We go to Buffalo most Christmases. D is from Buffalo, and his parents still live in the same house he grew up in. (Which is wild to me, my Dad literally built my childhood home and we still moved out of it 10 years later!) It’s always great seeing the family, but I must say the cold wet gray of Buffalo isn’t exactly a great respite from the cold wet gray of Seattle. A group cooking project is a great way to bond and have fun without having to bundle up and venture outdoors.
D and I took a weekend trip up to Toronto. We walked to the St. Lawrence Market, which D told me National Geographic rated the BEST FOOD MARKET IN THE WORLD. When he said that, it was all over, there was no chance we were going anywhere else. I mean, I live within a couple miles of Pike Place Market, and it’s supposed to be better than that? Sign me up. Well, it is great, but I would love to go another time of the year to see if there is more produce. But they do have cheese like crazy, olives, meats and seafood (if you’re into that kind of thing), spices, mustards, jams… all delicious and amazing. We had a fantastic, deceptively simple lunch of egg and cheese sandwiches, sampled foods, and came home with bread, cheeses, a terrine, and a delicious mustard. That mustard will appear again in this post…
Back in Buffalo, the snow was falling, and our pace slowed a little. Lucky for me, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law are great cooks who enjoy sharing the kitchen. Upon D’s suggestion, we decided to make pretzels one afternoon. It might have been Christmas day, and it was a lovely afternoon of baking with friends and family.
The recipe is easy, but it takes a little prep time and planning, because it is a yeast bread and needs to rise a bit. (Although I’ve never had to do the twisting, that part looks a little hard). These pretzels make an incredible snack, and would go great with a beer. We keep saying we’ll be doing it for game night, but keep forgetting. It’s a great communal project, fun and with a great reward at the end! I will caution you against making them alone the first time… D and I ate all of them in one day (with this cheese dip) and felt ill. But they are so good you will want to eat as many as you can get your hands on!
We use this recipe from Alton Brown:
1 1/2 cups warm tap water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for bowl
Cooking spray, for pans
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt (we couldn’t find this, so used large crystal sea salt)
Combine water, sugar, salt, and yeast packet in a bowl. Let this sit for about 5 minutes, or until the yeast starts to foam a bit. Add the flour and butter, and mix using a dough-hook attachment for about 4-5 minutes, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. (We didn’t have a stand mixer, so my SIL kneaded the dough for about 8 minutes, like a trooper.) Remove dough from bowl and coat the bowl with vegetable oil. Then return the dough the the bowl, cover bowl with saran wrap, and let sit in a warm place for an hour – until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 450. Line 2 baking pans with parchment and spray with cooking spray.
Ready the water and baking soda, and bring to a boil.
Oil a work surface (we used the counter) and divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (the original recipe says 8. We had 6 people so wanted to have an even number of pretzels per person. You can adjust as you like.) Roll each piece into a long rope about a half inch thick, about 24″ long. The dough might rebound so go back and stretch as needed.
Make the ropes into a “U” shape. Hold the ends off the counter, twist, and press onto the bottom of the U, making it look like a pretzel. It’ll take some practice, I hear, but lopsided pretzels taste just as good!
Put the pretzels into the boiling water/baking soda, one at a time, for 30 seconds each. Remove, and put onto the parchment lined baking tray. Give an inch or more of space between each pretzel.
Make egg wash with one yolk and a little water. Brush each pretzel (this will make them brown beautifully.) Then sprinkle with salt. More is better, in my opinion, because you can always brush it off later, and some people like them really salty.
Bake about 12 – 14 minutes, until a rich brown color. Cool on a cooling rack at least 5 minutes, and enjoy!
We like them plain, or with cheese dip, as I mentioned above, or with mustard. The mustard we had is garlic honey mustard, sweet and very spicy, but a really wonderful flavor.
Happy New Year to you all! I count this blog, and you readers, in my blessings. I hope you have a year filled with fun projects, exciting adventures, and just plain pleasant times with friends and family.