Soft Pretzels

In news from last night’s Olympics coverage, the US women’s gymnastics team won gold, the first time the US has won gold in this event since the 1996 Atlanta Games. Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian in history, winning his nineteenth medal. Phelps won gold alongside Lochte yesterday as part of the 4x200m relay, also making Phelps and Lochte the only men to have won this event three times. In case you weren’t watching, Queen Elizabeth’s granddaughter, Zara Phillips, competed and took home silver in a three day equestrian event.

The 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany (formerly West Germany), marked the introduction of the first named official mascot, “Waldi” the dachshund. This was the first Olympic Games where officials took an oath as part of the Opening Ceremonies. Sadly, the 1972 games are probably most remembered for the September 5 Munich massacre, including Mark Spitz having to leave Munich before the Closing Ceremonies as officials feared he might be an additional target for the terrorists responsible. Spitz, an American swimmer, won seven gold medals in a single Olympics (a world record, that stood until 2008).

Because of Munich’s location in Bavaria, soft pretzels are a popular food, especially at Oktoberfest. Traditional German soft pretzels are made by dipping the dough in a lye bath before baking, which gives them their dark color and crispy crust. I wasn’t chancing anything by having very caustic chemicals in my kitchen, so I opted for the more traditional baking soda bath method, and these pretzels were fantastic. I love that this recipe doesn’t warrant waiting for the dough to rise, so it couldn’t be easier. You mix, knead (or get your stand mixer to knead it for you), shape, boil, and bake. This recipe makes eight pretzels, and I advise against doubling it unless you have a crowd to help you eat them. The pretzels are best fresh out of the oven, but you can store extras in sealable bags or containers and microwave them for twenty to thirty seconds and they’re almost as good that way. I’m not sure how long they keep after that- I’ve never had one not eaten by the second day!

Soft Pretzels

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (2 tsp.) active dry yeast
  • 1/8 C. warm (about 105 degrees) water
  • 1 1/3 C. warm water
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 4 1/2 C. flour
  • 2 Tbsp. baking soda per cup of water needed to fill the boiling pot (I used 10 C. water, 20 Tbsp. baking soda- you need at least 3 inches of water in the pot)

Directions:

Stir together the 1/8 C. warm water and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or other large mixing bowl). Let sit for five minutes.

Stir in the 1 1/3 C. warm water and add the salt and flour.

Knead the dough until smooth and elastic (or use the dough hook and allow the mixer to knead the dough for five to ten minutes until elastic).

Dough does not need to rise.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Fill a large pot with 3 inches of water (this was 10 cups of water for my pot).

Measure 2 Tbsp. baking soda into the water.

Bring soda and water mixture to a light boil and then turn down heat and simmer.

Make sure the baking soda is well dissolved.

Cut the dough into eight even pieces.

Placing the dough between your hands and rubbing your hands together, rolling the dough in between them, shape each piece of dough into a long (approximately 16 inches) rope.

Pick up one end of the rope in each hand, cross to form “rabbit ears” and then twist the ends and pull them back to the rest of the loop. The finished pretzel will be roughly 6 inches in diameter.

Set on the parchment paper lined baking sheet and allow to sit for approximately ten minutes.

Using a large slotted spoon or spatula, lower one pretzel at a time into the baking soda and water mixture. Add only one or two at a time, you don’t want to crowd them, and keep them submerged in the water for about 30 seconds using a spatula or slotted spoon.

Remove the pretzel from the water and allow excess water to drip off over the pot for a few seconds before placing the pretzel on the baking sheet.

Repeat until all pretzels have been boiled.

Sprinkle the pretzels with coarse sea salt if desired.

Bake the pretzels for 18-19 minutes, until pretzel is baked to desired darkness.

Serve pretzels warm.

Source: adapted from The Oktoberfest

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