Last night*, we watched Midnight in Paris, ate cheese and baguettes and sipped on alcoholic beverages. Last night, a vision of a fromagerie was born, where artisan cheeses would be served to customers who love food as much as we do. Last night, a storm was born and raged for a short while.
This morning, I decided that my contribution to the fromagerie would be baked goods. It was always going to happen, really, but this morning it was cemented. I will make savoury goods on odd days and sweet goods on even days and on Sunday, I will rest.
On the menu? Well, I’m not so sure I’ll be able to adhere to a strictly regimented menu as such, seeing as I need to try all the breakfast things. However, pretzels will be making appearances often.
Oh, so often.
Pretzels, how did I ever live without your salty, chewy goodness? Your sweet, chubby, shiny brown appearance? Your oh so classic twist and dots of crunchy salt? Your endless attributes, seriously, I have no more words.
I’ll probably never be able to enjoy a commercially available soft pretzel because seriously, these are the best and to be honest, I’ve not tried a soft pretzel before. May I suggest, if you are in the same situation I was, to make these immediately and without delay? You won’t regret it, I promise.
While I and my (new!) housemates enjoyed these for breakfast, they also go well with cider (or beer) and mustard in front of the AFL Grand Final, even if you are alone.
*When I say last night, I mean Friday night. Let’s all just pretend that my computer behaved itself yesterday and I actually got my photos edited on the same day I took them. This morning? Saturday. I had an unexpected free weekend, so I made pretzels and cleaned my room. It was awesome.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
I used a sourdough bread flour mix from Laucke for the pretzels, but a plain or wholemeal bread flour will I am sure work fine, as will just plain flour. However, these tasted so good I’m not sure I’ll want to go for any other kind of flour.
I’ve been having some trouble with getting my yeasted doughs to rise (probably something to do with living in cold houses in winter) so I turned on my oven to about 75 Celsius or 150 Fahrenheit while I made the dough and turned it off to place the dough in to rise. This works really well, although if you are somewhere warm, it’s really unnecessary. And I only did that because I’m terribly impatient. A slow, cold rise is a good thing, if you have the time.
For the pretzel salt, I used a coarse Australian lake salt, ground a little more in my mortar and pestle. You can get real pretzel salt here online or just use coarse sea salt.
Finally, we dipped these in Maille Dijon mustard, but next time I’m definitely going to try and find some sort of traditional American mustard. Because, you know, I am a crazy person.
For the pretzels:
2 cups warm water
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
5-6 cups flour
1 tbsp salt
canola oil or cooking spray
For the poaching liquid:
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup baking soda
1 tablespoon water
pretzel or coarse salt
Place water, sugar, yeast and 1 cup flour in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low speed until combined, then add four more cups of flour and the salt and turn up to medium-low.
(You can definitely mix this with a wooden spoon, then knead on a lightly floured counter after the four cups have been incorporated in.)
Mix on medium low speed for about eight minutes, or until smooth and elastic. If it’s still sticking to the bowl (or your hands) add more flour, about a 1/4 cup at a time.
Lightly oil your bowl and place the dough back inside, turning it over so it also gets oiled. Cover bowl with glad wrap or a tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 450 Fahrenheit or 230 Celsius. Line three baking trays with baking paper and set aside.
If you want pretzels the size of the palm of your hand (or my hand – average girl sized hand) then either divide the dough into 16 and wrap each in plastic wrap OR weigh out chunks of about 75 g or 2 1/2 ounces each as you go. If you want baby pretzels, divide the dough into 32 and wrap in plastic wrap or weigh out chunks of about 37 g or 1 1/4 ounces as you go.
Roll out long strips (40 cm or 18″) of dough (it’s easier if your counter isn’t floured. Shocking, I know, although if your dough is really oily you may want a little flour) and twist into pretzel shapes. Place each on a baking tray as you go.
Meanwhile, boil water in a large saucepan. You want it to be about 1/4 of the way up the pan. Add the baking soda and sugar when the water is boiling (it will foam up ferociously but don’t worry, you have a big saucepan) and reduce to a simmer. Slide in 3 or four pretzels and poach about a minute on each side, then place straight back onto the baking trays.
Whisk the egg and tablespoon of water together, then brush each pretzel generously. Sprinkle with coarse salt and bake about 15 minutes, until they are a deep, shiny brown and your kitchen smells irresistible. Dip in mustard and eat immediately.
If your house is not filled with people who can eat carbs until the cows come home, you may have some leftovers. Should this be the case, they keep for about two days uncovered at room temperature. (If you cover or refrigerate them they will wrinkle and go soggy. Major sad face.)