OK, so technically A Stove With A House Around It is three years and one month old.
My goal was to celebrate the old girl's third birthday in a more timely fashion, like, on the birthday itself (January 10, 2011). But it's February 13 and I'm just now getting around to acknowledging the milestone. What can I say; I am lame. But I am not so lame that I didn't bake pretzels in honor of the occasion!
For the site's first and second birthdays, I made pretzels. I decided it should be an annual thing: The Ritual Baking of the Pretzel in Honor of the Weblog's Birthday. Last year I wrote, "Yes. I believe I shall make birthday pretzels a yearly tradition: each year this blog grows a little older, I'll share another pretzel recipe I've found. Because I do believe a full life is one lived in the presence of many pretzel recipes." And I'm nothing if not true to my word.
And so! How fortuitous that I spent so much time during my maternity leave catching up on magazines that had been sitting on the shelf, languishing, for years. And how fortuitous to come across, in the course of this culinary publication backlog-clearing endeavor, an article in a five-year-old Food & Wine about the homey side of Grant Achatz, titled "Comfort Food from a Rebel Chef." "I've always been a fan of any food high in salt and starch," the adorable little molecular gastronomer says, "and soft pretzels right out of the oven are awesome."
Hey, if they're good enough for the man behind this, they're good enough for me.
I'm pretty psyched about the blog's turning three, even if I can't post as often as I used to, or as often as I'd like. It's still a labor of love, and I hope that a few of you out there find inspiration or humor from this space -- or maybe just a way to pass a little time. Thank you for stopping by, and here's to year four!
P.S. If you were wondering if I had mentally ranked the anniversary pretzel recipes from 2009, 2010 and 2011, well yes, I have. These Achatz beauties are clearly number one, followed by Alton Brown's from last year and Martha Stewart's from 2009. I wonder what next year will bring!
GERMAN SOFT PRETZEL STICKS
From Grant Achatz's recipe as it appeared in Food & Wine
Though Mr. Achatz says he likes to eat these pretzels with ranch dressing (?), I'd go for a bit of mustard or just plain. They are delicious all on their own.
1/2 c. light brown sugar
2 c. warm water
4 1/2 t. instant yeast (or 2 envelopes active dry yeast)
1/4 c. vegetable oil
5 3/4 c. all-purpose flour (plus more, potentially, for kneading)
3/4 c. baking soda
1 large egg beaten with 1 T. water
Maldon salt, for sprinkling
In a large bowl, stir the brown sugar into the water until it dissolves. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and mix in with a whisk; let stand for about 5 minutes. Stir in the vegetable oil and 3 cups of the flour. I use my dough whisk to bring the dough together, but a wooden spoon will work just fine. Knead in the remaining 2 3/4 cups flour; the dough will be slightly sticky.
Transfer the dough to a lightly-floured work surface and knead until the dough is silky, about 3 minutes. If the dough is very sticky, knead in up to 1/4 cup more flour. (I did not need to use any extra flour.) Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes to an hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line three large baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a work surface. Knead the dough lightly, then flatten it out and, using a bench scraper, cut it into 24 pieces.
Roll each piece into an 6-inch stick about 1/2-inch thick. Transfer the sticks to the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between them. Let stand uncovered until puffed, about 25 minutes.
In a large, deep skillet stir the baking soda into 2 quarts of water and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to moderate. Using two slotted spoons or spiders, carefully transfer 6 pretzel sticks at a time to the simmering water for 30 seconds, turning once. Transfer the sticks to paper towels to drain, then return them to the parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them as before.
Brush the pretzel sticks with the egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Bake until richly browned, about 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 24 pretzel sticks. The sticks can be stored in a plastic bag overnight then reheated in a toaster oven the next day, but they are never as good as they are right out of the oven. So, prepare to gorge yourself on pretzel sticks or invite a few people over for snacking.
Previously, on A Stove With A House Around It:
One year ago: layered chocolate fudge cake
Two years ago: pine nut cookies with rosemary
Three years ago: egg rolls