Friday, January 13, 2012

Pretzel Rolls

 Soooooo awesome!  This was my first of many attempts.  I'm so proud!  These puppies totally did not come out like pretzels because they puffed up so much.  There were pretzel tendencies, but for the next batch I will definitely be making longer strands.  At least 2 feet long!  How exciting!!

I also learned something... I found this recipe when I was searching for bread machine soft-pretzel recipes.  Though it did not use the bread machine at all, it was too interesting to pass up on.  It's mostly flour, which, again: iiiiiiiiiiinteresting.  Who freakin' knew?  I can't wait to make more!  This made about 14 rolls, and they're pretty filling, so I didn't eat all of them in one sitting.  Could have had something to do with the fact that the salt ran out (gasp! I know!) and I didn't get to sprinkle any on top... but for the second batch I sprinkled on garlic powder.  Yep! Good call!

Oh, but what did I learn?  Yes, you'll see that the recipe asks to dunk the dough after it's formed in a solution of  baking soda and water.  I thought, how odd, but who am I to question a multi-star recipe?  Well, turns out there's some interesting history to it!

Old world Germans used to dip their "brezels" (pretzels) in a solution of sodium hydroxide (lye) and water before baking.  Lye is a very strong and caustic alkaline.  Because most people aren't comfortable mixing lye and water to make pretzels, baking soda - a much weaker alkaline - is now used in most pretzel recipes,  Once the pretzels begin baking, a 'Maillard reaction' occurs.  This is a chemical reaction sort of like carmeliation, which allows the exterior crust to become a deep rich brown color.  The reaction accelerates in an alkaline environment, which - you guessed it - has been provided by the baking soda bath.  The baking soda, and resulting reaction, is also responsible for the unique taste of a pretzel.  Without the baking soda bath the pretzel exterior ends up pale/white, and tastes more like bread.  This baking soda / lye bath step is paramount in making a pretzel and pretzel.
- taken from a review on

And let me tell you, they are right!  Only 8 minutes in the oven and they were so toasted, I was shocked!  It also made a nice dent in my giant flour bag... I'm trying to use it up, so I think there will be several variations coming up soon.  Cinnamon sugar?  Yes, please!  Rosemary garlic?  Why not! Cheddar? Heck ya!

Makes roughly 12-14 rolls.

4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar (not brown)
1 1/4 cup warm water

5 cups AP flour
1/2 cup [white] sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 TBS vegetable oil
water by the tablespoon if needed... I ended up adding 3 extra TBS of water

1/4 cup baking soda
2 cup hot water
something to sprinkle on top if you'd like!  Rock salt, garlic powder, etc...

1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and 1 tsp sugar in the warm water.  Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.  I let it go a few more minutes as I was mixing the flour up and it just kept growing!

2. In a large bow, mix together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar and salt.

Make a well in the center and add the oil and yeast mixture.  Mix and form into a dough.  If the mixture is dry, add water by the tablespoon but be careful not to add too much.  Knead the dough for several minutes until smooth.  Lightly oil the dough and the sides of the bowl (which is hopefully relatively clean because the dough would all be clumped together).

Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place to rise til doubled in size, about 1 hour.  As it is winter, I put it in the oven at the lowest temperature for 10 minutes and then turned off the oven and let it sit there.  Totally doubled and was fluffy!
(Photo taken after I started breaking off parts of the dough... but you can see that it expanded to fill up the whole bowl.)

3.  Preheat oven to 450F.  In a large bowl, dissolve the baking soda in hot water.

When the dough has risen, break off a piece onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll into a rope  and twist into a pretzel shape.

The longer the rope the better, I learned!  Or, you could just have funky shaped rolls :-)

Dip the pretzel into the baking soda/water solution and lay on a greased baking sheet.  I placed foil down and then oiled that... worked great.  Sprinkle with topping of choice!

4.  Bake 8 minutes--seriously!  Place the sheet in the middle, not the lower rack, in the oven or the bottoms will singe.  Another lesson learned that I pass onto you...  Since they didn't fit on one sheet, I used two, while the first baked I made the second batch.  I could do that all day!

The rolls were totally delicious, browned on the exterior, chewy and soft interior... amazing.

Total yum.

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