Thursday, December 10, 2009

Baking Basics - Pretzels

Welcome to the new session, and the new incarnation of cooking class:  Baking Basics.  It was great to see all the new faces today, as well as the returning chefs.  This class will be a bit different now because we will be focusing on baked products and using the oven each week.  We will learn about different kinds of dough and various leavening processes.  Get ready to experiment and be covered in flour!
Here is the recipe we did in class today:

This one is for you, Poppop!

                                               Philly Soft Pretzels

Nothing beats a warm, soft, salty pretzel.  Just like they sell on the streets of Philadelphia.


1&1/4 tsp yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
1&1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
3 to 4 cups AP flour
2 tsp salt
2 oz melted butter  [we forgot this ingredient when we made it in class today, so yours will turn out softer and more flavorful!]

ALSO:  Fill a stock pot with at least 10 cups of water and have 1Tbsp baking soda set aside for later.
And make an eggwash with one egg and 2Tbsp water beaten together in a small bowl.  Have kosher or pretzel salt ready for sprinkling before baking.

Combine the water, yeast and sugar in a large bowl. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour, salt and butter and mix with a wooden spoon until well combined. Add small bits of flour now and then until the dough seems ready to handle.  Then use your hands to knead the dough until it is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.  Let the dough rest in the bowl, covered with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
In the meantime, turn the dough out onto your work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope.

Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel.

 Let them sit for a few minutes to rest before boiling.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, carefully dropping them in one at a time, and boil for about a minute. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula or slotted spoon. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

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