Monday, August 22, 2011

Savory Soft Pretzels

I love soft pretzels, but sometimes the ones you buy at festivals and the ballpark can be a bit tough or too chewy.  I was looking through some recipes and came across this one for pretzels and it caught my eye.  This particular recipe had mustard, onions and cornmeal incorporated into the dough.

The downside was that the picture did not look like the traditional soft pretzel.  It looked like a puffed up roll.  As you can see by the above picture, it does not have the traditional large holes to the left and right.  To be honest, this pretzel was more picturesque than most of the ones I made.  If I was going to make these again, I would make my dough strands longer so the baking and rising process would not impact the shape as much.  Also, I would probably be a little more heavy handed with the salt, because the salt melted during the baking process.

These did turn out soft with a little chewiness. The mustard and onion did give the bread a nice flavor, so I did not feel that they needed to be dipped in mustard or anything else in order to enjoy.  The other good thing is that the recipe states they can be frozen for up to 2 weeks wrapped in foil.  In order to serve, just thaw and then heat in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.  This recipe makes 16 large pretzels.

Savory Soft Pretzels
courtesy of Bon Appetit (prior to 2005)

2 cups warm water
2 tbs regular mustard
12 cups water (for boiling)
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbs water
2 cups finely chopped onions
4 3/4 cups bread flour (or more)
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1 tsp dry mustard
2 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs baking soda
coarse salt (for sprinkling)
2 tbs butter (melted)
2 envelopes of yeast (I used rapid rise)
1 tbs plus 1 tsp sugar

You will need to prepare 4 baking sheets.  Sprinkle two with cornmeal.  This will be the rising pans for the pretzels.  Then butter 2 cookie sheets an sprinkle tops with cornmeal.  Those will be for baking them.  Also, butter the inside of a large bowl.  Set pans and bowl aside.

Add melted butter and chopped onions to skillet and place over medium high heat.  Saute onions until tender and golden, about 15 minutes. If you used a food processor to chop your onions they will be real watery, so this process may take longer.  You want to make sure that are cooked until almost completely dry.  Remove pan and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, add 1 1/2 cups of warm water.  Add 1 tbs of sugar and sprinkle all of yeast in.  Stir so that no dry ingredients remain.  Then set aside for about 10 minutes or until mixture becomes foamy on top.

Fill another bowl with remaining 1/2 cup water, mustard and ground mustard.  Stir to blend.   Then pour into the yeast mixture and stir again.  Whisk in 2 tsp salt and 1/2 cup of cornmeal.

Start your mixer on low speed and gradually add 4 1/2 cups of flour in 4 increments while mixer is running.  Then turn up speed and beat for 3 minutes.  Lastly, beat in the sauteed onions until evenly dispersed.

Put dough on a smooth floured surface.  It will be quite sticky.  My dough was more like muffin batter.  Knead the dough for about 8 minutes, adding as much flour required to get the dough to the correct consistency. Shape dough into a ball.

Place dough in prepared bowl and turn once.  Then cover and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place.

Once the dough has completed the rise time, punch down and divide into 16 pieces.  Roll each piece into a strand, about 15 inches or more (see 2nd paragraph of this post above regarding length).  Then take each end of strand and loop underneath towards center and cross one over the other.  You can cross again making more of a twist if you prefer. Then press ends into opposite side of loop so it sticks on top.  As you make them, place each one on one of the cornmeal baking sheets.

After you have formed 16 pretzels, let rise uncovered for about 20 minutes.  As they are rising, the water bath can be prepared.

Place 12 cups of water in a large pot and set over high heat.  Also, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

When the water comes to a boil, add the baking soda, remaining 1 tsp sugar and remaining 1/2 tsp salt.  Then you will need to boil the pretzels in the pot about 3 or 4 at a time.  Use a spatula to lift each pretzel off of baking sheet and into boiling water.  Let one side cook for 30 seconds, flip and cook the additional side for 30 seconds.  Remove and place on buttered/cornmeal pans.

Then brush all 16 pretzels with the egg glaze and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Bake in oven for 10 minutes, rotate pan and bake for an additional 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool on baking sheets.  See third paragraph above regarding preparing and freezing in advance.