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  • Writer's pictureElise

Virtual Cook Book Club: September's Recipe Is Pretzels!

Updated: Apr 15, 2023

We've made our cook book club virtual! We may not be able to meet in person and cook for one another, but that doesn't mean we can't create together. Each month we will highlight a different spice or seasoning. Kits will include this spice, a recipe that highlights it, a little history on the spice or recipe, and some best practices. I'll post the recipes and information here as well, so let's get cooking!

 

A Brief History of the Pretzel

Adapted and abridged primarily from the Food & Wine website

Pretzels have been around since at least the fifth century if not longer, at least according to an illuminated manuscript from the Vatican. Legend has it that around the year 610 CE, a monk in a secluded monastery in either Southern France or Northern Italy decided to reward his students for learning their prayers by handing out pieces of leftover bread that were twisted together to resemble the traditional prayer pose of crossed arms (hold a pretzel upside down and you’ll see it).


Historically, the pretzel has quite a bit of religious significance. During the Middle Ages, monks gave away pretzels to the poor as religious symbols that doubled as food. There is also evidence to suggest that they started out as a replacement for meat during lent. The list goes on and travels all across Europe. There are even heroic tales attributed to these twisted carbohydrates such as the pretzel bakers that saved Vienna during the Siege of Vienna and were rewarded with their own coat of arms.

These salty snacks may have lost much of their theological and historical value in today’s society, but they are definitely still well-loved and here to stay.


A Little Information on the Maillard Reaction and Pretzels’ Distinctive Taste

Adapted From Around the Web Including NPR, Quail Hollow Kitchens, & Others

Pretzels are brown and have that distinctive flavor because of a chemical reaction known as the Maillard reaction. It is caused by dipping the raw dough into a solution of water and baking soda or lye (lye being the more traditional, though possibly more risky option). It occurs because the part of the protein chain that contains amino acids reacts with the sugars in the bread during the baking process. Other examples include soy sauce, dark beer, and what happens when you grill hamburgers.

The Main Event: Amazingly Delicious Pretzel-Shaped Pretzels!

As adapted and shortened for the Brown Deer Library Cook Book Club from the Cooking Comically blog


Ingredients by Step:

The Yeast Stuff:

  • 1 packet Dry Active Yeast (7g or 2 1/4 tsp)

  • 1/2 tsp Sugar (2g)

  • 2/3 cup Warm Water (160mL)

  • 1 1/2 tsp Vegetable Oil (8mL)

The Dry Stuff:

  • 2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour (310g)

  • 1/4 cup Sugar (55g)

  • 1 tsp Salt (6g)

The Baking Soda Wash:

  • 2 cups Hot Water (470mL)

  • 1/4 cup Baking Soda (55g)

The Toppings:

  • Pinches of Sea Salt (or Pretzel Salt)

  • 3 Tbsp Melted Butter (44mL)

  • Honey (for dipping

  • Mustard of choice (for dipping)

To Begin...

  1. Get the yeast going by combining "The Yeast Stuff" in a bowl. Mix together lightly and leave sitting for about 10 minutes while the yeast activates.

  2. Meanwhile mix "The Dry Stuff" together really well in a separate bowl.

  3. Time to make some dough. Make a well in your "Dry Stuff," pour your "Yeast Stuff" into the well, and move the dry stuff from the sides over top of the yeast stuff and continue mixing.

  4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and use the heel of your palm to stretch the dough out then fold the stretched dough back over itself. Repeat for about 5-8 minutes or until the dough is smooth.

  5. Once the dough is smooth, fashion into a ball. Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a damp paper towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

  6. Prepare the baking soda bath by mixing the hot water and baking soda.

  7. Once dough has doubled in size, turn out again onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 6 roughly equal pieces and roll into snakes like you used to do with Playdough.

8. Once the pretzels are all twisted up, dip them one at a time into the baking soda mixture making sure they get well coated. Sprinkle with salt.

9. Then place onto a greased or parchment

prepared pan and bake at 450°F (230°C) for 8-10 minutes.

10. Drizzle with butter or dip in your favorite mustard or honey. And Enjoy!


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