Tuesday, February 23, 2010

NYC/Soft Pretzels

Although it has been a few years since I have lived here full time, New York City is my home and each time I set foot in this great place, I can't help but remember why I love it here. The buzz, the energy, rude people and nice people alike make New York different than any other city and all of these contribute to its character. More than the energy and people, it is the smells of New York that always remind me that I really am home; in this way even the smell of the subway is somehow pleasing to me. What I love the most, however, is the smoky smell of pretzel carts that wafts through the bustling streets catching me off guard and forcing me to pause, take a whiff and appreciate how fantastic this place truly is.

Although the times I have actually eaten those pretzels are few and far between, to me just there smell is enough to make them a New York City classic, a food with a history and soul that adds character to what sometimes feels like a cold and heartless place. For this reason, I believe that it is a classic to be recreated in the home kitchen. Although making these at home by no means imparts the same smell as the carts, the flavor and texture of the pretzels themselves is infinitesimally better.

You should know that making these is a bit of an undertaking, but the time spent making them is well worth it. So if you're looking for a cooking project, this is a great choice. Your results will be fantastically chewy and fluffy. If you're looking for less chew and more fluff, I suggest making full size ones, if you're looking for chewier ones then make minis; I made a mix of both and in my opinion the larger ones are far superior. Aside from the fact that these pretzels are exactly the type of bready snack that I love, they are also so darn cute, I just couldn't stop cooing at them while I was taking pictures.

There are a million ways to serve these, so long as you serve them soon after you make them, but trust me getting people to eat these is the easy part. They are awesome straight out of the oven and just as good the next day, but after that they start to lose some of their pizazz. If by any chance you still have leftovers by day two (which is doubtful) slice them in half and spread on some butter. If you're feeling really bold make yourself a butter, spicy mustard, ham and cheese sandwich. It's killer, I assure you. The options are endless and the results are right-on, so if you have some time to spare and craving to cure, these are sure to fill both those voids.
Soft Pretzels

• to make minis, in step 4 cut into 32 pieces rather than the sixteen state.
• for instructions on twisting pretzels check out Marthat Stewarts website (link above) there's a great diagram there.

2 cups warm water, 100 degrees to 110 degrees
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt
Vegetable-oil cooking spray

1) Pour warm water into bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. In a small bowl, combine water and sugar, and stir to dissolve sugar. Sprinkle with yeast, and let sit 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy.
2) Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and mix on low until combined. Add salt and 4 cups flour, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat on medium-low until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup flour, and knead on low 1 minute more. If dough is still wet and sticky, add 1/2 cup more flour (this will depend on weather conditions); knead until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a lightly floured board, and knead about 10 times, or until smooth.
3) Pour oil into a large bowl; swirl to coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.
4) Heat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. Set aside. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, divide into 16 pieces (about 2 1/2 ounces each), and wrap in plastic.
5) Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip. Twist into pretzel shape; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels; 8 will fit on each sheet. Let pretzels rest until they rise slightly, about 15 minutes.
6) Meanwhile, fill large, shallow pot with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Add baking soda. Reduce to a simmer; transfer 3 to 4 pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached.
7) Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, or eat warm. Pretzels are best when eaten the same day, but will keep at room temperature, uncovered, for 2 days. Do not store in covered container or they will become soggy.


Poonam said...

Wow! these pretzels look fabulous..

incrediblecrunchyflavor said...

i just made these over at http://incrediblecrunchyflavor.wordpress.com/2010/02/25/soft-pretzels/ !! so fun!

Sophia said...

Wow! These pretzels looks delicious! I can't wait to try them! Is that cream cheese? It looks so yummy! Here are my fave pretzels: http://www.recipe4living.com/recipes/cajun_pretzels.htm