Today I am not going to talk about international relocations in all their complexity, because I feel like I need an intermission – a break, simply put. I look at the news and blogs, and find that I am angry at the world, at the entitled behavior, the willful ignorance, and just plain ill will that seems to be all over lately, and I feel like writing about that, with profanity and anger. I almost did.
But then I read a blog post by a friend of mine who wrote that the way to get through this, is to create art instead of anger, and I have decided that while I can’t supply anything in terms of higher arts on such short notice, I do have something that I can offer – food, to be precise. Pretzels won’t create world peace or anything such, I realize that, but if they make even one person feel better, that’ll be all right by me. And if aromatic, delicious soft pretzels that are also easy to make are something that will make the day brighter for you, then these are those pretzels. Also, if you plan to drink beer, these are definitely those pretzels – the ones you need to go with it. I know this because many a beer-drinking friend said so, and who am I to argue? What do I know of beer? Nothing much, actually, but I do know that the pretzels go excellently well with it.
These are really easy to make, and do not take very much active time, but do require about an hour for the dough to proof before you are ready to shape them.
A note on flour substitutions – I am no stranger to using wholegrain and/or rye flours, but I would recommend against using those in these pretzels. These are in no way, shape, or form intended to be a “health food”, nor should they be treated as such. If you want a healthier alternative, eat one pretzel, not a batch of eight. Or half a pretzel (they turn out pretty large). But substituting more coarse/heavier flours here would significantly and negatively impact the end result. Do so at your own cognizance and pretzel-risk.
Ingredients for one batch (8 large or 10 medium pretzels):
- ~600g ‘special’ flour (outside of Finland/Sweden = white bread flour, high % protein)
- 10g salt (about 2tsp)
- 4 tablespoons refined rapeseed (canola) oil (rypsi or rapsi, doesn’t matter – refined peanut oil will likely work, too) OR 60g melted butter (not both).
- 6-7g (1 Lidl packet or about 1/2 regular packet) dry yeast
- 375ml lukewarm water
- 2 VERY heaping tablespoons (about 50ml) baking soda (we want what in Swedish is called bikarbonat, sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO3, and definitely NOT baking powder!)
- 2.5-3dl boiling water (you can halve the amount of soda and water – the above is enough to bathe a few batches of pretzels.)
- 50g melted butter
- Flaked salt
- Baking parchment, pastry brush
What you do:
- Mix up the dough: mix dry yeast and salt into the weighed flour and mix with a spoon. Add oil to the bowl or pitcher of lukewarm water, and pour all that together into the flour mix, stirring with a wooden spoon or dough hooks on a hand mixer (or whatever you do with stand mixer). Mix until too thick to mix, then knead gently with hands (do not pound or abuse the dough, it will be very soft and should be!) until the dough comes together into a well-behaved ball. If needed, add a small handful or spoonful of flour to get the surface to not stick much – this dough has a fairly high water %, and so flour ‘cloaking’ is used when it’s kneaded in case it still sticks. You do not want to add too much flour, since that’ll make the pretzels tough. (Dough will also become more manageable as it proofs.)
- Move the dough to an oiled bowl, and cover with plastic or a lid. Let proof in a not-too-cold spot (‘warm’ isn’t a requirement, we used warm water – any counter spot away from an open window will do) for an hour.
- Preheat oven to 220C (no fan, no grill, use top and bottom elements). Cover a baking sheet with a piece of baking parchment.
- Dump the dough onto very lightly floured work surface, and gently stretch a bit to even it out, then cut in half, and cut each half into 4 or 5 pieces. Working one by one, roll pieces into sausage shapes about 20cm long.
- Starting from the first one you rolled (so they ‘rest’ in between the first and second rolling), roll the sausage out to about 60-70cm long and about a finger thick (my finger, not big dude sausage finger!).
- As you are done with each, grab it by the center with one hand, and one end with the other and twirl them hanging in the air to make a twist. Grab the twist by the center and counter-rotate it to make a ‘hank of wool’ shape.
- Lay the shape on a parchment-covered baking sheet, and repeat with the rest of the dough. Obviously, you can make the classic pretzel shapes, too, but I think the hank-of-wool ones bake up nicer.
- Allow the pretzels to proof for 10-20 minutes (depending on temperature in your kitchen). They will puff up a little bit. In meantime, mix baking soda into the boiling water. It will fizz and not all dissolve (and that’s ok). Stir it for a minute or two.
- Thoroughly brush and bathe the pretzels on the parchment with soda solution, several (2-4 times), so that the surface is pretty soaked. They will start to puff up a little more as you do this. Some water splats on the parchment are entirely fine. Rinse and towel off your pastry brush.
- Bake soda-bathed pretzels in the oven for approximately 10-11 minutes (for 8-pretzel per batch size). Watch the first time since ovens tend to vary (as do pretzels). Do not take out when they first start to turn light gold, as they will be underbaked – the pretzels don’t need to be chestnut-brown, but the tops need to get a good amount of coloring before the inside is baked.
- Immediately (or soon) after taking the pretzels out, bathe them in melted butter (that’s why you needed a clean brush), and sprinkle with crushed (in hand) flaked salt.
- Stuff face with pretzels.
Maybe save some for other people, I don’t know about that.