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Baking Pretzels


Pat
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I'm trying my hand at baking soft pretzels. When I tried years ago, I didn't have much experience baking bread. This try went much better but still needs work. This is the recipe I used.. My biggest problem was with shaping the pretzels :) . I managed that in mediocre fashion. Does anyone have pretzel-shaping techniques for the aesthetically impaired?

They seemed to come out pretty well and were nice warm from the oven. The next day, however, the cold pretzels had gummy parts, which I think relates to the boiling. Pieces that were near pieces that got folded over got boiled but not baked fully. (That's my best guess.) They look kind of opaque and, well, gummy in spots.

Another question would be: How do you reheat these suckers? I'm working on this to take them along with my bread basket at Thanksgiving.

Help?

Thanks.

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Does anyone have pretzel-shaping techniques for the aesthetically impaired?
Make Salzstangen instead? Seriously, though: take your dough ropes and lift them in the middle so they drape down evenly and put back down onto your work area so that both sides are very close and parallel to one another. Lightly pressing with one hand on both sides about a fifth to a quarter of the way twist the loose ends with the free hand and then pull them outward. Now lift the loop side and spread it as you fold it towards you and place it past the free ends of the dough. Lift up the free ends and stick them onto the loop and even out the shape. It sounds really elementary, I know, but as you've discovered it takes a lot of practice :) I'm definitely not one of those people that can just flip them around in the air a couple of times and lay down a perfectly shaped pretzel.

I'd also consider using this recipe, particularly because it involves boiling them in alkali solution, which produces a wonderful crust. This is method produces what the Germans call Laugengeb├Ąck, which rocks.

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boiling them in alkali solution, which produces a wonderful crust.

I've only made pretzels a few times, but I'll second this recommendation...the boiling bakingsoda+water trick is clutch.

How do you reheat these suckers?

I've had success nuking them for 30 seconds, cutting them in half and making (foreman) grilled sandwiches with them, but that's probably not what you're looking for. Not sure how well it would work, but I'd try the oven for reheating, perhaps. The microwave alone just leaves them soggy, which is not a pleasant texture for a big pretzel. toaster oven might be good, if your thanksgiving destination has one. Another option would be to make the dough beforehand (i've seen recipes that recommend overnight refrigeration), and just do the shaping/baking at the destination, if that's an option.

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I've only made pretzels a few times, but I'll second this recommendation...the boiling bakingsoda+water trick is clutch.

I've had success nuking them for 30 seconds, cutting them in half and making (foreman) grilled sandwiches with them, but that's probably not what you're looking for. Not sure how well it would work, but I'd try the oven for reheating, perhaps. The microwave alone just leaves them soggy, which is not a pleasant texture for a big pretzel. toaster oven might be good, if your thanksgiving destination has one. Another option would be to make the dough beforehand (i've seen recipes that recommend overnight refrigeration), and just do the shaping/baking at the destination, if that's an option.

I will try the baking soda next time. If it gives a better crust, then I might not have the gumminess problem.

I don't think there is a toaster oven where we are going (don't remember one, anyway), and it depends on what time we get there whether the oven will be already full. Maybe wrapped in foil in the oven if we can pull that off is the best bet. I think the microwave would definitely made the gumminess worse.

Thanks for the answers.

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I'm trying my hand at baking soft pretzels. When I tried years ago, I didn't have much experience baking bread. This try went much better but still needs work. This is the recipe I used.. My biggest problem was with shaping the pretzels :) . I managed that in mediocre fashion. Does anyone have pretzel-shaping techniques for the aesthetically impaired?

They seemed to come out pretty well and were nice warm from the oven. The next day, however, the cold pretzels had gummy parts, which I think relates to the boiling. Pieces that were near pieces that got folded over got boiled but not baked fully. (That's my best guess.) They look kind of opaque and, well, gummy in spots.

Another question would be: How do you reheat these suckers? I'm working on this to take them along with my bread basket at Thanksgiving.

Help?

Thanks.

I made some this past summer and yes getting the pretzel shape takes some practice but after a few tries you can get the hang of it. And also like others have mentioned, the water bath prior to baking is an absolute must. Here's the link to the post on my blog about making pretzels, including the recipe and a picture.

Pretzels

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What is Pretzel Salt? I notced that you used Kosher Salt, but I thought Pretzel salt was more robust, kinda like a think sea salt. Anyone know if there is a difference?

Pretzel salt is, for the lack of a better descriptive term, bigger, puffier than Kosher salt. There is definitely a difference, and my friends always comment on their appreciation of my use of genuine pretzel salt. I buy my pretzel salt from King Arthur's...

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I once tried to recreate the really dark-brown crusted german pretzels using the baking soda wash and damn was I disappointed. I have heard that the secret really is a lye bath (which can also make for good bagels) and have found several recipes that define the quantities needed. Here's one (in German, sorry).

Now, where does one obtain lye for cooking? I've found it in chemical supply stores online, but only in quantities that border on criminal enterprise/survivalist. Anyone know of a local source?

If you're wondering what final product I'm aiming for, the Heidelberg Bakery on Lee Hwy will have them if you get there early enough in the morning. They're normally sold out by noon.

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While I admire the approach, it is important to note that Lye is not in fact an acid, but a compound that forms a basic solution when disolved in water. It is caustic and will burn your skin if you're not careful. :P

Frankly, soft pretzels was one of the first things I learned how to cook, I did it without lye, and they came out fine. Doing a cost/benefit analysis or a risk analysis, I just don't see how whatever benfits lye brings to your pretzels could be worth it. It is expensive, hard to find, and incredibly hazardous, and your pretzels will be great without it.

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Doing a cost/benefit analysis or a risk analysis, I just don't see how whatever benefits lye brings to your pretzels could be worth it.

In this case, it really is a matter of taste. Not taste in the "these pretzels aren't classy enough" sense, though lord I would love to start a flame war in the pretzel baking discussion, but the fact that the lye-boiling method actually creates a different pretzel from what you can get with a baking soda bath alone.

The baking soda bath creates the "burn" (bases can burn, right?) that gets you the color you find on Auntie Anne's or lancaster-style pretzels, with the taste also depending on what you've done to the dough, etc.

Laugenbretzeln, the really dark brown german pretzels, need the lye. You can try to recreate the color with the egg wash, but these will lack the weird tannic taste you get from crust on lye-boiled pretzels. That taste in turn cries out for butter and mustard, leading you down deeper paths to pretzel debauchery...

It's probably a hike and it's never guaranteed that they'll be in stock, but give the pretzels at the Heidelburg Bakery a try to taste what drives people to contemplate storing hazardous chemicals in their kitchens.

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I used the Alton Brown recipe from the foodtv site and followed the advice from his program. The results were great! My 8 yo really was happy with the results. However, I still need a local source for Pretzel Salt. Anyone know one? Penzeys does not really carry what I want. Any local sources? Amish Markets?

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