A hot breakfast
A good book and a cup of tea
Long walks through neighborhoods that bustle
Recently, Ryan and I have spent many afternoons baking soft pretzels. We carve out a few hours, roll up our sleeves (well, not really, it's already too hot), and knead. We turn a lump of dough into these buttery and salty twists that pair perfectly with a stone-ground mustard and a glass of beer. When I pull out that first batch of pretzels, my heart swells and my nostrils expand. Nothing smells better than freshly baked bread. I will repeat this again and again.
A few weeks ago, I shared a classic recipe for the soft-pretzels we're familiar with. The ones you can buy at ball games or at the state fair (such quaint thoughts...do we even attend these anymore?)
But after a few batches of the classic, we decided to veer into more wholesome territory. We replaced sugar with honey, all-purpose flour with stone ground whole wheat. The result? A complexly flavored pretzel that tastes even better than I had hoped.
However, all good stories contain at least one element of tension...
In our pretzel baking frenzy of the last few weeks, we failed to notice that one of our miniature pretzels slid off its cookie tray in the oven. So when we baked our honey wheat pretzels, my kitchen began to smell more like smoke than golden brown bread.
I opened the oven door to check on our twists, and not seeing any problems, shut the door, perplexed. A few minutes later, smoke started drifting into the living room. "Something's burning," Ryan observed.
We both ran to the kitchen just as our smoke alarms began to blare. I pulled out our tray of perfectly baked honey wheat pretzels, and then saw the trouble: our lonely lost pretzel, black and smoking in the bottom of our oven.
With the help of Ryan, I swatted the smoke out of our kitchen. We doused the burning pretzel with water, and the fire alarms finally quieted down.
Nervously, we each took a bite of a cooling honey wheat pretzel. We sighed as the salty sweet dough hit our tongues. The scorched pretzel had left no mark on anyone but itself.
*Adapted from Food Network
1 1/3 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package fast acting yeast
11 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 2 1/4 cups
11 ounces whole wheat flour, approximately 2 1/4 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
1/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1. Combine the water, salt, yeast, flour, butter and honey. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
3. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
4. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
5. Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Anecdotes and Apple Cores
PS. Thank you for all your lovely comments...I will respond soon. We are having the Memorial Service for Pam and Jeremy this Saturday. Your continued thoughts and prayers are much appreciated.