Gray Days = Homemade Soft PretzelsPosted: December 7, 2011
I miss the sun. For the last four days, I have been watching out the windows by my desk searching for the pale light but so far, nothing. It isn’t just that the days are getting shorter, which they are, but on top of that, our few hours of daylight aren’t really light at all. It’s just gray. Dust pan gray.
The encroaching darkness of an Alaskan winter didn’t really bothered me until the gray set in. Today, December 7th, the sun was supposed to rise at 10:35AM, but it never broke through the clouds. And it will set, behind a wall of clouds I’m sure, at 2:49PM. Our day will only last 4 hours and 13 minutes. This kind of darkness is a little disorienting. You look outside at 3:30PM and think it is 8:30PM, but you haven’t even had dinner yet. Strangely, I can deal with short days as long as day feels like day. Sun. Give me sun.
My answer to gray is bake goods. If I can’t make it cheerful outside, I can at least make our apartment smell warm and yummy. I have always had a special place in my heart for soft pretzels. Who doesn’t? So this seemed the prefect food to lift us out of the haze of gray.
I started making soft pretzels last year when I came across a recipe on the internet. For the life of me I can’t remember where I actually found it, but I’m so glad I did. It is remarkably easy, and Lucas and I love the results. I must admit, we are pretzel people. A trip to Pittsburgh, PA would not be complete without a visit to one of our favorite South Side spots, The Pretzel Shop. But even if you aren’t as pretzel crazed as we are, this is a recipe worth trying. My day feels brighter already.
What You Need:
1 envelope instant yeast
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup and 1 tablespoon hot water
1/3 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg white
Coarse sea salt, or flaky salt
Combine the bread flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in the food processor,* pulse. While the food processor is running, gradually add hot water until elastic dough forms, about 5 minutes. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic. Allow dough to double in volume, about 30-60 minutes.
*Normally, I use a food processor, but in Alaska we don’t have one, so I kneaded the dough by hand. This is doable, but I recommend using a food processor if it is available.
Next, punch down the dough on a floured work surface. Divide it into 8 pieces. At this point, you can either make pretzel rolls (less shaping and good for sandwiches) or the traditional pretzel shape. If you want rolls, simply shape a round bun and slash a small ‘X’ on each using a serrated knife. If you want the traditional shape, roll a log with tapered ends. Cross the two ends and twist once to form the middle fork of the pretzel shape. The two tapered ends should be secured to the outside of the pretzel with light pressure, and if needed, a little water. Then cover the shaped dough with a towel and let it rise until it has doubled, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease a baking sheet. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add sugar and baking soda (the baking soda will make the water bubble, so add it gradually). Boil each roll for 30 seconds, then flip, and cook for another 30 seconds. Place boiled pretzels on prepared baking sheet, brush with egg white, and sprinkle with salt. Bake until brown, about 20 minutes.