Sunday, 1 July 2012

Home-made Giant Pretzels

Giant Pretzels, for those outside of America, are a bread-type of snack that are served hot... and are a lot larger than those small ones you get in the packs in the chips section of the grocery store (people often have them around Christmas time here).
Ever since I had one during a trip to America about 10 years ago, it has been one of the things I "have" to do with each return trip. Unfortunately, it can be about 12 months between each of those trips (to the annual BotCon Transformers convention).
Last year I was looking at how I could make them myself, but after finding a couple of recipes, I was put off by how complicated the cooking process is (which explains why they are so expensive, and hard to find outside of America). It's a 3-stage process, starting with standard bread-making, followed by partial cooking in a bicarb-soda bath (like making bagels), then baking them in the oven.

When when I came back from this year's trip, with only a couple eaten over there, I had a craving that I couldn't put off until next year.
I found a recipe the other day online and grabbed the ingredients yesterday.
Trying out a batch yesterday, I was able to make a few that tasted just about right, so I did another batch today and took some photos to show how difficult these tasty snacks are to make.

Starting off with the ingredients (I won't detail the exact amounts of each, so that the recipe source remains anonymous, and I don't have people saying that it was the "wrong" pretzel recipe - because I found several that were completely different).

Since this was a bread-style snack, it requires yeast, and the process to make actual bread.
Into a bowl - the yeast, salt, sugar, half of the flour, and butter...
(I was a bit messy with measuring out the flour, but as long as the bench is clean to start with, the flour would be used up when kneading the dough shortly anyway)

Then adding in the warm water, I had to mix it up to be smooth like pancake batter.

Then the rest of the flour was added bit by bit until the dough was no longer sticking to the bowl.
Normally, you'd use a mixmaster to do this, but I don't have one, so had to do it by hand in a bowl and with a spoon.
Oh wait, I do have a Mixmaster...
(okay, that was a Transformers joke...)

The resulting dough for kneading.

Once kneaded, the dough went back into the bowl and sat in a bath of warm water (to keep the yeast alive and "eating" the sugars in the dough), and covered with a towel to stop it from drying out.

After half an hour...

Next up was the rolling and shaping of the dough into pretzel shapes, and sticks.
For the classic pretzel shape, start out with a long length...

Then a U shape.

Twist the top end twice so that the left end stays on the left side, and the right end stays on the right side.

Then fold that knotted half down into the middle, pressing the ends down (I think I had the dough too dry, because the ends would keep coming off.

The second stage was partial cooking in a bicarb-soda solution, for about a minute on each side...

When that was done, they were drained and placed on a greased sheet (it was supposed to be a baking tray, which might be why they stuck a little).
They were then brushed with butter or oil, and topped with whatever you wanted.  I went with the classic coarse salt, as well as some with cinnamon-sugar, and others with cheese and bacon.

After 10 minutes in a really hot oven (the recipe said 245 Celsius, but my oven could only go as high as 230... which seemed way too hot, and since they weren't cooking properly, I think it was).
(the cinnamon ones look burnt, but it is just the cinnamon - next time I'll sprinkle it on after I cook the sticks.

This is how another classic one and a cheese & bacon one turned out...

And a couple cheese ones, one with bacon...

There are still a few things I need to improve on.  Less time boiling them, as this batch had a stronger taste of Bicarb than the ones yesterday (which I only dipped them in the solution). And the cooking time or temperature needs a bit more work, as the ones that looked cooked were still doughy underneath... but the ones that were cooked right through were a bit over-cooked on top.

I still have more ingredients left to do another batch, so I might give it another go next weekend, as it takes over an hour to do, and creates a lot of mess to clean up afterwards.
But the cravings have been satisfied... for now.

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