Soft Pretzels

Confession: Last night I almost peed my pants.

Two weeks ago we had a jam packed Sunday. The weather decided to say hello with freezing rain and icy conditions. Every plan we had that day was cancelled. Including the 9:15 showing of The King’s Speech I so eagerly wanted to see. Two weeks later we found ourselves with an open Sunday night and jumped at the opportunity to see the now Oscar winning film.

We went to Noodles before the film where I proceeded to gulp down two iced teas. I should have known better. Really. I typically have no problem missing a couple of minutes of a movie, if necessary. I simply could not move from my seat, even for a minute, during this film. Colin Firth earned that Oscar. Everything about the movie was well executed.  If you haven’t seen this, please do so. And be sure to use the facilities prior to the start of the show.

On the same level of excitement, I discovered the joy of making soft pretzels in the comfort of my own home. (Yes, I am comparing the joy of soft pretzels to the joy of an Academy Award winning film.) Every time I go to the mall I have an arguement with myself as I pass the scent of Auntie Annes. The combination of carbohydrate, salt and butter always tempts my taste buds. And I rarely win this battle.

The idea came to me after seeing homemade pretzels on foodgawker a few times. I realized I had most of the ingredients at home and thought… why not? The level of amazement I experienced after my first bite was simply unreal. I brought the temptation of Auntie Annes into my kitchen. Another battle lost. I am waiving my white flag over here.

Soft Pretzels

(Adapted from Dishing Up Delights and Alton Brown)

Ingredients:

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (one package)
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup warm water, approximately 125 degrees
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter ( room temperature)
Vegetable oil  (approximately 4 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons baking soda

Directions:

Whisk the salt, sugar and water together until dissolved.  Add yeast and let sit until frothy, about 5 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour and cayenne. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles a course meal.

Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and mix until well combined. Once combined, knead the dough with the hook attachment on your stand mixer for approximately 5 minutes.  Once complete, place the dough in a covered, oiled bowl and let sit for 30 minutes. (I typically spray my bowl with cooking spray.)

Boil about 10 cups of water in a large pot with the baking soda. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil on each sheet and spread.

Cut the dough into 10 pieces. Roll out each piece using your hands into 12 to 18 inch ropes. Holding each end of the rope, form into a U shape. Twist the two ends about 1/3 of the way down from each end and pull over the bottom of the U to create the pretzel shape. (You may also make sticks and save yourself the fury of trying to create the perfect pretzel.) Let set on oiled baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Boil the pretzels, one at a time in the boiling water for about 30 seconds. Remove from water and returning to baking sheets. Brush with melted butter. Add toppings of choice. I sprinkled with about 1 tbsp off feta and 1/2 tsp of dried rosemary as my favorite. I tried to place whatever fell off on the pretzel to prevent burning. I also tried cheddar, sesame and garlic salt.  All recommended. (I like to dip mine in cream cheese. After they are cooked!)

Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. Try to wait at least 5 minutes before devouring. But good luck with that.

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