Friday, July 6, 2012

Köstliche Brezel Brot zu teilen - Anfrage von Mike (Pretzel Bread)

OK, pretzel bread. YUM! Granted you say pretzel and I'm in, must be the German side of me. Bread, pork, apples...yum. I'm definitely of German descent. I mean look at this family.

- yes there is an American flag back there, but this is my grandmother and her parents (great grand parents for me) Grandpa was from Germany - came over on the boat.

So I think my family has had a great influence on food for me as far as enjoying traditional German foods. OK, enough of the family history lesson here. I'm a proud German descendant lol I could go on forever. Mike has some German background but he is more of a European mix than anything. He looks like a good ole German boy though ;)

Anyway, so Mike actually suggested I make pretzel bread. He had some while visiting his folks last week and had it with a bratwurst. He said that if I could find a recipe I should try it, it was delicious (if you see the clam chowder post you can see the pretzel bread he had).

So I hunted down some recipes and compared what would be easiest and best. Of course I also choose to do this in the heat of the summer, where it has been in the low 100's lately. Topping 107 last I checked. We are breaking some records this year for hottest summer. Ick, so I tend to stay inside a bit more at the moment so not to have a heat stroke or burn to a crisp (that's another story).

So last night I had an easy workout going on and now that Mike has helped me keep my apartment cool by helping me hang black out curtains in my room and a sheer curtain in the doorway to my kitchen I now can bake and not have my air running CONSTANTLY - I have a gas oven/stove and so it's always a bit toasty in the kitchen to begin with. Just wait though -

So i pulled all the ingredients out and actually measured them prior to baking - that never happens. I then took my time making this, letting the milk come to room temperature, making sure the water was 120 degrees and getting flour sifted. (Again, I'm the simple type of baker who just bakes).

I let the yeast expand and start to bubble, added the salt and continued and created a lovely sticky bread dough.

Well, tacky - it rested on my counter for 30 minutes to rise (didn't have to put in a warm place because my kitchen was probably already 90 degrees).
After I had to pull it out of the bowl and knead it for about 2-5 minutes until smooth and "silky."

After it rested a second time I portioned it out into the balls you see on the left (5 to be precise).

Then I had to get the water bath ready. You have to boil water and add baking soda - which makes the water froth and foam like vinegar would with baking soda. Never knew that but was almost like a science experiment and was fun to watch the dough balls bounce around and dance in the water.

This method was used to help create a sort of tough outer layer to make the "pretzel" part of the bread. The crusty doughy outside of a soft pretzel. This is how that is achieved. Kind of like making bagels I would presume. My friend had come over and he was just fascinated with this as well. Mind you my kitchen is a sauna at this point with the stove going to boil water and now having to actually turn the oven on to preheat to 400 degrees!!!

My friend had, at one point, looked at me and said "I'm sweating my balls off but I'm curious and fascinated by this." I think it's funny that people think it's fun to watch me cook/bake. I just find it fun and stress relieving. Especially bread like this. I think I sweat off about 10 lbs last night. Phew!

So after I boiled each side of the dough for 30 seconds on each side I took it out of the bath and made sure the excess water came off and then placed each dough ball on a greased baking sheet.

This is where it gets exciting. Now is the time to bake. First I had to cut an X into the tops of each dough ball so that the bread would have a place to expand and not pop or I guess explode in the oven. I can't imagine it would "explode" but that is an interesting visual.

Now when they came out of the oven I was truly impressed with how they looked and promptly brushed with butter as the recipe suggested.

They are beautiful!

They came out golden brown with the chewy outer crust and the soft delicious inside. Doesn't taste like a soft pretzel really but oh my this was delicious. The recipe called for "bread flour" but I don't carry that in my kitchen let alone am I going to go buy some right now. So I just made sure to sift my AP flour. Don't these just look amazing!?

I packed one of up for work today and have the others for this weekend when Mike will be making sirloin steak and mushroom sauce - YUM!!! Oh he feeds me well. :) 

Add a little butter or some mustard - YUUMMMM

I could eat this bread all day.

A big thanks to Two Bites in Suburbia for the recipe.

Here it is:

Signature Pretzel Bread (makes 2 small loaves or 5 sandwich rolls)

2 1/4 tsp yeast (dry active is what I used)
1 cup water (110-120 degrees)
2 Tbsp room temperature milk (I used skim because that's what I have)
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar (I had light on hand)
3 Tbsp softened butter (blue bonnet margarine)
1 tsp kosher salt (I used plain old table salt)
2 1/2 - 3 cups bread flour (I used sifted AP flour)

4 quarts water
1/2 cup baking soda

Kosher salt to taste (table salt again)
2 Tbsp melted butter (in my case the butter was already pretty melted due to my new "Sauna kitchen")

Add yeast, water, milk, brown sugar and butter into a large bowl, whisking until all ingredients are combined. Let mixture rest for 10 minutes for yeast to activate. Mix in kosher salt. Start by adding two cups of the flour to the bowl, combining it with the other ingredients. Add more flour as it's needed, reserving just a bit for coating the dough mat later.

The dough should form a slightly tacky, but firm ball. Oil the bowl, place the dough ball in the bowl and cover with a damp towel for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, knead the dough by hand or machine for at least 5-10 minutes until the dough is elastic and satiny (that's the word they used). Place dough back in bowl and recover for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bring the 4 quarts of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, slowly add the baking soda, (if you add it quickly and all at once, your boiling water will froth and boil over all onto your stove).

Remove the dough from the bowl and gently degas it.  Form two separate balls of dough, forming them into the shape you want.  Drop one of the smaller balls into the baking soda bath for no longer than 30 seconds, turning it once to guarantee both sides covered.  Drain the excess water from the dough and place it on an oiled baking sheet.  Repeat with second ball of dough.
Sprinkle the kosher salt over the bread to your specific tastes, and make sure to use a knife to cut a small incision on the top of the bread so the dough has somewhere to expand.
Cook the bread for 22 minutes, rotating the baking sheet once.
Once removed from the oven, immediately brush the melted butter over the loaves to guarantee a soft crust.
Now enjoy and try not to eat it all at one time ;)