That’s what we told our friend when she invited us over for a beef stew supper on New Year’s Day. Did it make any difference that we had never made them before? Not to my husband, the chef of the house.
For Christmas Eve Curt had bought a small loaf of pretzel bread at our local grocery and everyone real liked it alot. Since he bakes bread weekly he figured he could find a recipe and do his own pretzel bread, well in this case, pretzel rolls. A search on the internet produced numerous recipes, all with different measurements, boiling times and baking times. So the calculations began. Boiling times? Well yes, because these rolls are “pretzel” rolls because they get a short bath in hot alkaline water (thanks to the addition of baking soda) as is done with pretzels (bagels are treated similarly but get a bath in plain water) just before baking. The boiling suggested in these recipes ranged from 30 seconds to four minutes!
Once he settled on times and ingredients, it was a go. And no trial run here. Sunday morning ( New Year’s Day) he started the dough while trying to avoid the cat who insisted on getting underfoot.
Since we were due at our friend’s house at noon (in time for the Packer Game), he started the dough at 7:30 and after a first rise, formed the dough into balls around 10am.
about the size of a baseball
These were covered and set in a warm place to rise, about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, oven was set to 425˚ and a pan of water was put on to boil. When the rolls were ready, baking soda went into the boiling water to make the alkaline bath. Curt had the slotted spoon and I had the timer. We were going with the 30 seconds for all of them except one which we were going to boil for two minutes to see if the time made much difference. The baking soda bath is what gives the finished rolls (and pretzels) that nice dark brown color. Notice in the finished rolls that the slashes are lighter in color because the slashes expose the inner dough which didn’t come in contact with the baking soda bath.
into the simmering baking soda bath
In they went, two at a time. Once they were back on the sheet, each got two diagonal slashes except Mr. Two Minutes, who got an X. All got coarse salt sprinkled on top.
getting a slash and salt, after the bath
Next, into the oven. After about 6 minutes we peeked inside and this is what they looked like. (below)
after 6 minutes in the oven - looking good!
Once they were golden brown, out they came to cool briefly and head out to accompany beef stew, green salad and a tall glass of beer. Happy New Year!
As you can see in the picture above, the longer bath (the one with the X) didn’t seem to make much difference although we thought that one might have had a deeper “pretzel” aroma. I think I would go for the longer bath next time. For those who would like to try these, the full recipe is listed below.
(cannibalized from several on-line recipes)
1 C. warm water
1 pkt (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast or 2-1/2 tsp. bulk yeast
1 Tbs. butter, melted but not hot
2-3/4 C. bread flour, plus more for your work surface
1 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. sea salt
8 C. water
1/3 C. baking soda
Proof the yeast in the water.
Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the melted butter to the yeast water and mix well. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix until a dough forms. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes.
Lightly oil a large bowl. Put the kneaded dough into the bowl and turn to evenly coat the dough ball. Cover and set in a warm place to rise; 1 – 2 hours depending on temperature.
When doubled in bulk, punch down the dough ball and knead lightly to consolidate. Divide into 8 pieces and shape into roll-like forms. The can be round or somewhat elongated if you wish. Cover a baking sheet with parchment, lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Put the formed rolls onto the parchment and cover lightly with waxed paper. Let rise 15-20 minutes.
Bring the water to a boil in a large sauce pan. Slowly add the baking soda – Be careful as it it will foam up. Reduce heat to a simmer. Gently place two or three rolls into the baking soda bath for from 30 seconds to 2 minutes each. Turn each over half way through the bath. Remove with a slotted spoon and return to the baking sheet. Slash each roll once or twice with a sharp knife and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
Bake at 425˚ F. for 12 minutes.