Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bretzl madness

I have been a woman on a mission. That mission is really frickin' good pretzels, since the stuff they sell on the street here tastes a bit like cab exhaust, pigeon body odor, and frustration.
But I'm not being a trendoid. My desires preceded this NYTimes article on WednesdayI've had my eye on them since Deb reposted her mini pretzel recipe back in February. But I never did get around to it. Plus, I wanted a 1/2 whole wheat recipe (you saw that coming, right?) I found these recipes, and drew on them, plus the Smitten Kitchen and NYTimes one, to hopefully create an amazing, soft, 1/2 whole wheat pretzel.
However, prior to the Times article, I had not idea about the the lye bath, as the other recipes I've read have only mentioned a baking soda bath. Evidently, lye is the key to slightly bitter, dark crust of an authentic German pretzel. Ich will Laugenbrezeln machen. Ich muss! (My Deutsch is rusty, so many apologies if this made you laugh).
I mentioned to Blokey that I wanted to make German-style pretzels, he seemed dubious about the safety and necessity of this all. I found a heated discussion on Chowhound, and I decided to go for it. Next time. For yesterday's dinner, I went with what I had on hand.

Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels (based loosely on this recipe from StephChows)
2 teaspoons of active dry yeast, proofed in about 1/2 c. of warm water
1/4-1/2 c. water
1 c. of all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. of whole wheat flour
2 Tbs of brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tbs olive oil

Mix the proofed yeast and liquid with the other ingredients. I went with just under a half cup of water. Knead about 5 minutes. Cover with a damp tea towel and let it rise for about an hour or until doubled.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees, F.
Cut the dough into 12 roughly equivalent pieces. The roll them out into longish strands. I floured my cutting board, but others say you don't have to. Let them rest, and then roll out again, until the are between 12-15 inches long.

Then twist the rolls into pretzel shapes. I tried following my Peter Reinhart but but I ended up just doing whatevs. See here for a tutorial.

Next prepare the soda bath. I boiled about 2 cups of water in a pan (about 2 inches) and then lowered it to simmer, dumped about 4 Tablespoons of baking soda, and used a slotted spoon to get them into the bath. Let the pretzel parboil for about 1 minute, then remove and place on lightly greased/floured/parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
Sprinkle coarse sea salt over the still wet pretzels, and then stick them in the oven for 8-10 minutes. When they are a satisfactory shade of golden brown, they are good to go.
Serve warm, with mustard and some kind of wurst. We ate Tofurky Beer Brats. Mistake. Evidently, I am supposed to go with the Boca ones.

The verdict? They were pretty good. Better than that dusty one I had on 59th St. a few weeks ago. But nothing really to write home about. Blokey didn't really eat much of them, and the Brats were uber disappointing. But I'm not quitter. Sometime this week, as I'm done grading (almost), I am venturing over to the Brooklyn Kitchen to get some food grade lye. Bitter, dark and beautiful pretzels will be mine!!!

I prepared this by throwing some oil in the pan, sauteeing up 1/2 a sliced onion, and after that became brown, adding the veggie brats. And a wee bit of beer.

Blokey hates sauerkraut, or sauer-anything. It's sad, since kimchi is practically in my blood, and it's just sauerkraut minus caraway, plus loads of garlic, hot peppers, and sometime some really stinky, briny baby shrimp. Sautéed thin sliced Brussels sprouts to the rescue:
I had these in a posh tapas place in Fort Greene. So simple. Chop the ends of washed Brussels sprouts. Thinly sliced them in one direction, and then julienne. Chop up 2 cloves of garlic, and warm up 2 glugs of olive oil in the pan. Over quite high heat, add the garlic for about a minute, and then add all the sliced sprouts. Stir and enjoy the smells. Remove from heat when they are slightly carmelized.


Anne said...

Mmm, these look great! You'll have to explain what proofing yeast means so I can make my own some time. How were the veggie brats anyway? They look a lot like traditional meaty brats at least...

Rad_in_Broolyn said...

Proofing just means that you mix the yeast with warm water (about 110 degrees they say) and some sugar to "wake it up." You don't have to do it but I get nervous that my yeast might be dead, so I usually proof. It's kinda cool and it smells like beer!

Dorky Medievalist said...

Wow. I am impressed with your pretzel-making chutzpah (is that a mixed metaphor?), though I will admit that I love street pretzels in NYC. They only sell hotdogs on the streets of TO, though you can buy lobster rolls on the boardwalk here so I guess I shouldn't complain. Still, would it kill a Canadian to sell me a warm, salty pretzel?

I must admit that I am a little afraid of a "lye bath" though I'm happy to hear (sort of) that there is such a things as "food-grade" lye. Good luck fraulein!