Sunday, September 22, 2013

Game Day Pretzels

If you've ever been to a pro sports game, you know that there are some delicious foods at the concession stand: soft-serve ice cream in little helmets, fried dough, hot dogs... and pretzels.  Oh gosh, the pretzels.  Warm and chewy, soft and salty.  Yummy.  Whenever Joe and I go to a game, at least one of us gets a pretzel while the other silently wishes they had gotten one, too.

We're huge football fans, and the season is in full swing here.  Pretzels are perfect football food because they're quick and easy to eat, but you can still cheer for your team while you eat one.  Joe went to help a friend move this morning, and while I had the house to myself for a few hours, I decided to make my own pretzels.

When I was a kid, my mom made us alphabet pretzels a couple of times, so we each got a little baggie of pretzels that spelled out our names.  They were DELICIOUS, and I always thought they were the hardest things to make.  False.  For me, the hardest part was twisting them into that familiar pretzel shape.

Okay, so getting them out of the boiling water was a little tricky, too, but only because I made my pretzels huge and my slotted spoon isn't that large.  Next time, I'm either making smaller pretzels OR I'm going to invest in some kind of larger spoon-strainer-scoopy thing.  Like all yeast bread recipes, this one is time consuming in that it takes a few hours from start to finish, but for most of the time, you're not really doing anything.  The active time on this recipe is maybe about an hour, but it's really broken up, so you have plenty of time to do other things, like try to beat that stupid level on Candy Crush or work out (guilty of both!).

I like to eat my pretzels plain, but Joe loves his with yellow mustard or nacho cheese.  I'm already thinking about making some cinnamon sugar pretzels next time.

What's your favorite football/party food?

Soft Baked Pretzels
To print this recipe, click here

2 1/2 Tbsp butter, cubed and at room temperature
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 cups warm water (110°-115°F)
1 packet active dry yeast
5 c. flour, plus more for kneading
10 cups water
2/3 c. baking soda
1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp water
coarse salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine water, sugar and butter.  Sprinkle yeast on top and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add 3 cups of flour.  Attach dough hook and mix on low speed ("stir" if you have a KitchenAid), gradually increasing to medium speed (3 or 4) as the flour gets incorporated.  Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Mix in the remaining 2 cups of flour until the dough gathers around the hook and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  The dough will be VERY sticky.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, adding more flour if necessary (I used about an additional 1/4 cup). and kneading until smooth and elastic - dough should not stick to your hands.

Lightly grease a large bowl with the vegetable oil.  Place the dough into the greased bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap or put into a plastic bag and let rise until doubled in size, about one hour

Preheat oven to 425°F and spray baking sheets with non-stick spray.  Punch dough down and divide and shape into an even number of balls, roughly the same size (I made 8 but could have made more for smaller pretzels).  Roll each ball into a 24 inch long rope.  Bring the ends together to start to form a circle, then twist ends once and lay over the opposite side of the circle, pinching the ends together to seal.

In a large pot, bring water and baking soda to a boil.  Carefully drop the pretzels into the boiling water.  Cook for 30 seconds and remove with a slotted spoon. Transfer cooked pretzels to prepared baking sheets.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and water; brush over pretzels.  Sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until pretzels are golden brown.  Transfer pretzels to a wire rack to cool completely or eat once cool enough to handle.  Serve with dipping sauce of your choice or eat plain.

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