Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Right before my husbands two week vacation I made a list of things that I wanted us to get done together. I am not one for the whole honey-do lists because he's pretty good about getting things done when they need it..or avoiding it for months on end..or even years because seriously...I'm still waiting for my custom made spice rack. My list consisted of things like..bake pretzel bread together. Head into Germany to find such and such ingredient. Tackle round 3 of nougat making (we are still tweaking a recipe to make it just right) and sit on the couch and eat cookies and watch a movie. I'm happy to say we did it all.
If you love the taste of a pretzel then you are going to love this bread. The inside is soft and fluffy and the outside is chewy and tastes exactly like a pretzel. I always get nervous when I tackle a new type of bread. This type consists of braiding it,slipping it into a soda bath,gently taking it out and putting it on a sheet to bake. I was worried sick that somewhere between the braid and the dipping and pulling out that it was going to go terribly wrong. Well it didn't and it turned out so perfect all I could do was stare at it..for a full 15 mins and then we couldn't wait any longer and had to eat it. I think the bread is best eaten on the day it's made. We had a small piece left over and the following day it still tasted like a pretzel but it lost it's chewy exterior that we loved.
About a week later we started talking about the bread again and how neat it would be to try it in a bun/roll style. So that weekend we whipped up another batch and turned it into buns. These were just as fantastic and the only difference was that they lacked the crunchy outside. I'm actually glad about that because these were perfect for breakfast with an egg,bacon and cheese stuffed inside and then used for sandwiches at lunch time.
This isn't a hard recipe by any means. If you aren't used to braiding a bread then that will be your biggest challenge. I messed up one of the braids which you can see in the first photo ( the higher part of the bread at the top was a mistake I made when I turned the dough around to braid the other side.) Take your time with the braid and slipping the dough into the soda bath and even more care when taking it out. It's a slippery little sucker!
1 cup Warm Water
1 TBS Brown Sugar
2-1/4 tsp. Active Dry Yeast
1/4 cup Milk
2 TBS Unsalted Butter
2 tsp. Kosher Salt
2-3 cups Bread Flour or All-purpose Flour
4 Quarts Water
1/2 cup Baking Soda..I used 1/4 cup with no problems
1/4 cup Cornmeal
3 TBS Pretzel Salt or Kosher Salt..I left out
In a large bowl,combine water,brown sugar, and yeast. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy,about 10 minutes.
Add milk,2 teaspoons salt,and enough bread flour to create a firm dough ( if you live in a humid area like me you will more than likely need more flour than the recipe calls for.) Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead 8-10 minutes,adding flour only to reduce stickiness. Shape dough into a ball and place in a bowl that has been lightly greased with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm spot until doubled in vlume,about 1 hour. After 1 hour,bunch risen dough, knead briefly, shape back into a ball,cover again and allow to rise for 1 hour.
In a large ( the largest you can get your hands on) saucepan,bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. At the boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and add the baking soda. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick spray,and sprinkle with cornmeal.
Preheat oven to 400 or 200 celcius.
Turn risen dough onto a floured surface,divide into 3 equal portions, and form a 3-strand braid. Drop braid gently into simmering baking soda bath for about 30 seconds,turning to coat all sides.
Carefully remove loaf with 2 slotted spoons,shake off excess liquid, and place on prepared pan.
Whisk egg with a tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt. Brush the top of the risen dough.
Sprinkles with pretzel salt or kosher salt if desired. Bake until golden brown and hollow sounding,about 30-40 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack. To make 8 rolls,instead of shaping the bread into a braid divide the dough into 8 pieces. Shape each one into a tight ball and dip into the soda bath for 30 seconds. Brush the tops with the egg wash and bake for 20 mins-25 mins. The rolls never had the hollow sound like the bread did and was nervous about taking them out at 20 mins. They were perfectly soft and slightly chewy.
** Ok here are some tips for you. The directions never stated how long I needed to make the strands of my braid. We had a large saucepan but I think you need an extra large one. We couldnt fit the full 4 quarts of water in there and instead went with 3-1/2. We didn't want to make the bread larger than the pan or it wouldn't fit and we knew the bread would expand in the water. You can tell that the top of the bread still needed to be bent when placed in there because it expanded to much. So take into consideration the size of your pan that you will be placing the dough into and go from there. I didn't bother turning the bread while it was in the water..there was no way I was going to mess with it anymore than I had to. What I did was gently dunk the bread under the water a few times to make sure it was covered really well in the soda bath. I would also suggest you line your sheet with parchment paper that has been sprayed with nonstick spray aswell because this bread will stick. We found that out with the rolls...parchment paper is your best friend here.**
Yield: 1 Loaf or 8 Rolls
Source: The Everything Bread Cookbook