Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pretzel Bread Detective

I. Love. Pretzel bread.

And after acquiring my very own Kitchen Aid mixer, I decided to find a way to make it at home. That way, I'd never truly be without this carb-happy delight.

I've successfully used a recipe from Recipezaar several times. It is as follows:

1 1/3 c warm water
2 tbsp warm milk
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/3 c light brown sugar
2 tbsp butter, melted
4 c all-purpose flour
kosher or pretzel salt
2 quarts cold water
1/2 c baking soda

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with dough hook, mix 1/3 c warm water (105-115 degrees) with the yeast, and let stand until foamy (10 min.)

Add the remaining c warm water along with milk, sugar and melted butter. Swirl to dissolve sugar. Add flour and mix on dough cycle or med-low speed. Remove dough once it forms a firm, pliable ball. Add more flour if necessary.

Knead for two minutes. Roll into a two foot long log and cut into 12 even pieces. Cover with plastic and a damp cloth and let sit for 10 minutes.

Pat into rolls and arrange on lightly floured surface about an inch apart. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425. Cover baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large pot, bring the cold water to a rolling boil and add baking soda.

Drop two rolls in at a time, boiling for no longer than 30 seconds, turning once. Carefully remove with tongs or slotted spoon and let drain. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat with remaining rolls.

Arrange rolls on parchment paper and bake on the upper and middle racks of the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until browned all over. Shift pans from top to bottom and back to front halfway through for even baking.

I love this bread. It tastes exactly like a pretzel, with a chewy center and a hard brown crust. I load it up with kosher salt for maximum effect.

Today, I tried a different recipe from Two Bites in Suburbia, hoping to create an entire loaf of pretzel bread ... and just wanting to be different. It goes:

2 ¼ tsp yeast
1 cup water (110-120 degrees)
2 Tbsp room temperature milk
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
3 Tbsp butter
1 tsp kosher salt
2 ½ – 3 cups bread flour
4 quarts water
½ cup baking soda
Kosher salt to taste
2 Tbsp melted butter

Add yeast, water, milk, brown sugar and butter into a large bowl, whisking until all ingredients are combined. Let mixture rest for 10 minutes for yeast to activate. Mix in kosher salt. Start by adding two cups of the flour to the bowl, combining it with other ingredients. Add more flour as it’s needed, reserving just a bit for coating the dough mat later.

The dough should form a slightly tacky, but firm ball. Oil the bowl, place the dough ball in the bowl, and cover with a damp towel for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, knead the dough by hand or machine for at least 5-10 minutes until the dough is elastic and satiny. Place dough back in the bowl and recover for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bring the 4 quarts of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, slowly add the baking soda.

Remove the dough from the bowl and gently degas it. Form two separate balls of dough, forming them into the shape you want. Drop one of the smaller balls into the baking soda bath for no longer than 30 seconds, turning it once to guarantee both sides covered. Drain the excess water from the dough and place it on an oiled baking sheet. Repeat with second ball of dough.

Sprinkle the kosher salt over the bread to your specific tastes, and make sure to use a knife to cut a small incision on the top of the bread so the dough has somewhere to expand.

Cook the bread for 22 minutes, rotating the baking sheet once. Once removed from the oven, immediately brush the melted butter over the loaves to guarantee a soft crust.

The result was OK. The loaf had a great crust, but the chewy insides were entirely unremarkable. If not for the kosher salt, I could have been enjoying a regular ol' dinner roll.
Looking at the recipe, my favorite uses more brown sugar and more flour. QED, if you want good pretzel bread, don't skimp on the sugar!
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