Sherry Yard, I love you. All is forgiven. We went through a rough patch for awhile, with The Secrets of Baking, but I’m thoroughly enjoying my recent purchase, Desserts by the Yard. I love the stories accompanying each chapter, and the passion each recipe exudes. Also, the ones I have attempted, have been wonderful so far. In fact, I could probably quite happily bake my way through the entire book.
Departing from the sugary stuff for a moment, I’m currently nibbling on a very tasty salted pretzel as I write this. It all started when I was unfortunate enough to finally discover the whereabouts of Luneburger’s Wynyard branch. Every morning it has been a temptation to stop by for a warm pretzel on the way to work. Great perhaps, for the happiness quotient, but not so good for the bank account in the long term. Before I realised where their Wynyard shop was, I used to be at the mercy of the Pretzel Fairy who worked closer to their original shop and who would occasionally present me with a “just-because” pretzel (I’m an easy girl to please – I don’t need flowers, just pretzels).
In order for it not to get completely out of hand, I resolved to make a successful batch of pretzels at home so that I could occasionally stave off the cravings. And just so that I can say that I have, and I can…
I had attempted making pretzels before, using Eva’s recipe. The results were ok, though not great, but that mostly boiled down (haha) to my reluctance to use lye water for dipping the pretzels. I now concede that this is the only way to get an authentic pretzel. However, the following recipe by Sherry Yard which I attempted today, is definitely the best, as far as alternatives go.
(makes 8; from Desserts by the Yard, by Sherry Yard)
For the dough:
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (32’C)
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
For the simmering liquid :
1/4 cup amber beer
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil for glazing
1-2 tablespoons pretzel salt or coarse sea salt (to taste)
To make the dough: In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and let sit for 5 minutes, or until cloudy. Add the buttermilk, brown sugar, sugar and vegetable oil and mix well.
Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. With the motor running, add the liquid mixture and process for 2 minutes.
Spray a large bowl with pan spray. Scrape out the dough and place in the bowl. Cover with sprayed plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Line four baking trays with baking paper and spray the paper. Lightly oil your work surface and your hands. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into 8 equal pieces. One at a time, shape each piece into a pretzel. (Cover the pieces you aren’t working with, with palstic or a damp kitchen towel). Roll each piece out into a 24-inch-long rope, slightly tapered at the ends. Shape into a U, then crisscross the ends halfway up, twist them together twice like a twist-tie, and pull the legs down over the bottom of the U. Place the shaped pretzels on two of the lined baking trays. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, or until not quite doubled.
While the pretzels are rising, place racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 232’C. Cut the baking paper the pretzels are on into squares to facilitate lifting and transferring the pretzels into the water bath.
Simmer the Pretzels : In a 10-inch-wide stainless steel pot, combine the water, beer, baking soda, and brown sugar and bring to a simmer. Two at a time, lift a baking paper square with a pretzel and carefully reverse the pretzel off the paper into the simmering water. Cook for 10 seconds and flip, using a skimmer or slotted spoon. Cook for another 10 seconds, and with the skimmer, lift above the pan to drain. Then transfer to the other two baking trays, rounded sides up. Brush with vegetable oil. Dust with pretzel salt or coarse salt.
Bake, switching the trays from top to bottom and rotating from front to back halfway through, for 15 minutes, or until the pretzels are chestnut brown. Remove from the oven and serve warm.