Monday, February 16, 2009

Pretzels, what a tweeest!

If people can have Christmas in July then I can have Oktoberfest in Februrary. I wanted an excuse to drink beer, and since I really only drink with food these days, I figured this was a great time to bust out some Salzbretzeln.

What you'll need:

1 packet (2 tsp approx) dried yeast
1 1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 1/4 cup bread flour
1 egg for egg wash, plus 1 tablespoon water
Topping of choice (I use poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and coarse sea salt)

Combine your yeast & half a cup of water. Let sit for five minutes, then stir it up. Add the flour and salt to a large mixing bowl and combine thoroughly. Form a well in the flour, and pour in the yeast solution:

Stir a little of the surrounding flour into the yeast to form a thick paste. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let it rest for about twenty minutes. It should be a bit frothy:

From here, mix the rest of the flour toward the center, adding water when needed to moisten the dough. Once it's thoroughly mixed, take it out of the bowl and begin to knead on your work surface for about ten minutes.

Once that's done, grease a bowl lightly and chafe the dough down until it's roughly ball-shaped. Add it to the bowl, and cover with a damp towel to let it rise about an hour and a half, or until doubled. Didn't get a picture of it going in, but here's the shot of it after the rise:

Punch that down, chafe into a ball, and let it rest about ten minutes. Take a sharp knife, cut that down into eight even pieces, and chafe those into ball shapes as well.

Each of these, slowly start to work into a long rope shape, I'd say about a foot and a half long, with the center be slightly thicker than the ends.

This next part I didn't really have an in-process shot or anything, so I'll try and describe it. Bring both ends up, and cross them with about an inch or so sticking out each way. Then twist once, and turn the ends over so that the ends are facing the thick center of the dough. Raise up the bottom, and tuck each end underneath.

Arrange each finished pretzel on your baking sheet and let them proof under a damp towel for about 45 minutes. Once that's done, uncover and mix your egg with a tablespoon of water to make an egg wash. Brush this lightly over your pretzels (too much and you'll basically get scrambled egg on your bread, so keep it light) and sprinkle your toppings on each. I put salt on all of them, and poppy seeds on three, and sesame seeds on three more. Go ahead and preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. I steam the oven every five minutes or so with a spray bottle. If you want to steam, go ahead, it's just my preference. Should come out a little something like this:

Booya! Pretzels are so awesome. Some people like cream cheese on them, but I like the biggest, grittiest mustard I can find. It goes so damn well with beer. Either as a snack:

Or, with a meal:

At any rate, it's an excuse to drink beer. Mission accomplished, me!

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