"The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude." Julia Child

Thursday, February 21, 2013

sourdough pretzels

For the past two weeks, I've been maintaining a sourdough starter and experimenting with different (and easy) recipes for the fermenting dough outside of standard bread. This simple recipe delivers an updated alternative to the frozen SuperPretzel many of us grew up eating.

Yield: 16 pretzels
120 calories per pretzel
Active time: 30 minutes
Total time: 90 minutes

¾ cup lukewarm water
1 cup unfed sourdough starter, straight from the refrigerator
3 cups high gluten flour
¼ cup nonfat dry milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast

1. Combine warm water, yeast, and a pinch of sugar. Let sit for 10 minutes.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in stand mixer bowl and "stir", slowly adding the water and yeast
mixture to form a cohesive dough. After a rough dough has formed (photo 3 below), gradually increase mixer speed to 3 to make a smooth dough, about 5 minutes. The dough will be slightly sticky. If the dough seems dry, add in an additional tablespoon or two of water. If the dough or flour is sticking to the side or bottom of the bowl, you may need to knead or adjust the by dough by hand to ensure everything is incorporated.

3. Form the dough into a ball, place in a lightly floured or greased bowl, cover (I used plastic wrap and a towel), and let rest for 1 hour.

4. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and begin to bring 10 cups water and 2/3 cup baking soda to a slow boil.

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, folding it over a few times to gently deflate it.

6. Divide the dough into 16 pieces. I like to cut the dough into halves to ensure even portions.

7. Shape into a pretzel by rolling each piece of dough into rope, taking the ends and drawing them together so the dough forms a circle, pulling the ends towards yourself connecting to the base at five and seven o’clock, adhering gently to seal.

8. Gently drop the pretzel in the slow boiling water for 30 seconds (it will float up when ready) and place on parchment or silpat lined baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. I find it is easiest to work two at a time by shaping one, placing in water, shaping the second, removing the first from the water and then placing the second in the water. (For the record, I placed my pretzels too close to each other.)

9. Brush the pretzels with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with coarse pretzel salt or topping. I used a pizza topping that I found at Marshalls.

10. Bake for 30 minutes, turning the baking sheet 180 degrees after about 15 minutes. Pretzels should be golden brown.

Other modifications:
  • Make 8 large pretzels
  • Use shredded cheese as the topping or knead it into the dough before you divide it.
  • Use wheat flour: The consistency of the pretzels will be more dense.
  • Don't boil the pretzels before baking: The pretzels will not have the chewy crust.
Original recipe can be found here.

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