As the proofreader, hand model, dishwasher, sous-chef, and First Husband of Brave Potato, I am honored to be making a guest post. Even better is that I get to write about making my favorite snack food: the pretzel.
I eat a lot of them. In high school, I could polish off a six-pound bag of hard pretzels in less than two weeks. For Christmas, Erica gave me a huge box of gourmet pretzels from SE Pennsylvania, the American pretzel mecca. (The perfect companion bevvie comes from that area, too.)
I've wanted to make soft pretzels ever since Erica got the The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. They give two pretzel recipes: classic pretzels, which are the chewy kind you'd get from a street vendor, and hot buttered pretzels, which are softer and more like what you'd find at a mall. I decided to make the latter because it required less time. Erica was busy all weekend making me an oh-so-amazing birthday picnic lunch and needed the kitchen a lot. She helped me make these pretzels, too.
The pretzel recipe is a cousin of the bagel recipe: it started with very dense dough that the Kitchenaid kneaded for five minutes. The dough then sat for 30 minutes. Instead of making the eight pretzels the recipe described, we made 16 mini-pretzels. With a smaller string of dough, we started making single knots and figure-eights, but towards the end we were able to create a few with the classic pretzel shape. [Ed: Greg forgot to mention that you get to dip the shaped pretzels in warm water before salting and baking - fun!] They baked for about 12 minutes at 500 degrees. When they were done I brushed plenty of butter on them.
They turned out great! They were different than I expected. First, they were lighter in color. Apparently many soft pretzel vendors cure their pretzels in food-safe lye to give them their glossy brown appearance. Our pretzels also had a distinct bagel taste, which is not surprising given the similarity in the recipes.
If you want a good soft pretzel and don't live in NYC or Philly, try this out if you're willing to spend about an hour making them. They're much better than SuperPretzels. (However, the pun in the title came from their website.)