Fifteen of Those Giant Soft Pretzels

I was just winding down after a long and arduous Friday of lounging around when Zach popped by our flat to change his shirt. “Doug and Rachel just got a keg and brought out the grill,” he told me through a mouthful of Cocoa Pops and McDuff’s beer (two inferior substances that, when brought into contact with one another, form a chemical compound far worse than the sum of their constituent parts). I expressed approval, particularly for the bit about the grill. Zach concurred. “But really,” he remarked, “the only thing I want right now is One of Those Giant Soft Pretzels, y’know?”

Oh yes, I knew. Something about the weather had instilled One of Those Giant Soft Pretzels into the back of my consciousness as well. You know what I’m talking about: a lustrous exterior of salted buttery copper, yielding to soft and subtly sweet doughy goodness with a slight but satisfying crunch as every parade and sporting event of one’s childhood rushes back in a whirlwind of halite-fueled euphoria. Now I needed a pretzel too. But how were they made? Could I whip up a batch right there, or would I need special gadgets and/or ingredients?

There could be but one cure-all remedy for such complete pretzel ignorance. For any sort of ignorance, really. I quickly engaged a web browser and fired up the Font of Wisdom (which goes by Google nowadays, I’m told). It turns out that making giant soft pretzels is a quick, easy, and only moderately messy exercise, even for the absolute beginner. Most importantly, they’re just as I remembered them – only better. Here’s the recipe I ended up with. Go ahead and give it a shot; you probably have all the stuff you’ll need already.

Fifteen of Those Giant Soft Pretzels (adapted from various formulas found online)

6 cups all-purpose flour
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp active dry yeast
2 cups cool water
¼ cup warm water

2 quarts water
½ cup baking soda

Butter and table salt

Preheat oven to 425F. Sift together flour, sugar, and yeast; add cool and warm water. Mix and knead the resultant dough for maybe ten minutes. Divide dough into about fifteen balls, and roll each one into a long rope. This part was easiest for me to accomplish on the countertop, but I found that getting too much flour on either my hands or my workspace severely retarded the rolling process – so ideally, the countertop shouldn’t be floured, and the ropes should be almost (but not quite) sticky. After rolling each rope, form it into the shape of a pretzel and place it onto a floured surface.

While you’re rolling away, bring those quarts of water to a rolling boil and set up some kitchen towels onto a nearby flat surface. Once you’ve got fifteen or so phenomenal pretzel shapes, add the baking soda to the water and submerge a pretzel in there for fifteen seconds, using a slotted spoon. Then set the pretzel down on a kitchen towel and dunk another one. The boiling process should cause the exterior of your pretzels to harden and become slightly wrinkled. Once you’re done, bake the pretzels on greased cookie sheets in batches for about ten minutes, or until they look absolutely irresistible and/or begin to crack on top. Meanwhile, melt some butter in a small bowl. When each batch comes out of the oven, brush the pretzels immediately with this liquid butter and sprinkle salt on top. Then scarf them all down with your friends – preferably while they’re still piping hot, and accompanied by steaks grilled outside and a keg of New Zealand lager chilled in an inflatable kiddie pool packed with ice cubes.

Okay, maybe not the lager. I know it’s supposed to complement pretzels, but even in New Zealand, keg beer is just gross. I would have much preferred Chartreuse. That, my pretzels, and a lamb steak rubbed with rosemary.

This is why I need to secure a lucrative job when I graduate.

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~ by Jack on November 2, 2007.

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