I'm always in the market for healthy-ish treats for my girls. I love to bake and so does my 4-year-old, but I don't really think baking a batch of cookies every other day is such a great idea. Yummy, but not good considering my total lack of self control when it come to freshly-baked cookies. Kind of defeats the purpose of all this exercising I've been doing lately.
Anyway, so we bake a lot of muffins and quick breads too.
Then I saw this recipe for homemade soft pretzels in Country Living magazine (thanks Sally) and knew that that was right up our alley. :)
Such a fun, new thing to bake!
Not to mention delish-o to eat. :)
Something about making these pretzels was particularly satisfying.
I mean, you take these worthless balls of dough.
Then you shape them in cute pretzel shapes, which was kind of fun. My girls sure got a kick out of it.
Then you boil the pretzels in baking soda water, which was just plain different and fun to do. We were curious about it though and so did a little experiment and discovered that boiling them in the baking soda water was completely necessary. Without that step, they were pretty much just rolls. With the step, they had this awesome brown crust and super chewy middle. Looked better and tasted better.
But, I couldn't let it rest. WHY did it do that????
Well, thanks to great bloggers out there we now know why. :) Julie from Savvy Eats had a whole week about soft pretzels. In fact, she is pretty awesome and has all sorts of great recipes AND great food information! Here is what she says about it:
First, the boiling. Dropping each pretzel into boiling water for about 30 seconds makes the interior of the pretzel quickly “puff” and begins the crust formation. If you don’t boil, you’ll lose out on the chewiness you’d expect from a pretzel…and that would just be sad, now wouldn’t it?
The other reason it is worth it? The baking soda.
The baking soda is what gives the pretzels their brown and shiny crust and their distinctive flavor.
Remember the acid-base scale from back in your chemistry classes?
And when this happens, the browning reactions that makes a soft pretzel a soft pretzel can happen more rapidly.
So yes, you can skip the “boiling in water + baking soda” step. But beware: if you do, you’ll lose out on the texture, flavor and appearance of the pretzel. So it won’t really be a soft pretzel."
And there you have it, from and expert. Thanks Julie. :)
Alls I can say is, it certainly did make for a pretty brown crust, so make sure and boil them!
Then, pull them out, brush on some egg whites and sprinkle with coarse salt and bake for a bit longer and they are good-to-go.
We ate ours with a whole assortment of mustards (we are kind of mustard people around here....we had 5 different kinds in our fridge!) and then I also made the wonderful brown-sugar rosemary dijon mustard the recipe came with, which was delightful.
All this talk just makes me want to eat another!
Here is the link to the recipe on the Country Living website, but I'll type it out real quick for you here too. :)
Pretzels with Brown-Sugar Rosemary Dijon
- 3 Tbsp. honey
- 3 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
- 5 1/4 c. all-purpose flour, plus at least another 1/2 c. for kneading
- 3/4 c. whole-wheat flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. fine salt, plus a pinch for egg whites
- 6 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for coating bowl
- 6 Tbsp. baking soda
- 2 large egg whites
- 3 1/2 Tbsp. coarse sea salt
- 4 Tbsp. light-brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp. finely chopped rosemary
- 2 2/3 c. Dijon mustard
- In a medium bowl, combine 1 tablespoon honey, yeast, and 2 1/4 cups warm water (100 degrees F), and stir until yeast dissolves; let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flours and fine salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the oil, yeast mixture, and remaining honey until a shaggy dough forms. Sprinkle 1/2 cup flour on your work surface; then transfer dough to surface and knead, adding up to 1/2 cup more flour as needed, until dough becomes supple and elastic.
- Coat a large, clean bowl with olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl, and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place until dough doubles in volume, about 1 hour.
- Line 2 baking pans with parchment and set aside. Punch dough down and knead for 5 minutes. Divide dough into twenty-four 1 1/2-ounce pieces (each slightly larger than a golf ball) and keep covered. Working with one piece at a time, roll dough into a 14-inch-long rope. Bring both ends together and twist twice near the top. Fold ends down so they sit atop the bottom loop of dough; press ends into loop to form a pretzel. Transfer to a prepared pan and repeat with remaining dough. Let pretzels rest for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Meanwhile, in a medium pot, bring 6 cups water and baking soda to a rapid simmer. Working in batches, poach pretzels for about 15 seconds on each side. Return to prepared pans. Lightly beat egg whites with a pinch of fine salt. Then lightly brush pretzels with the egg-white mixture and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake until pretzels are deep brown and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the mustard: Stir light-brown sugar and finely chopped rosemary into Dijon mustard.