I used to live with a girl who loved pretzels so much that a friend of hers knitted her a pretzel shape out of orange wool. I too love pretzels (and by this I mean big doughy ones rather than the small crisp ones, though being a member of Salty Snacks Anonymous naturally I like them a lot too) but it's not easy to buy them. There's a branch of Auntie Ann's Soft Pretzels in Croydon, but a 40 minute round trip is a bit drastic to satisfy a craving.
Last Sunday while I didn't have any plans, I decided to try and make my own . I consulted 'Bake' by Rachel Allen, and lo and behold - a pretzel recipe jumped forth. As with all bread recipes, it was quite a lengthy one as you need to wait to prove the dough.
Makes 10 - 14
450g strong white flour, sifted
150gr strong brown flour, sifted
1 level tsp fast acting yeast
2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
375ml warm water
For the bicarb solution:
75gr bicarbonate of soda
1 litre of water
Mix the two flours, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl (or in my case, the bowl of my mixer). Mix the oil into the water in a measuring jug, and turn the mixer on with the dough hook (or mixing by hand), adding the water and oil solution as you go, until you get a soft dough. Add more water or flour where necessary to ensure it's not too dry or sticky. Knead for 10 minutes, place the dough in an oiled bowl and allow to rise to double, about 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 230 degrees Celcius. Punch back the dough and knead on a lightly floured surface and then divide it into 10 - 14 balls, each weighing about 100gr. Line a baking tray with parchment. Roll each ball into a sausage shape the thickness of a pencil and then roll it as per this video. Allow to rise for a further 20 minutes.
Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan and dissolve the bicarb in it. Leave it on a simmer and add each pretzel, no more than 3 at a time, to poach for 30 seconds each side. Remove and place on the baking trays. Sprinkle with rock salt, poppy seeds or sesame seeds and bake for 8 - 10 minutes, cooling them on wire racks. Alternatively, bake them plain and then brush with butter melted with sugar, honey and cinnamon.
Several things happened while the pretzels were being made. We got hungry, and so scarfed a whole load of quiche and were a bit full. Then, just as we were doing the poaching / baking, I pulled a plate out of the shelf and one fell out. I tried to catch it, but as it broke a piece jumped up and sliced my thumb open, resulting in much blood, a bit of squealing, and general chaos. So therefore I don't blame Rachel Allen when I say the pretzels were just ok. Truth be told, they were pretty tough and chewy, which is not what I want out of a pretzel. I believe this may be down to over poaching of the pretzel. Or pehaps it was over-kneaded? The recipe specifies 10 minutes by hand, but doesn't say for a mixer. One other problem might have been the inclusion of brown flour which perhaps made them a bit heavier.
I have no idea; I'm an ignoramous when it comes to bread. Either way, when I try it again, I'll be halving the recipe; 10 - 14 pretzels is far too many. Any uneaten ones made a good door stop though.