It's a cloudy, rainy and dismal Sunday afternoon so I put on my baker's hat and decided to try my hand at making soft pretzels. I decided early on not to attempt the traditional recipe which uses lye because it sounds a little unsafe and I don't like the idea of eating it anyway. So I used a compilation of other recipes that promised to make a soft pretzel nearly as good.
First, the result:
I'll admit, they look more a cross between a pretzel and a dinner roll. But they're delicious!
This is the just-made dough before it's risen.
And here's the dough after it's risen for an hour. It was certainly doubled in size.
After I took the risen dough from the bowl, I "punched it down" and used my knuckles to beat it down a bit (that's it at the top left). I then cut pieces off, rolled them with my fingers into a rope and then formed the rope into the pretzel shape. I should have made the ropes longer ... perhaps as long as 24". This will allow for a better "gap" between the braids when the rope is shaped into a pretzel.
Mom said, "Let me try that!" and so she began rolling a rope of her own. It seemed even shorter than mine so I took over, lengthened it and formed it into a pretzel and placed it on a cookie sheet.
Here's what the "raw" pretzels look like on the cookie sheet. I used a Silverstone(r)-coated (non-stick) cookie sheet and I suppose that would have been good enough. But Mom thought it should be lightly greased so she added a thin layer of Crisco.
Pinehaven Soft Pretzels
3/4 cup warm water (not above 100°)
1/2 package active dry yeast (that's 1-1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 egg (beaten, to spread on unbaked pretzels)
Dissolve the yeast in the water. Pour this into the salt, sugar and flour in a bowl. Stir with a spoon until mixed. Knead on a floured surface until smooth and then form into a ball. Place in a greased bowl in a warm spot for an hour (should double in size). Punch dough down. Form into pretzels. Place on a baking sheet (greased). Spread egg on tops. Salt as desired. Bake at 425° for 15-20 minutes. When the tops are golden brown, they're done.
For the size pretzels we made, this recipe made only seven. But it's really not much work and homemade is always best.