Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Soft Pretzels Are Homemade Snacks with a Twist

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Soft Pretzels Are Homemade Snacks with a Twist

Article excerpt

One reason people bake at home is that they don't need their baked goods to look like they emerged from a production line. Or they have made their peace with inconsistency, considering it a charming trait.

This peaceable mind comes in handy when making homemade soft pretzels. The familiar looped and twisted pattern isn't as difficult to make as it may look, but there's no guarantee that a dozen pretzels will look identical. And really, why would you want that?

Soft pretzels also come together, start to finish, in about two hours, making them a perfect "found" activity for the kids should your school district appear on the morning's scroll of closings this time of year.

A few keys to ensuring pretzel success:

Authentic pretzels poach briefly in a lye bath. You probably do not have this ingredient on hand. Baking soda is a good substitute, and you can boost the tang and deep color that it brings to the crust even more by first baking the baking soda for about 30 minutes.

To keep pretzels from sticking to the baking sheet, we highly recommend using parchment paper and then making sure that's it well- coated with oil or cooking spray. Don't substitute waxed paper. Silicone baking sheets are said to work like a dream. Otherwise: parchment paper, well-oiled. We're not kidding.

Use the coarsest salt you can find for the final sprinkle. Kosher salt is good. Some specialty cooking stores may carry pretzel salt.

Pretzels are best eaten the day they're made; otherwise the moisture of the bread causes the salt to "melt."

But don't aim for too much perfection. Remember: You are a baker, not a factory.

SOFT PRETZELS

Makes 12.

Note: Dough may be mixed the night before and refrigerated. Remove dough from refrigerator at least 30 minutes before shaping pretzels. This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart.

1/3 cup baking soda

3 cups flour

21/4 teaspoons or 1 package instant yeast

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons room-temperature butter, cut in 8 pieces

1 cup warm water

8 cups water (2 quarts)

1 tablespoon barley malt syrup or brown sugar

1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Coarse salt for sprinkling

Heat oven to 250 degrees. …

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