Soft and Chewy Pretzels

My first experience of a real, proper bready pretzel was at the Arts Centre in Christchurch many years ago with my best friend Cara.

It was crunchy in some places but soft and warm in the fatter bits. The salt covered exterior satisfied me more than any cheeseburger or bag of mini pretzels ever could. It was like the best salty bread roll I had ever eaten. But way cooler. And tastier.

It changed my life.

I never thought I could make one myself though. I thought that they would be difficult to make.

That was until I stumbled upon a wonderful blog.

I have found that following other foodie type people on Instagram I have been able to stumble across and discover some really cool new blogs. I found this one here,  The Sophisticated Gourmet which is brilliant. Unfortunately he hasn't posted since last year but he has some great recipes like this pretzel one here. I was so excited to find a decent look pretzel recipe from a reliable source. Everything is beautiful to look at. Definitely go and visit it. I can't wait to try out his bagel recipe too.

So this week has been a bit cray cray. I'm not too sure why. Probably a mix of everything. I find one of the best ways for me to calm down is to make bread. It is time consuming. You need to be patient and committed to it. You can't just make it on a whim, it needs to be planned for. I had a mad soft pretzel craving on Wednesday. Unfortunately I don't know of anywhere in Dunedin that sells these beautiful authentic pretzels so what did I do? No I didn't just make myself a piece of toast and tell myself to get over it, I freaking well made an entire batch of them.

Typical Sophie. It was like that time at 11pm I felt like a warm cookie. Most people can't be bothered if it isn't right in front of them. But not me. I will go and make myself an entire batch just so I can have one (or two . . or three . . .). I've also been known to make up corn fritters in the early hours of the morning just because I woke up and was hungry.

I was also curious as to how to make them. Pretzels are one of the few foods (other than fermented shark meat) that has a basic pH (ie above 7).  Now upon reading how to make them I realise it is because they are boiled for about a minute before they are baked in a pot of water and baking soda. Boiling the pretzel in basic solution allows for the interior of the pretzel to puff up making it softer but also chewier. The baking soda allows the exterior to form a nice golden brown crust. Its an odd step compared with usual bread baking but it was actually really cool to see the small pretzels knots puff up in such a quick space of time.

Now I used the dough hook on my stand mixer to knead the dough but kneading by hand (which was originally called for) is totally sufficient and in itself very theraputic.

I have a literature review to write so I am gonna stop waffling on and get to the point!

New York Style Soft Pretzels
Adapted from The Sophisticated Gourmet (who I believe adapted it from Martha Stewart)
Makes 12

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoon white sugar
1 cup warm water

1 cup (128g) high grade flour
2 cups (256g) plain flour
2 teaspoons salt
35g softened butter

2 tablespoons baking soda
2 teaspoons sugar
7cm worth of boiling water in a medium sized pot (super accurate I know)

Chunky sea or rock salt
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon water

In a small bowl, activate the yeast with the warm water and sugar for around 10-15 minutes. It should become very foamy. If nothing happens you need to get new yeast.

In a large bowl, mix together the flours and the salt. Either use your mixer to rub in the butter or do this by hand. You want to achieve a smooth crumb with no visible lumps of butter.

Once the yeast has been properly activated, pour the yeast liquid into a well in the centre of your flours. Use a spoon to bring the dough together.

Either tip the dough onto a lightly floured bench and knead the dough for around 5 minutes or pop it into your cake mixer with the dough hook and leave it to be kneaded for around 5 minutes also. The dough should become smooth and elastic.

Grease up a large bowl with a small amount of oil. Place the dough into this bowl, cover in cling film then leave to rise for an hour in a warm place (like on top of the hot water cylinder). You want the dough to double in size. Apparently you can also leave it in the fridge overnight, which is handy if you want to make these early in the morning.

Cut the dough into 12 portions. Roll out each ball into a rope around 20cm long.

Bring the rope up into a large U shape.

Take the two ends and twist them around each other twice.

Bring the ends back onto the curve of the U and press down lightly to attach them.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees C (or as high as you can go) on bake.

Bring the water in the pot to a boil. Add the sugar and baking soda.

Using a slotted spatula place three of the pretzels in the boiling water at a time. Leave to boil for 45-60 seconds before removing and leaving to drain on a cooling rack. Repeat with the rest of the pretzels.

Transfer the puffed pretzels onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.

Mix the egg and the teaspoon of water together and brush this over each pretzel.

Sprinkle over a generous amount of salt and any other topping of your choice. Poppy and sesame seeds work well.

Bake for 15 minutes until the outer surface has turned a nice dark golden brown.

Serve warm!

Make sure you eat them within 12 hours of baking them. They aren't as good after that.


