Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pretzel Bread

Over a year ago, I started making pretzel rolls for my family. We all love them. The salty, chewy outside. The soft, tender inside. I mean, what's not to like?

Well, I'll be honest. These delicious rolls are time-consuming to make. That would be the only thing NOT to like about them.

So I thought, why not just make pretzel loaves instead of pretzel rolls? As long as I had a pot big enough in which to poach the loaves, adapting this recipe to make two small loaves instead of more than a dozen little rolls was pretty simple. I'm all about taking shortcuts to make my life easier!

And my family loves the bread form just as much as the roll form, if not a little more. I'm making this bread at least once a week now. And they're eating it as quickly as I can make it.

The recipe and method are almost exactly the same as the original recipe. But this version saves time, so that's even more reason to love it!

Here's what you need:

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 pkg (or 2 1/4 teas) yeast
2 teas sugar
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour (I used King Arthur unbleached)
2 teas coarse salt
1/4 cup oil or melted butter
1/4 cup baking soda
1 egg, lightly beaten
Additional coarse salt for sprinkling on top

In a mixing bowl, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Allow to stand for 5 minutes, or until foamy. Add the flour, salt and oil or butter. I always start with 4 cups of flour and add more if the dough seems too sticky. Combine well (I use my stand mixer and dough hook for this) and then cover with a towel. Allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled.

Remove the dough from the bowl and shape into two small, oval loaves. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a towel and allow to rise for about 30 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Be sure not to fill the pot too full. The weight of the loaves will displace too much water if the pot's too full. When the water starts boiling, add the baking soda. Reduce the heat to a simmer, then carefully place one loaf in the pot. Allow to poach for 30 seconds, then gently turn. I use two spatulas to do this, one under each end of the loaf. Poach for another 30 seconds, then remove and put back on the baking sheet. Repeat with the other loaf.

With a sharp knife, slash the top of each loaf a couple of times or make an X. Use a pastry brush to glaze the loaves with the beaten egg, making sure all sides are covered. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until browned.
It's much easier to slice this bread with an electric knife than a regular bread knife. The outside isn't crusty like a normal loaf of bread. It's more chewy and flexible. You might end up smashing the bread with a regular bread knife because you have to exert a little more effort.
Doesn't that look scrumptious? (It is!)

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