Yeah, that’s right. I’m talking. Me. The pretzel.
So how’s it going?
Enough small talk. This is just a friendly reminder that if you haven’t made your own soft pretzels yet this year…
What could you possibly be waiting for? Everyone knows the Germans actually celebrate Oktoberfest in September.
But you can have a free pass this time. I give you until mid-October. Frankly, there’s no bad time for pretzels and beer. (What’s that, Atkins people? You don’t like carbs? What are you even DOING at this blog?)
First, the beer. Whip up a batch of delicious home brew, a la The Boy. Or find some local brew pubs that may be selling growlers of malty, hoppy, autumnal carryout craft beer near you.
If you’re in the Chicago area, you might try Half Acre, Piece, or the fine offerings on tap for sampling at Brew & Grow.
Well that was easy enough. Now onto those pretzels. Here’s one nice recipe I found for your classic, white, soft pretzel. Craving something different that’ll pass for dinner so you can soothe your conscience? (” A conscience? What’s that?”) How do chicken stuffed soft pretzels with homemade honey mustard sound?
Somewhere, Keanu Reeves just went, “Whoah.”
Or, OOOooooooh, Garlic Soft Pretzels.
And if you’re a fan of those big ‘ol pretzels ye can procure from ye olde chaine shoppe in the mall, this should intrigue you: Mall Pretzels. (Because sometimes we just gotta calls ’em as we sees ’em.)
Or, gaaaaaaa, cannot speak because sweet tooth is enlarging, ENLARGING: Cinnamon Raisin Soft Pretzels.
What’s that, you say? You want the recipe for mine? The ones in the picture? The ones that look like…
Well, you can’t have it. Not because I don’t want to give it to you. But because there isn’t one.
I couldn’t give you measurements on this one if I tried. But I can tell you roughly what I did, and those of you who are accustomed to baking bread and working with sourdough and work by feel and instinct, as I do, will be able to follow along.
By feel and instinct. You can do a lot of things that way. Including making love, raising children, and killing a man.
But I digress.
The FEEL AND INSTINCT METHOD for soft sourdough pretzels is:
Proof some sourdough starter. A little for a few pretzels. A lot for lots. (Told you this would be vague.) Once it’s ready, toss in some flour. Some whole wheat. Some white. Mix it in. Add some kosher salt, and some melted butter. I’m going to say I made a large batch, somewhere around 3 lbs. of dough, and I used about 8 Tablespoons, or 1/2 cup, of melted butter. Oh, relax.
Now stir that all in, and add more flour. You know what I’m talking about. Until it’s…not needing any more flour. Don’t worry about getting it quite as dry as regular bread dough. And it doesn’t need to be elastic either. Just knead in enough flour and work the dough until it could hold a decent shape. Now stick it in that trusty, oiled bowl and cover it with your favorite heirloom tea towel until it’s doubled…2 hours, wouldja say?
Actually, guys, I don’t feel as if I’ve been honest with you. I didn’t let it rise for a few hours. Instead I stuck it in the fridge overnight to rise in there. What? You didn’t know you could do that? Well, you can. Just let your dough sit at room temp a little while before you work with it. I know, I know. I’m brilliant. I should really charge for all the fascinating things you learn here. Like how to kill a man by instinct. Anyway. Moving on.
Divide the dough into balls and roll ’em into ropes. I’ll say mine were about 18-20 inches long. I like my soft pretzels on the small-ish side. You know that annoying person who always takes, like, two bites of something, and then puts it back in the container for later? That would be me. Anyway, small foods give you options, man. And that’s what I’m all about, dude. Options.
Do a cool twisty thing where you make a pretzel. The Girl says some of my pretzels have an extra twist in them. I say they have just the right number/amount of twist(s). Decide for yourself, man. You gotta do what’s right for you, dude. That’s what it’s all about, bros. Doing what’s right for you.
Crud, this is going to take all day.
‘Kay, so now you’ve got a bunch of baby pretzels all lined up on some buttered parchment. Oh, yeah, go back in time and butter some parchment. Now set a pot of water to boil. I used 10 cups of water and 2/3 cup baking soda. Once it’s boiling, slowly tong each pretzel into the water, let it cook for 30 seconds, and take it back out. Repeat. As many times as you need. Until you’re out of pretzels.
Now go back in time again, and preheat the oven to 450. Thanks. Take some coarse sea salt and sprinkle it over the pretzels. Be sorta liberal about it. Pretzel making is no time for conservatism. Or limited sodium consumption. I’m not making a political statement here. I’m just saying, I think even the GOP could agree that pretzels should be salted liberally.
You know, pretzels are really the thing that could bring our nation together.
Wait, didn’t George Dubya Bush aspirate on a pretzel or something?
Forget it. Peace and Harmony plan busted.
Once they’re all salted, bop ’em into the oven. Now watch ’em. That’s right, I said “watch ’em.” I’ll be honest, friends…I don’t use recommended baking times that much. I find that most of the time, they’re not accurate. I just know when bread is done. And if you’re actually able to follow this recipe up to this point, you probably do, too. But it’s maybe around 15 minutes. When they’re nice and golden. My darker batch was more to my liking than my lighter batch. What can I say? I like my pretzels like I like my….
Not going there.
Now this is optional. After you’ve pulled them out of the oven and oohed and aahed over how amazing you find yourself to be and how you don’t know why someone hasn’t made you Princess Pretzel yet, brush them with melted butter. Oh. Yeah. Now stick ’em on a cooling rack to, you know, cool and stuff.
But eat ’em while they’re still warm.
I’m only gonna say this once: pretzels do not keep well.
Actually, this is important, so twice: Pretzels do not keep well. Only make what you think you’ll eat today. I hear you whining, being all, “wah wah wah, I don’t wanna do all this again tomorrow.” Well, tough, Cupcake!
Just kidding, Cupcake. Please don’t be mad, Cupcake. I don’t know what’s come over me lately, Cupcake.
You could do what I did. Just go back in time, now, and don’t boil all your pretzels. Freeze them after the shaping, and make a solemn promise to pick up where you left off the next time you want pretzels, adding just a few seconds to boiling and a few minutes to baking. You could also continue to do as I did, and break that solemn promise and end up with an emergency bag of emergency soft pretzels for when you have a soft pretzel emergency…for emergencies.
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