Peanut Butter Truffle, Triple Chocolate, Pretzel Brownie

Some people cover their feelings with food. Some people try and drown out their sorrows by drinking.

I bake out my stresses and woes. 

Im currently on day three of my chocolate baking bender.

So in the last week I am pretty sure I have been to New World like every day to buy more ingredients. 

The peak of this tragic behaviour was when I went to New World twice within twelve hours and purchased six blocks of chocolate, a kilo of butter, more chocolate chips, a nice big jar of peanut butter and a bottle of cream.

You know magic is about to happen when those items fill up your basket. 

Four days ago I somehow ended up following Butter Baking on instagram. I seriously do not know how. Anyway she posted these delicious looking cookies so I went to go check out her blog.

Oh. My. God. 

I died and went to blogging heaven. 

So. Much. Great.

Almost everything contains chocolate or nutella or peanut butter or a combination of all three! So I jumped up off my seat in the commerce building (where I was just chilling at the time even though I don't do anything commercy at all) and went with my dear friend Matt to New World. So this is how all that chocolate and cream came to be in my shopping basket.

Go there. Like now!

So anyway I recreated her pretzel, chocolate chip, peanut butter brownies. 

Sorry about the weird lighting in the photos. I was too preoccupied with the wonders before me to really care haha. Until now.

Anyway, pretty sure all the crack dealers are about to go out of business.

Ok I know the idea of pretzels sounds strange especially in a chocolate brownie but how many of you love putting jam and peanut butter together? or maple syrup on your bacon? The combination of salty and sweet, creamy and crunchy, moist and fudgy, it is just amazing. Trust me. 

I did make a few adjustments to her recipe, mainly out of lack of the appropriately coloured chocolate chips! But also I decided to use brown sugar instead of white. I had enough of the white. I think it is because I wanted a really dark colour. I dunno. I always feel cookies are better with brown sugar so why not brownies. Brown sugar contains molasses which gives whatever you use it in a more intense colour and flavour. Yum. I actually just used muscovado sugar in my chocolate cupcakes today. They turned out so great! the flavour was really intensified!

So yes. Make this brownie. It will change your life. 

Tripe Chocolate, Peanut Butter Truffle and Pretzel Brownie
adapted from the recipe by Butter Baking
Makes a 20x30cm brownie

For the peanut butter truffles:

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (I used extra crunchy!)
30g butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup icing sugar

For the most amazing brownies of your life:

225g butter
1 3/4 cups soft brown sugar
1 cup and 2 tablespoons cocoa
100g good quality dark chocolate (60-70% cocoa solids is enough)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or melts
1/2 cup white chocolate melts
1 cup pretzels plus a few extra to dot over the top
All of the peanut butter truffle balls made above
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes

To make the truffles, melt the butter and peanut butter in a small saucepan. Once they have melted together, add in the brown sugar. Stir until it dissovles. Then gradually add in the icing sugar and stir until it is all nicely combined. Remove from the heat. Take half teaspoon amounts and roll into balls. Place in a plastic container and pop that in the freezer while you go and make your brownie.

To make the brownie, preheat your oven to 170 degrees C and line your baking tray with baking paper.  

In a double boiler (ie a heat proof bowl balanced over a saucepan with a few centimetres of simmering water beneath it) melt together the chocolate and butter, being careful not to burn the chocolate. I find melting the butter a bit first before adding the chocolate helps. Then add the brown sugar, cocoa and vanilla and stir until it is all combined.

Transfer this mixture into a larger mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand cake mixer. Beat the mixture just to make sure it is nice and smooth. 

Add your eggs one at a time, beating well in between each addition. The mixture should now be nice and thick and glossy.

Add the flour and stir only as many times as it takes for any visible flour to disappear. 

Mix in the pretzels, chocolate melts and peanut butter truffle balls.

Press the mixture into the lined baking tin. Dot a few whole pretzels over the top and sprinkle over the sea salt flakes.

Bake for 20-25 minutes (I baked mine for 24 and I think it could have done with only 23). You do still want a skewer to come out slightly gooey. 

Leave to cool before slicing or else it will just goo out everywhere. Which I guess isn't a bad thing.

This is why you are going to want to beat it properly

To easily separate eggs, break them into your hands and
use your fingers to sieve out the white.

This is how lovely and glossy it should look after all the

Post flour addition

Could this get any better?

The answer is yes. yes it can.

Try cutting the corners of your paper to get a more fitted

Go for a run in preparation for eating the whole lot because there is no way you can run after eating these things!

The neighbours the other day helped me break into my flat. Lucy was away in Christchurch and Alex just left me on the doorstep with all our shopping (we both forgot our keys). Thank God for neighbours!

So I sent them a thank you :)