Sunday, 24 April 2016

Soft American Pretzels

I recently went to America with my boyfriend, Tom. We stayed with his sister in Long Beach for a week, then flew to Minneapolis for a long weekend with his cousin, then to San Francisco before we went back to LA to fly home.

It was the trip of a lifetime. We went whale watching, watched the sun set over the Hollywood sign, walked along Venice Beach, went to Golden Gate Park and I would recommend LA, Minneapolis and San Francisco to anyone taking a trip to the US.

San Francisco was perhaps my favourite destination of the three, because it was easy to get around without a car (LA wasn't), but wasn't freezing cold (Minneapolis was).

When we took our trip to Golden Gate Park, we stopped at one point for a pretzel and coffee. The pretzels were the soft kind with a golden crust and almost immediately I decided that pretzels should the first thing I bake when I got back to the UK.

Eventually, the sad day of our return to the UK came. We boarded a plane and 11 hours later we were landing on the tarmac at Heathrow on a grey Saturday afternoon.

For the next week I couldn't even think about baking. I was so tired I didn't know what to do with myself.

But after a lot of sleep I was ready and so at the weekend I got to it and made pretzels.

As you can see I need to work on the shaping part, but apart from that they are pretty good. Soft, chewy, golden brown and shiny, just also fat and swollen.

I also made some cinnamon-sugar dusted pretzels, but the sugar kind of formed a crust, so next time I would brush the pretzels with melted butter after baking and then dust with cinnamon-sugar.

You will need:

For the dough:
2 tsp dried yeast
350ml lukewarm water
500g strong white bread flour
1 and a half tsp salt

For the topping:
1 beaten egg to glaze
either sea salt flakes to sprinkle
or 2 tbsp melted butter, 1 tbsp caster sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon

1. Sprinkle the yeast into 100ml of the water. Leave for 5 minutes and then stir until the yeast dissolves.

2. Mix together the flour and salt in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour in the yeast and water mixture and stir in just enough of the flour to make a paste. Cover with a tea towel and leave for 20 minutes until it has risen slightly.

3. Mix in the flour and stir in the remaining water as needed to form a soft, sticky dough.

4. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until stretchy and malleable. Put in a clean bowl and cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for 1 and a half to 2 hours or until doubled in size.

5. Knock back the dough by lightly pressing it down with floured knuckles until it deflates. Leave to rest for 10 minutes and then divide into eight equally sized pieces. Roll these into balls by cupping your hand around them and rolling it around until they form smooth balls. Then turn your balls into ovals by putting one hand on each side and rolling until they form ovals.

6. Roll the ovals into long strips by putting two fingers on each end and rolling back and forth while gently pushing outwards until you have a 40cm long strip. Take both ends and make a loop, then cross the ends over twice and bring them down to rest on the middle of the dough. Press them into the middle of the dough strip and put the shaped pretzels on a lightly floured baking sheet and leave to rise for half an hour.

7. Preheat the oven to 220C, then brush the pretzels with beaten egg. If using salt, sprinkle it over, but if using sugar then wait until the pretzels finish baking and then brush with butter and sprinkle with the mixed cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until shiny and golden brown.

And you're done. Shiny, happy pretzels to enjoy with a coffee or beer while you pretend you are sitting in Golden Gate Park and shed bitter, salty tears over the grey British weather.

Keep baking,