Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Classic Snacks Made From Scratch:Soft Pretzels + Me = Frustrating Experience

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What does this title really mean? Well to simply put it, would be that this recipe has really simple ingredients and easy to understand directions;however this time when you put me in the mix I somehow make really silly mistakes and not even notice them.These moments do happen to everyone and when you look back you just think " how did I miss that? or where was my brain at? These are the moments where you learn more then if you did everything perfect because you learn what not to do and see if its possible to salvage the recipe.This recipe is not to blame for my choices and has become more of a challenge then I ever thought it would be.However, to be completely honest their were good experiences and great skills learned in making these homemade soft pretzels, before I lead myself down the dark path.

Before I even began making this recipe for soft pretzels I educated myself on their history. It was quite interesting to learn that this certain bread product has been around since the 1800's and originated in Europe.So throughout the years pretzels have evolved in a variety of beautiful shapes and unique knots.There as also been many seasonings tried such as various salts,sugars and even seeds and nuts to enhance the pretzel flavor.The traditional soft pretzel being made in "Classic Snacks" is called a "pretzel loop".It's described as taking the ends of a long strip of dough, intertwine and twist back into itself in a certain way.Its a lot easier then it might sound.Pretzels in all their forms are very popular amongst fairs,markets,bakery's,commercially and of course in European bakery's.They have a long history that I could go on forever about,but we want to hear what happen throughout this recipe right?

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Well to begin,it wasn't all bad for me in this recipe because their were parts where I had no problems at all.Firstly,I had a really good time making the dough itself and assembling the pretzels.This part of the recipe was quite simple, since it included very little ingredient and easy to understand directions.However I definitely needed time and patience for these steps since it included rising of the dough,rolling,cutting,rolling again and then assembling.Though this part might take sometime, its actually the funnest part of the recipe because I got the chance to learn how to make a simple yeast dough and a traditional pretzel loop.The pretzel loop is actually simpler then it might sound and once I made a few it got really easy to put together.This was a really good experience for me throughout these steps;however once the poaching began it all went sort of down hill from there.

First, it started with making the poaching liquid and somehow I made a really silly mistake in preparing it.What I did was I only added 1/2 tsp of baking soda to the water when it actually was suppose to be 1/2 cup.I never even noticed this measurement issue, until it was way to late and imagine this must of effected the liquid and the pretzels themselves.I wish this was the only thing that went wrong for me;however once I began poaching these pretzels it became quite difficult to remove them.A slotted spoon seemed way to small to pick them up and caused the pretzels to break,especially the smaller ones.I still managed to salvage all the pieces even though they wouldn't look like the traditional pretzel loop.In conclusion, I feel the amount of baking soda may of had some effect on poaching the pretzels and I feel the pot might of a been just a little to high, causing difficulty in removing the pretzels.

Then secondly,once I got through all that frustration of poaching pretzels, the mistakes still didn't stop there and I feel their must of been gremlin's around while I was baking.The last part,was the seasoning and clearly I had way to much fun sprinkling on those shiny salt crystals to not even noticed that I began over salting. This was of course a bad move to make since once you do this you basically make it inedible.So once these pretzels were beautifully baked with their golden brown and glossy exterior and shiny salt crystal.I took a bite of one and got a very rude awaken.It was basically a harsh intense flavor of salt that you don't want to encounter with anything.

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So to get the point, these pretzels were beautiful in their shape and appearance;however completely inedible that the more they sat the more they became salty.In conclusion, I should of cut my loses and went with the recipe suggestion of freezing these pretzels and left the seasoning for another day.I may of salvage at least something edible and not have it all thrown in the garbage.It was quite an recipe adventure and learning experience.

Though I cannot say it was all completely bad because I did learn how to make a traditional pretzel loop and most of the pretzels came out looking pretty good in the end.I only wish they came out tasting as good as they looked.In the end, the pretzels had a soft and chewy texture and the flavor had a slight sweetness and yeast flavor before the salty aspect took over the whole pretzel.It was quite an experience making these pretzels and I feel a redo is in order because it will most likely be 10 times better.

So to really rate this recipe,Its kind of difficult since I made quite a few mistakes.So I will say this,the recipe is definitely challenging and I definitely recommend to read the directions very carefully.Because its quite possible to make really silly mistakes like I did and end up with a big mess.That is why with the recipe below I have added tips for everyone to help prevent mistakes.In the end,I did waste a bunch of ingredients and created an horrible tasting pretzel;however I still took away a good experience since you learn more from the things you do wrong then the things you do right.

So don't be afraid to make mistakes and trust me if you try out this recipe you most likely do better then I did.Since I did all the dirty work for you.

The Recipe

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3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 tbsp packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast or bread yeast (not active dry or rapid rise)
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Poaching liquid

1/2 cup baking soda
2 tbsp packed light brown sugar
8 cups water


1 large egg whisked with 1 tbsp water for egg wash
Pretzel salt,for sprinkling

Make The Dough:

For pretzel dough,whisk flour,brown sugar, and yeast together in a large bowl to break down any lumps.Stir in the warm water and vegetable oil,until a soft dough forms.

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Knead The Dough:

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Knead dough on a floured surface for about 3 minutes,until satiny smooth.Spitz a large,clean bowl with cooking spray or grease lightly with vegetable oil and place the dough inside.Spritz or grease a piece of plastic wrap and cover the bowl.Let the dough rise for 1 hour,until doubled in size.

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Form The Pretzels

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 Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

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Turn the risen dough out onto a clean,unfloured surface and press gently into an 18 by 10-inch rectangle.Using a pastry or pizza cutter,cut parallel to the short (10-inch) side into 12 dough strips,each approximately 1 1/2 inches wide.

Roll each strip into 18- inch rope.Twist into a pretzel shape by bringing the ends up to form a "U" shape,twisting the sides of the U twice around each other,then bringing the ends back down and pressing gently onto a base of the U.

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Place the pretzels on the prepared baking sheets and cover loosely with flour sack towels or fresh sheets sprayed plastic wrap.Let rise for another 30 minutes.

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Poach And Bake:

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Preheat the oven to 375F and prepare the poaching liquid.Bring 8 cups of water to a simmer in a large wide saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat.( Note: I feel my pot might of been to tall)
Add baking soda and brown sugar and stir until dissolved.The water will foam slightly. (Tip: Make sure to add 1/2 cup of baking soda, NOT 1/2 TSP!)

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Gently drop the pretzels into the simmering water,a few at a time and poach for 15 seconds.Use a slotted spoon or metal skimmer to flip the pretzels once halfway through for even poaching and to lift out and drain before returning to the baking sheets. 

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(Tip: It easier said then done to flip a pretzel with a slotted spoon and lifting it out without it falling apart,be very careful.You might end up with a pretzel like this below)

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Brush the poached pretzels with beaten egg wash.
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Sprinkle with pretzel salt, if they"ll be eaten fresh.Don't sprinkle with salt if you plan to freeze and reheat the pretzels. (Tip: Season the pretzels very lightly with the salt, Do Not Over Salt!)

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If baking to freeze,bake for about 12-13 minutes,until the pretzels are just golden brown and glossy.Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.This method is best if not all the pretzels are going to be eaten within the day they are baked.

If baking to eat fresh,extend the baking time by 2-3 minutes for a deeper brown.This method is when you know for sure all 12+ pretzels will be eaten within the day. 

Pretzels should look golden brown and glossy;however with less salt then this picture shows.

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