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Did you know February is National Snack Food Month? Its true. And did you know that I am the (self-proclaimed) Queen of Snacks? It is in veritas.*
*Wanton use of Latin proves either my royalty or the fact that I’m a homeschooling mom.
I think this calls for a serious application of my snack food bonafides. (MORE LATIN!) There is no better way to kick off National Snack Food Month than with the King of All Snack Food (no relation): SOFT PRETZELS! Clearly, I’m excited here. I’m so excited I’m all capsy. Or should I say, I’M ALL CAPSY!? And exclamation marky?!?!! I’m sorry. Snack food thrills me.
Soft pretzels are one of my all-time favourite foods. On any given day at any given time any given person could walk up to me and say, “Would you like a soft pretzel?” and I would, in all likelihood, say, “Yes, please, stranger. I will eat this glorious soft pretzel you have offered to me.” (Because I’m also queeny and perpetually hungry.) I do not turn down soft pretzels.
Plain old (pshaw, plain?) soft pretzels are always acceptable and delicious, however…
…As Queen of Snacks, I feel obliged to give this best of months with something extra spectacular, and so, I give you: The Everything Soft Pretzel. Oh yes.
Sidebar: If anything comes close to the magical, mystical soft pretzel in the hierarchy of my snack food affection, it is most definitely the everything bagel. I love pop and crackle of the garlic flakes, onion flakes, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and coarse salt on top of the chewy brown bread in each bite. Cream cheese is not negotiable. It’d better be on there and thick, I tell you. End sidebar.
Bonus Sidebar/Confession: Every single time I attempt to type “poppy seeds” (including the one immediately preceding this parenthetical reference) I accidentally type “poopy”. Also in veritas. More Latin. End bonus sidebar.
How good are these? Let me paint you a picture… You open the oven and a blast of the scent of hot, freshly baked bread mingled with toasted garlic and onion hits you. The tray is full of deep, glossy brown everything soft pretzels topped with a crusty layer of garlic and onion bits, poppy and sesame seeds and crunchy salt.
You force yourself to wait five minutes so you don’t burn off a layer of skin from the inside of your mouth. You smear cold cream cheese on the pretzel and some seeds and bits fall away. You don’t want to waste any of it so you touch the side of the cream cheese coated knife to them and glance around you. No one’s looking so you carefully eat it from the knife. But then you sink your teeth into that pretzel.
The cream cheese is still mostly cold, but has started melting just a bit where it is sitting on the warm pretzel. Crackle, pop, BAM, mmmmmm. This is everything a snack food should be. EVERYTHING. It’s not just an everything bagel topping pretzel it is the EVERYTHING SOFT PRETZEL.
I’m off to go rest my capsy fingers and eat another pretzel, but first, a royal poll question: What’s your favourite snack food ever? Do you tend to like savoury or sweet snacks better? And do you think you’d like these better with cream cheese or beer cheese dip?
Now off with you. I declare that you shall make these Everything Pretzels and eat them.
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Ingredients for dough:
- 4 cups bread flour 1 pound 1 ounce, by weight
- 1 tablespoon non-diastatic malt powder or sugar preferably
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup hot tap water
- 2 teaspoons SAF or instant yeast
Ingredients for pretzel boil:
- 2 quarts water
- 2 tablespoons baking soda
Ingredients for toppings:
- 2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
- 2 tablespoons dried garlic flakes
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon pretzel salt or coarse sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 egg whisked until evenly coloured
To Make the Dough by Hand:
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, malt powder or sugar and yeast. Set the whisk aside and switch to a sturdy wooden spoon. Stir in the milk and tap water until a soft dough forms. Turn onto a generously floured surface and knead, adding small amounts of flour as needed to keep the dough from adhering to the counter. You do not want a firm dough… it should be fairly slack, a little tacky and soft, yet smooth. Place dough in a clean bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk and puffy, about an hour or so.
To Make the Dough by Stand Mixer:
- In the work-bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, salt, malt powder or sugar and yeast. Mix on low just to combine dry ingredients. With mixer still on low, carefully pour in the milk and water. Continue mixing on low until you have a smooth, soft, slightly tacky dough. Remove bowl from the mixer, cover with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk and puffy, about an hour or so.
To Make the Dough by Bread Machine:
- Add the milk, water, flour, malt powder or sugar, and yeast to the pan of your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select the “Dough” or “Dough Only” cycle and hit start. Allow the cycle to complete.
To Form the Pretzels:
- Line three 11×13-inch baking sheets with silicone or teflon pan liners. Set next to your work area.
- Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface.
For Traditional Pretzel Shapes:
- Use a bench knife to cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece like play-dough until you have a snake of dough about the circumference of a Kindergarten pencil (or your index finger.) Lay the snake of dough in a u-shape. Twist the two ends together twice, keeping the base of the "u" open, then fold the twisted ends down onto the base of the "u" and gently press in place. Transfer the pretzels onto the lined baking sheets, being sure to leave generous amounts of room between them. They will expand both as they rise and again as they boil and bake. When you have dealt with all the dough, cover the pans with tea towels and let them rise in a warm, draft-free place until puffy looking, about 20 minutes.
To Form Easier Pretzel Rods:
- Use a bench knife to cut the dough into 22 equal pieces. Roll each piece like play-dough until you have a snake of dough about the circumference of a Kindergarten pencil (or your index finger.) Transfer the pretzels onto the lined baking sheets, being sure to leave generous amounts of room between them. They will expand both as they rise and again as they boil and bake. When you have dealt with all the dough, cover the pans with tea towels and let them rise in a warm, draft-free place until puffy looking, about 20 minutes.
To Cook the Pretzels:
- Mix all the topping ingredients together with a fork except for the egg. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a stainless steel or other non-reactive pan (enameled cast-iron, tempered glass, etc…) When water boils, add the baking soda. Gently lift the pretzels or pretzel rods one at a time into the boiling water. (You can boil more than one at a time, but be sure not to crowd the the pan as they will expand as they boil. Let simmer for about 45 seconds, flip the pieces and simmer for another 45 seconds-1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to drain and return each piece to its place on the pan. Continue until all pieces have been boiled and returned to the pan.
- Brush all pieces of dough with the beaten and sprinkle the topping mixture. Place pans in oven and bake at least until golden brown (at least 18 minutes), but you can bake until they are deep brown which is my preference (closer to 22-24 minutes in my oven.)
- Let stand for at least 5 minutes before eating. These are best enjoyed warm, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of days. They can be quickly reheated prior to serving.
This recipe was originally posted on February 2, 2012.