batch of boiled dough from the water with a mesh utensil to drain them a bit, and place them on the baking sheet, evenly spaced apart. (They won’t expand too much, so they can be very close together) Continue cutting and boiling the rest of the dough until the baking sheet is full. (Note: They will not all look the same, or be perfect, which is fine.)
10. Sprinkle the pretzels with a bit of coarse sea salt and bake until deep golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes, turning the baking sheet midway during baking. Baking times will vary so keep an eye on them! The darker they are, the crispier they’ll be when they cool. Cool on a wire rack