Okay, mine look like bites, and I prefer them that way (better for dipping!) but the only difference between these and the curly ones is how happy you get with a knife.
A lot of other bloggers have pretzel recipes with one complaint: it doesn’t taste (or look) like a pretzel. And no wonder… most of these other recipes completely neglected the baking soda bath (or even culinary lye, but why overcomplicate things for the average home baker?).
Anyway, neglecting the baking soda–big mistake. It’s a complex interwoven chemistry between taste and function and texture, but there’s two main reasons.
#1 – Like in bagel making, boiling before baking prevents the pretzel from rising as much, it changes the texture of the outer crust, and it gives a chewy texture to the pretzel.
#2 – In addition to (and as part of) imparting that unique, classic-pretzel taste, the baking soda is the key ingredient for creating a rapid, non-enzymatic browning on the outer crust when the pretzels are baked–a process also known as creating a Maillard reaction.
I think it’s fair to say that the Maillard is everyone’s favourite form of chemistry, because who doesn’t like nicely browned steaks, coffee, fresh bread, roasted nuts, and french fries (among many, many other things)? The process is greatly accelerated by alkaline substances, and if you tried this past week’s Science Saturday experiment with pH indicators, you can see where baking soda rates on the pH scale.
Long story short, without it you’ll end up with a pasty-looking pretzel-shaped bread stick. So just take my word for it and boil the suckers, m’kay?
|Serves||8lg, or ~176 bites|
|Prep time||1 hour, 15 minutes|
|Cook time||15 minutes|
|Total time||1 hour, 30 minutes|
|Meal type||Appetizer, Bread, Snack, Starter|
|Misc||Child Friendly, Serve Hot|
- 1 1/2 cup very warm water (115-120F)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet)
- 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse or Kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons light olive oil (plus extra for coating rising bowl)
- 2 tablespoons yellow sugar
- 2 quarts water (8 cups)
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 1 large egg (beaten with 1 1/2 tsp water)
- coarse salt
Do not skip the boiling step or the egg wash. If you do, it won't taste like a pretzel!
|Step 1.||In a bowl, mix the water, sugar, yeast, and oil. Stir to combine, and let sit for a few minutes until yeast activates.|
|Step 2.||Add the salt and flour and mix until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out and knead for about six minutes (3-4 minutes by stand mixer with bread hook) or until smooth and slightly sticky. If the dough appears to be too wet, add flour gradually by the tablespoon.|
|Step 3.||Form a ball with the dough, and place in an oiled bowl in a warm area to rise, covered, until doubled, about one hour.|
|Step 4.||A few minutes before dough is finished rising, bring the two quarts of water to a boil in a large pot on the stove, and add the baking soda. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Begin oven preheating to 425F|
|Step 5.||Turn the dough out onto a flat surface, and cut into eight pieces. Roll each piece out to ropes approximately 20-22" in length, and either fold into traditional pretzels, or cut the ropes into 1" pieces.|
|Step 6.||Boil a double handful of the pieces at a time in the baking soda solution for 30 seconds. If they are the larger pretzels, boil them two at a time and make sure their tops also get exposed to the boiling water.|
|Step 7.||Spread the boiled pieces onto the parchment paper, and brush with the egg mixture. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a rich golden brown.|