I experimented with pretzels today. I like my pretzels soft and chewy but with at least a little bit of crust. Unfortunately, I've only been able to achieve the perfect skin with a lye bath. While cooking with toxins takes kitchen wizardry to record heights, I'm just not a fan of using flesh-burning chemicals around my food. I also wanted to improve on the pretzel recipe I've been using that tastes a little doughy (sorry, Alton Brown, but you know its true).
Here is my new recipe. Based on the reviews, they are pretty good:
1 cup warm whole milk (the original recipe called for the milk to be scalded and cooled but I skipped this step)
1/2 cup warm water (about 110 F)
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons coarse salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour (I split the flour evenly between bread and all-purpose flour)
For the soda bath:
3 quarts water
3/4 cup baking soda
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
coarse sea salt
Proof the yeast in half a cup of lukewarm water and the sugar. In a bowl of a mixer, place the flour (start with 4 1/2 cups, you'll add the rest if necessary) and salt. Add the yeast, cooled butter and the milk. Mix for about 10 minutes until the dough is well kneaded and no longer sticky. Add more flour if necessary. Let the dough rise for about an hour in a warm place or until doubled in size. On a floured surface, roll the dough into long ropes, as thick or as thin as you want. I end up rolling them in my hands, like play-do snakes Shape the dough with the traditional pretzel shape (holding each end, cross them, twist and press down with a drop of water).
Preheat the oven to 400 F
Boil the pretzels in the soda bath for about 30 seconds each side. Place them on a baking sheet, brush them with either egg wash or melted butter and sprinkle them with salt. Bake the pretzels for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.
Leftover pretzels can be stored in the fridge and popped into the toaster for a nice warming before eating.
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