When I first became a part of the Cramp family, I was introduced to a deliciously fantastic treat - homemade soft pretzels. In fact, I remember making soft pretzels with Evan's mom (now my Mother-in-law) the first time I visited their home for Thanksgiving 2004. This treat quickly became one of my favourites and now, Evan and I look forward to making soft pretzels every so often.
Yesterday, something gave me a hankering to indulge in warm, gooey, buttery soft pretzels. I can't quite put my finger on what sparked the interest. However, no sooner than the idea had popped into my mind, I had decided my Sunday afternoon would be spent measuring, mixing, kneading, waiting for the rise, punching, kneading again, rolling, twisting, baking, buttering, and enjoying.
I must mention that the recipe I use for soft pretzels has been passed on to me. My mother-in-law copied down the recipe after experiencing the joy of homemade soft pretzels in Pennsylvania. My in-laws have dear friends in Pennsylvania who they visit with a few times a year and these friends happen to be Amish. Therefore, the recipe is meant to feed the masses. As such, I generally cut the recipe in half when baking them at home. A half portion of this recipe yields between 25-30 pretzels while the entire recipe yields between 50-60.
Today, Evan convinced me that we should go ahead and make the full recipe and freeze some of the pretzels so we have a treat later on. I agreed with him that this was a good idea as I purchased a 10 kilogram bag of flour a few weeks ago to bake bread with T and I felt I could stand to use some of it up.
Unfortunately, once I began the process, I realized that I do not own a bowl that is large enough to contain the 5 cups of warm water, 2 cups of sugar, 6 tsp of yeast, 14 cups of flour, as well as some other ingredients that are required to be successful. As you might well imagine, the mixing process was quite tedious as I struggled to combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients in a bowl that was much too small. I didn't get a picture of the bowl of uncombined ingredients (although I wish I had!) because I was too frustrated with my attempts to keep all ingredients in the bowl. Also, my hands were completely covered in wet flour, making it difficult to handle a camera. (Evan was having his Sunday afternoon nap during this step).
It took me twice the amount of time to mix the dough because I was fighting with the bowl the whole time. Eventually, I got the dough mixed enough that it was ready to knead. Kneading went very well - despite the difficulty with mixing, the dough was fantastic which made it easy to knead. After kneading, I left the dough covered in a greased bowl to rise for 45 minutes. Last time I made pretzels, the dough did not rise properly so I was happy to see that it doubled in size this afternoon. You can imagine what that looked like since it was too big for the bowl in the first place!
After the dough rose, I proceeded to punch and knead the dough until the air bubbles were gone and it was ready to roll and shape. This is where Evan comes in. We have a great system for making pretzels. I separate the dough into small pieces ready to roll. Evan rolls and shapes the dough into pretzels.
I dip the shaped pretzels into a baking soda and water mixture, lay them on the pan and sprinkle with coarse salt.
Next, we bake the pretzels for 5 minutes at 450 degrees. By our second batch we had perfected the timing - 2.5 minutes, rotate the pan, 2.5 minutes.
Finally, I brush the pretzels with melted butter and transfer them to a cooling rack and they are ready to enjoy.
My baking stone fits 7 pretzels and at the end of the afternoon we were left with 4 more clumps of dough so Evan decided we should make one large pretzel. It was quite the task attempting to roll and shape it, but it was worth it.
(Monster pretzel pre-baking).
(Evan getting excited for the monster pretzel).
(Monster pretzel post-baking).
We celebrated the completion of our soft pretzel afternoon by enjoying the fresh, warm creation with a delicious honey mustard dip that Evan made and an ice cold Dr. Pepper.
Something tells me that the extra pretzels may not make it to the freezer. Our friend, B, arrived shortly after the pretzels were done and already we are down about 10 pretzels. Fresh baked goodies don't last long around here!