Saturday, February 20, 2016

Soft Rye Pretzels with Sesame Seeds


This is another great recipe from Cooking with New York Times. The rye flour adds a nice flavor to these pretzels, but you could probably substitute whole wheat or use all white flour if you don't have any on hand.  Like any yeast bread recipe, this takes some advanced planning--about two hours all told.  We don't like salty pretzels, so I sprinkled pinch of kosher salt on top and used sesame seeds instead. I may have over done the sesame seeds, a bit--but these are really good.  Poppy seeds or, since this uses rye flour, a few caraway seeds would also be nice.  The chewy, dark crust of pretzels is made by poaching the risen and formed pretzel dough in a pot of boiling water with a hefty 1/2 cup of baking soda stirred into it.  The baking soda makes an alkaline bath that creates the browning (some recipes call for lye--no lie!). Up for a chemistry lesson?  Check out this explanation from The Salt at NPR!

Soft Rye Pretzels with Sesame Seeds
1 1/4-oz packet of yeast (I used rapid rise)
1 1/2 cups luke warm water
1 tablespoon honey
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup rye flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup baking soda
1-2 tablespoons sesame seeds
kosher salt for sprinkling on top 
Place the water in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top.  Add the honey and stir until well combined.  Add 2 3/4ths cup all purpose flour, all of the rye flour and the salt.  With a wooden spoon, stir until all of the flour is incorporated.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10-15 minutes, sprinkling the dough lightly with the remaining 1/4 cup of flour as needed.  If the dough is really sticky, oil your hands a bit to make it easier to knead.  Oil or butter a large bowl, place the kneaded dough in, oil the top and cover with plastic or a towel and set aside to rise for about 90 minutes. (It won't double in bulk.) 

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper (or aluminum foil) and lightly oil or butter them. Divide the risen dough into 12 roughly equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll into a long rope--about 16 inches long.  To make the pretzel form, create a loop by folding the rope in half, leaving a wide loop at the top.  Twist the ends twice and then fold them up to meet the center of the loop. Spread the ends a bit and firmly press them into the dough.  As you make the pretzels, set them on the prepared cookie sheets. Let the formed pretzels rest, covered, for about 20 minutes.

While the pretzels are resting, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and arrange the oven racks to be in the center and top of the oven. Place a large pot filled with 10 cups of water on the stove and bring to a boil.  Carefully sprinkle the baking soda into the boiling water--it will bubble up a lot, so take care with this!  Working with about three pretzels at a time, carefully drop them knot side down into the boiling water and poach for 30 seconds.  Turn the pretzels and poach on the other side for another 30 seconds.  Place them on a kitchen cloth to drain briefly, then put them on the prepared cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt and sesame seeds.  Bake for about 15-16 minutes, until they're well-browned, turning the cookies once for even baking.  Serve with spicy mustard--some honey mustard would be nice!

This recipe makes 12 pretzels.  I froze six of the formed pretzels, fearing we'd eat all 12 in a day or two if I didn't.  I can't vouch for how well the dough freezes, though.  My plan will be to thaw the dough on the counter and proceed with the recipe.  I'll try to remember to report back how well this works!

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