Al Dente: Pretzelgeddon

I love baking. Baking is magic. Baking is the Philosopher’s Stone with icing. It’s edible alchemy. It’s also FUN as Hell and I will take any excuse I can to make baked goods. My engagement with ciabatta and brioche is like Holmes battling Watson over Reicenbach Falls. Just with more yeast. And less punching.

Anyhoo. A couple of weeks ago, when Cast of Wonders turned out its 300th episode, I saw my chance. Do something nice AND make something I’ve never made before! Yaaaaayy!

And what was the target of my aproned gaze?

Pretzels.

Specifically Smitten Kitchen.Pretzels.

We have a pretty good cookbook library these days but the two Smitten Kitchen ones sit very much as Holy Texts. Every recipe Deb puts together is good, most of them are great and this is no exception, Plus you get to do SCIENCE!

Victor! The Usual Suspects!

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  •  to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons canola or other neutral oil
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • Coarse or pretzel salt

And here’s what you do. Add the yeast and water together, and wait for 10 minutes. Once it’s foaming like a right wing pundit, drop it into the bowl of a mixer, add a cup of flour and mix it together until everything is what we in the trade call, goo.

Take your goo, add the rest of the flour and dump it onto a lubricated surface. Then knead that sucker. Just knead it like it owes you money. Or until it’s smooth, whichever.

Once that’s down, take the edges of the dough and pull them down, rotating as you go. This will, I promise you make you feel like Dave Chang on Ugly Delicious. Seriously, I have rarely had stronger ‘I AM A KITCHEN GOD’ thoughts than I did when I did this the first time. Now, drop it in a pan, take a photo of it, cover it for an hour and come back.

Before
AFTER!
DOUGHZILLA WALKS AMONG US!

Now the fun really begins. Take the dough out, punch it down flat and cut it into roughly 1cm wide strips. Then, roll them out between your hands, twine the ends around each other twice and then fold it back onto itself. It sounds very weird, but it’s pretty easy to do. Check out the photos.

Keep going until your kitchen table looks like it’s full of unusually geometric alien butterflies.

AND! The most important pretzels.

Now is the time for science! Get a nice wide flat pan with high side and fill it with water so it’s two inches deep. Bring it to the boil, drop the remaining sugar and the baking soda in and STAND. BACK.

It does this all the time! You get extra points for yelling ‘LIVE! LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!’as you dump stuff in there!

Drop your tiny yeastbabies in, 4-5 at a time and broil them for a minute, then flip them and do it again.

Heat the oven to around 230C then beat an egg and brush it over your pretzels, then, dust them with salt. THEN, cook them for about 11 minutes and take them out to reveal your salty yeasted glory!

Baking science and commemoration of an amazing achievement! Salty AND chewy! Now if you’re feeling fancy mix some sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil and soft cheese together and dunk the still warm pretzels in there. Otherwise, salt, butter, hard cheese, tomato soup. The amount of things that taste better with one of these added is massive. Go forth! Salt in my name! Pretzels for life yo!
Oh also I checked. The squash? Still not done.
Anyhoo, next time we’re going to be talking either paella (Super easy, massively delicious) or, at last, pizza. Let’s see if I can write this up and take photos before eating it. Exciting times! See you then.
This piece originally appeared as part of my weekly newsletter, The Full Lid. If you liked it, and want a weekly down of pop culture enthusiasm, occasional ketchup recipes and me enjoying things, then check out the archive and sign up here.
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