In 2003, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell declared April 26th, as National Pretzel Day. Why not celebrate by twisting up your own creation? Here is a great sounding pretzel recipe courtesy of www.today.com.
Makes 15 pretzels
½ packet yeast
½ cup water
4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. sugar (or malt syrup)
1 tbsp. butter, room temp.
½ cup milk
Dissolve the yeast in 2 tbsp. of the water (warm this water to about 90 degrees, the rest should be at a cool room temp). Combine the rest of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and add the yeast mixture. Knead the dough with a dough hook until a smooth, but stiff dough forms (10 to 15 minutes). Add small amount of flour if too loose, or small amount of water if too stiff.
Let dough rest for 15 minutes before dividing into 15 equal pieces and rolling into oblong spheres. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 15 minutes. Roll each piece on an unfloured surface to a length of about 12 inches, with the middle left fatter and the ends tapered out. If it becomes hard to roll out long enough, let the dough rest for 10 minutes or so to allow the gluten to relax. It should be easier to roll after that.
We have a little trick to twisting the pretzels that takes a little practice, but once you get it, it is fun and speeds up the process. After the rope of dough is rolled out to the right length, grasp each end and lift quickly upward. As you lift, move your left hand slightly toward your body and your right hand slightly away, which should flip the center into a twist. Put the dough piece back on the surface and fold the ends down and press into the thicker middle part. Press hard so the ends stay. Don’t worry if you can’t get the flip right away. Just put the twist in the dough while it’s still on the countertop and fold it down.
Put the pretzels on a baking sheet and cover with a damp towel. Let them rise for a half hour, then uncover and refrigerate them for two hours or up to overnight. This firms up the dough and makes it easier to dip in the lye.
(The only way to get the true pretzel flavor and the deep, mahogany color is to dip the pretzels in a solution of lye (sodium hydroxide). This changes the pH of the surface starches. Food grade NaOH is available through www.aa-chemicals.com or other soap-making suppliers.
While it is true that lye is caustic and can burn your skin, by wearing rubber gloves and being careful, it is no more dangerous than many things we do routinely in our kitchens, such as cutting with sharp knives and cooking with high heat.)
After the pretzels are well chilled, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wearing rubber gloves, add 2 tbsp. lye to 2 quarts lukewarm water in a wide bowl or other container (always add the lye to the water, not the other way around). Whisk until lye is dissolved. Lower the cold pretzels into the lye solution and let sit for just a minute. The color should turn a little yellow. Carefully take them out with gloved hands and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until deep brown.
Mmmm, they will smell great baking in your break room. Don’t forget to set out some dipping sauce.