Thursday, April 5, 2012

sweet pretzels

I'd like to think I've always been good with food, but in retrospect, it seems that I may have been a  bit of a picky eater when I was a child. Grape juice? Gag me. Chocolate? Not unless we're talking frozen m&ms (plain, not peanut). PB&J? No way Jose. But my deepest dining detest was reserved for the pretzels served at my elementary school snack time. 

In my defense, they were basically puffs of cardboard coated in salt, but not only did I refuse to touch the offending pretzels, I swore off the entire genre altogether. Long after I started loving PB&J, chocolate of the non-m&m variety, and wine ('s totally the same thing as grape juice) I still proclaimed my hatred of pretzels to anyone who would listen. 

Not anymore. These sweet soft pretzels from Bon Appetit are made from a rich, dense, brioche-like dough, and are topped with pearl sugar instead of salt. In other words, they're about as far from salted cardboard as one could possibly get. In addition to being delicious, their impressive appearance belies a fairly simple preparation. I made the dough one evening, covered it in the refrigerator overnight, let it sit out the next morning while I was running errands, and shaped and baked my pretzels that afternoon. No obsessive dough-watching or crazy kneading required.

This is a great recipe for anyone who wants to test the waters of yeast baking, and seems like it could be a fun project to do with kids as well.  Provided that they're not picky pretzel-haters of course. But you never know--I've already eaten at least four.

Sweet Pretzels
Recipe from Bon Appetit, April 2012

For the Master Sweet Dough (which can also be used for a variety of other treats)
2/3 cup whole milk
5 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from a 1/4 ounce envelope)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 8 pieces, plus 1/2 tablespoon, melted

Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat until it reaches a temperature of 110-115 degrees.  Transfer the milk to a large glass measuring cup and stir in a tablespoon of sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the top of the warm milk, and whisk until it's dissolved. Let the milk sit for 5 minutes or so, until the mixture is frothy.   Whisk in the eggs.

Meanwhile, mix the flour, salt, and remaining 4 tablespoons of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the milk, and process on medium speed until incorporated. With the mixer running, carefully add the butter, one piece at a time, blending between additions. Process for one minute. Knead on medium to high speed for about five minutes, or until the dough is soft and silky.

Brush the bottom and sides of a large bowl with melted butter.  Transfer the dough to the prepared bowl, and brush melted butter over the top. Cover with plastic wrap.  At this point, you can chill the dough for up to one day, or proceed directly to the rise. If you are not making your dough ahead of time, let it rise in a warm, draft-free location for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until it has doubled in size. If your dough has been refrigerated, it will likely take 2 to 2 1/2 hours for it to double in size. This recipe can also be made in a food processor. For instructions, go here.

For the Pretzels
1 recipe master sweet dough (above)
flour, for dusting
1 egg white
6 tablespoons pearl sugar, available in specialty food stores

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Punch down the dough, and divide it into 12 equally sized pieces. Prepare a clean counter or surface by dusting it with flour. Work with one piece of dough at a time, keeping the remaining pieces covered with a clean kitchen towel.  (Note: I found my dough to be very sticky, so I generously floured my counter, and turned each piece of dough over in the flour a couple of times before rolling out so that it was easier to work with).  Roll each piece into a 17-inch long rope. Form your rope into a U-shape. Take the top right corner of the rope and fold it at a diagonal, down and under the bottom of the left side of the U's base. Press gently to seal together. Repeat with the top left corner of the rope--fold it at a diagonal down and under the right side of the U's base to form a pretzel shape. You can find a tutorial on rolling pretzels here

Arrange pretzels 2-inches apart on the prepared baking sheets, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and allow to rise for 30-45 minutes, or until puffed up but not doubled in size. Meanwhile, arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of your oven, and preheat to 375. Beat egg white and 2 teaspoons of warm water in a small bowl. Brush the pretzels with the egg wash, and then sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the baking pans between racks, and then continue baking for 6-8 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow the pretzels to cool on wire racks. 


Kate (Embarrassment of Riches) said...

Ah, the six sweet dough recipes from last month's Bon Appetit. I was JUST rereading that issue the other day (while waiting for May's to arrive). These pretzels look delicious.

Little Bro said...

Are we related? I spent my entire third grade year saving up home reading "points" for our year end auction so I could buy the Costco sized bag of pretzel nuggets that was up for grabs...

I feel obligated to mention I also snagged the only other food item - industrial sized carton of goldfish crackers...