A Stove With A House Around It turns one today. Happy birthday, wee infant blog! Though you are but a tot, you are beginning to show your little personality. You are growing into something I can recognize, something that looks a heck of a lot like me.
To celebrate, I should be making you a fantastic party cake with pretty pink icing, into which I would spear a large candle in the shape of a "1." But given my salt proclivities -- I am like a deer, nearly always in search of a salt lick -- I thought it more appropriate to celebrate with something salty. Such as homemade soft pretzels.
So far the celebration is going pretty well. Husband and I completely spoiled our dinner, as we ate nearly half of the batch of hot pretzels as an "appetizer." We sort of didn't have a choice, though; they are called hot pretzels, not room temperature pretzels. No use letting them sit around. At least that's what I'm telling myself.
These hot pretzels are surprisingly easy to make and the result is so delicious -- nearly professional-looking -- that I don't think I'll be heading to Auntie Anne's again anytime soon. They fulfill all my hot pretzel requirements (yes, I have hot pretzel requirements): crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and slathered in salt -- I'd rather knock off extra salt than wish there was more. The dough comes together easily and kneads into a perfect, soft ball with a distinctive and delightful yeasty smell. And it only rises for a total of 50 minutes! Soft pretzel making is in no way a day-long affair.
So happy birthday, blog. As the remainder of the hot pretzels await consumption and as Husband and I watch Han pilot the Falcon safely to Cloud City, we raise a glass to you. Soon you'll be walking, then starting first grade, then driving and, oh, these early days will be just a fond memory. A fond memory filled with perfect homemade soft pretzels.
Adapted from "Martha Stewart Living"
2 1/4 t. active dry yeast (a little more than 1 packet)
1/4 t. kosher salt
2 t. sugar
1 c. warm water
3 c. all-purpose flour
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
2 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 T. baking soda
Kosher salt or pretzel salt (if you can find it), for sprinkling
Mix the yeast, 1/4 t. salt, sugar and warm water in a small bowl, whisking until the sugar dissolves. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix the flour and cayenne pepper. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Slowly pour the yeast mixture over the flour mixture, stirring with a rubber spatula to combine. Using your hands, gather the dough together and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until the dough comes together into a smooth, soft ball and is no longer sticky, about 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.
Using a bench scraper, cut the dough into 12 pieces. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or grease them with vegetable oil. Roll each piece of dough into an 18-inch rope. Form a U-shape with one rope and twist the ends together twice.
Fold the twisted portion backward along the center of the U shape to form a circle, then gently press the ends of the rope onto the dough to seal.
Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, then repeat with each of the 11 remaining pieces of dough. I find that 6 pretzels fit on a baking sheet comfortably. Let the pretzels rise for 20 minutes.
While the pretzels are rising, preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Add the baking soda to the boiling water (this step is fun; it's like a little science experiment). Boil the pretzels 2 or 3 at a time until puffed, 1-2 minutes per side. I find it's easiest to turn the pretzels with a Chinese spider. Transfer to wire racks to drain, then return the pretzels to the baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher or pretzel salt to taste.
Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Eat immediately. You can, like, serve them with fancy mustards and such, or you can just eat them, steaming and marvelous, right off the baking sheet. Pretzels will keep, uncovered, at room temperature for up to 12 hours, and you can rewarm them in a 250-degree oven if you so choose.
Makes 12 pretzels.