I was looking out my window this morning in astonishment. There was snow everywhere and it was still coming down. This was now day two of it snowing in Seattle. You see it never really snows here, so when we get hit with a storm like this one it gets kind of crazy. No one drives anywhere for the fear of their car getting stuck (they don’t plow the streets here - I am not sure if the city of Seattle even owns any) so you only go out within walking distance and stay homebound for a day or two!
Seeing this weather made me miss New York City in the winter. If it was cold and snowy like this the city never shut down. The streets and sidewalks would be clear and you would have street venders out selling food from their carts staying warm from the carts propane and steam. I always would stop at a random cart and get a hot soft pretzel with mustard on it. It kept your hands warm and the spice of the mustard was so good on a snowy day like this one.
Seattle is so far away from New York on a day like today, I guess I will just have to bring it to me. So I scrambled through my cookbook and the internet and came up with a recipe of a soft pretzel that was not only fun to make, but tasted wonderfully. Brian and I have enjoyed a few of them this afternoon. I hope you try it, but I hope you do not wait to be snowed in like ourselves. These are good enough to be enjoyed all year long.
2 cups of warm water (about 100°F)
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 packet or ¾ an oz of active dry yeast
5 cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and dusting
2 teaspoons of Sea Salt
2 teaspoons of Peanut or Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup of baking soda (yes you read that right)
1 large egg, beaten
Coarse Sea Salt for sprinkling
First, in the bowl of an electric mixer combine your water and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar and then sprinkle your yeast over the top of it and let it bloom and foam (about 8 minutes). Fit your mixer with a dough hook and place one cup of flour over your yeast mixture and stir on low speed until combined.
Next, whisk your 2 teaspoons of sea salt with the remaining flour. Pour it into your mixing bowl and increase your speed to a medium. Mix your dough until it begins to pull away from the sides of your bowl. Give it a touch and if it is real sticky sprinkle it liberally with flour and place on a floured work space and knead your dough; adding flour until it is no longer sticky. You are looking for your dough to be smooth, and to have somewhat of a spring to it. Take a large bowl and rub it with your oil. Place your dough in bowl, coating it with the oil in it and cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot for about an hour.
Then, when your dough is about double in size; remove from your bowl and sprinkle with flour. Divide the dough into 16 pieces. Roll each piece out about a foot in length and shape into the form of a pretzel (shape into a - U – twist the end around each other, and tack the ends to the bottom curve of the U shape) and place aside with a clean towel to cover. They will begin to proof a bit, and that is perfect.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to about 400 to 450 degrees. In a large pot fill about half way with water and place over medium to high heat. Stir in your baking soda (it will foam up) and bring to a simmer. Carefully place a couple of your pretzels into the pot at a time. Simmer on both sides about a minute on each side and place onto a prepared baking sheet spacing them apart and they will puff while baking.
Finally, when all your pretzels have been par cooked in the water brush them lightly with your beaten egg; and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Place them in your oven (keeping an eye on them) about 17 minutes rotating them half way through. You are looking for a dark golden color. Remove from the oven and let cook about 15 minutes before eating. They are great with grainy mustard and a good beer!