Monday, February 27, 2012

Soft Rye Pretzels

As my streak of baking experimentation with different types of flours continues, these Soft Rye Pretzels have been my most recent project.  I came across this recipe as I was flipping through Kim Boyce's book Good to the Grain; an excellent source if you too are interested in broadening your horizons from baking with only All-Purpose Flour.  As trusty and useful as our beloved AP flour is, it is amazing to see the transformation of flavor and texture your baked goods can go through once you introduce a variance of flours into their recipes.  Once you start, you'll be hooked, trust me!

There is no need for a stand-up mixer to make and knead this dough - only a wooden spoon and your own two hands.  This is true with any bread really, but this is a great recipe to start with as you practice your hand kneading skills.  A shaggy dough will become soft and elastic as you roll and push it across your kitchen counter - and you will feel the entire transformation under your fingertips.

Then, after it rests and rises, you will start your own mini pretzel making shop as you roll pieces of dough into snakes and twist them into the classic pretzel shape.  A quick boil in a pot of water mixed with baking soda before they hit the oven gives them that classic mahogany pretzel color and flavor.  With a liberal sprinkle of coarse salt on their crust, these pretzels are incredible solo, or dipped in mustard or honey.  Fresh out of the oven, they define the word irresistible.
No matter how you have them, they will be gone quickly, and then all you will want is fresh pretzels at your beckon call for the rest of your life.  Now you can at least know how to make that happen when you find yourself in need.  

Soft Rye Pretzels
These pretzels are best eaten the day they are made, but still delicious resurrected by a toaster oven the day after.  I used kosher salt for the topping since that is all I had - it works perfectly fine, but more traditional and more coarse salt (as suggested below) is worth seeking out as well.  


1 package (2 1/4t) yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup rye flour
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 cup baking soda

To Finish
Maldon, or other coarse salt for sprinkling

1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 1/2 cups of warm water, add honey, then stir in the flours and salt.
2. Dump the dough onto a floured surface and knead.  Add up to a 1/2 cup of all purpose flour, as needed, until the dough is tacky (not sticky), soft, and supple.  About 10-12 minutes.
3. Brush a clean bowl with melted butter, oil, or spray with nonstick cooking spray.  Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
4. While the dough is rising, heat your oven to 450 degrees and oil or butter 2 baking sheets.
5. Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured board and divide it into 12 equal sized pieces. Roll each piece into a thin snake with tapered edges about 17 inches long. 
6. To shape the pretzels, fold one third of the left side of the snake over the center.  Then fold the one third of the right side over the left, twisting once where they intersect and laying their ends over the bottom of the pretzel forming its classic shape.  
7. Place the shaped pretzels on the oiled baking sheets, cover with a towel or loose plastic wrap, and let  rise for 15-20 min.
8. Meanwhile, fill your biggest, widest pot with water. Once the pretzels are proofed and the water is boiling, add the baking soda. Be careful, the water will bubble rapidly when you add the soda.
9. To poach the pretzels, gently place them in the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds on each side. Pat off any excess water and transfer back to the baking sheets. Sprinkle liberally with coarse salt.
10. Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking. The pretzels should be very dark in color.
11. Transfer to a rack to cool and eat warm with desired sides/condiments.  

See below for a particularly delicious trifecta:

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