Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Homemade Pretzels

Soft Pretzels
Makes 28 small pretzels

1 1/2 tablespoons dry active yeast
1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 large eggs
Assorted fillings, optional
Coarse salt or other toppings

1. Mix 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees), the yeast and agave in a bowl. Set aside 5 minutes.

2. In a food processor fitted with the dough blade, pulse the whole-wheat flour, 2 cups all-purpose flour and the sea salt. Add 1 egg and the yeast mixture and pulse in 10-second intervals until the dough comes together, about 3 pulses. Turn out onto a floured board. Knead 10 to 12 times, adding up to 3/4 cup more flour if the dough is too sticky. Cut the dough into 4 equal portions; cover with a clean towel.

3. On a floured board roll out one piece of dough into a 14-by-11 inch rectangle, 1/4 inch thick, with a shorter side facing you.

4. To make plain pretzels, cut the dough rectangle into seven 11-by-2 strips. For stuffed pretzels, follow the filling instructions below, then cut into strips.

5. One at a time, pinch the cut long edges of each strip together and roll into a 12-inch rope with your hands. Transfer the rope to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Grab the ends and bring them toward each other, forming a U shape, then cross the left end over the right end to make a pretzel shape. Cross the left end over the right again to make a twist in the middle. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the pretzels 3 inches apart. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes; preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

6. Beat the remaining egg in a bowl. Brush the pretzels with the egg; sprinkle with salt or other toppings. Bake until browned, 16 to 18 minutes.

How to make stuffed pretzels:
1. Roll 1 piece of dough into a rectangle; sprinkle your filling across the middle. Fold the bottom third of the dough over the filling.
2. Sprinkle more filling over the folded part; fold the top third of the dough over the filling and pinch closed.
3. Roll the dough into 14-by-11-inch rectangle. Cut into seven 2-by-11-inch strips.
4. Working with one strip at a time, pinch the long edges together and roll into a 12-inch rope with your hands.
5. Shape the pretzels on a baking sheet: Grab the ends of the rope and cross the left end over the right end.
6. Cross the left end over the right end again to make a twist in the middle. Brush with beaten egg and top before baking.

Recipe found in January/February 2011 edition of the Food Network magazine.

From my experience: There was a picture of one of these pretzels on the cover of the magazine, and it looked amazing! The subscription was a gift from my mother-in-law for Christmas, and I highly recommend it, but I did not particularly enjoy the pretzels. The recipe was easy to follow with pictures for each step, but it calls for too much flour. The dough mixture was so dry I didn't even use all of the flour the recipe called for. I believe I ended up using 2 1/2 cups of wheat and 2 cups white flour. The result was a wheaty tasting twisted bread. It might not have been so bland, if I had used more salt on the top or if the ratio of flour had been different. If I tried this recipe again, I would use 1 1/2 cups of wheat flour and about 3 cups of all-purpose flour. Another tip, you don't have to use agave nectar if you don't already have it for some reason. Instead use honey which has the same consistency and sweetness.

For my experiment, I made two stuffed pretzel variations. The first was made using cheese and olives with garlic salt sprinkled on top. The second had Nutella and coconut. I was in such a hurry to finish I forgot to give this one a topping, but the recipe says to sprinkle a mixture of 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon each of ancho chile powder and cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon each cloves and cayenne (you'll have extra spice mix).

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