Football With A Twist

So, growing up in the Ancestral Betz home autumn Sundays meant going to church and watching the Eagles.  Except there was an important stop in between — and that was to get soft-pretzels.

We would go to a place called "Cass's Mart Pretzels" — a fresh pretzel bakery that operated in an absolute dump called the Pennsauken Mart.  The mart was thankfully demolished several years ago, and the pretzel folks moved to a strip mall up the road.  We always try to swing by when we're back in The Garden State.

Anyway, that doesn't help me much in California — as there really aren't good places to get pretzels and no, Auntie Anne's doesn't count.  And I'd tried the frozen SuperPretzel thing — blah.  So, this weekend, I decided to take matters (and matter) into my own hands and track down a recipe for soft pretzels that I thought I'd give a try.

The recipe was pretty straightforward.   You first make a yeast-dough of flour (4c) salt (2 tsp), and activated yeast (1 packet in 1 1/4 c warm water).  That dough came together pretty well.

I covered it and allowed the dough to rise (it didn't rise as much as I'd liked it to have — I think I didn't leave the yeast in the warm-ish water long enough, or maybe the water wasn't warm enough — or both, I don't know…).  After that, small balls of dough are pulled out and made into 15-20" ropes.

Those are made into pretzel shapes — or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Those are then dropped individually into boiling water that has baking powder in it.  They were removed when the buoyed to the top and allowed to dry off on a rack.  They were then salted with coarse salt and popped into a 475 degree oven.

By the time that the first batch had come out of the oven (and cooled on a rack for a bit) NBC had chosen to switch from the Eagles game to one that was more "competitive".  And while it was a bummer not to see the Birdz beat up on the Chiefs — which they were supposed to — so good going in getting the job done — I was very excited to sit down with a pretzel, mustard and a beer.

How were they?  I didn't think they browned up as much as I would have thought — so either the oven was too low, or there's something else to do to evoke that good brown color.  Otherwise, they had a good crispy outside, light and tasty inside.

Can't wait to tweak the recipe for future weekends!

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21 thoughts on “Football With A Twist

  1. I've never made pretzels but if you are looking for a browner shinier look to the outside crust you could brush them with a little egg wash. I've done it with calzones, you just scramble it up and take dip a pastry brush in the mixture and brush it on

  2. Oooh, nice! A football gourmand, eh? I googled "brown color of pretzels" (procrastinate work? who, me?), and this is what I came up with:"The use of sodium hydroxide as a processing aid is unique to pretzels… thus pretzels can be differentiated from crackers or breadsticks. Cooking in a hot alkali solution prior to baking gives pretzels their unique texture and appearance… Cooking in alkali solution gelatinizes the surface starch that forms the hard exterior crust of the pretzel when it enters the oven. The gelatinized starch also undergoes Maillard reaction in the oven, giving pretzels a shiny brown color on the exterior… and its opaque interior… The typical brown color of pretzels is due to the reaction of carbohydrate and protein hydrolysis products and also poentitally the reaction between these hydrolized products."In other words, I guess the brown color is due more to the baking soda that you boil it in — the excerpt also said it's necessary to have enough of the baking soda solution to completely immerse the dough, and the dipping temperature has to be above 70 degrees Celsius for the gelatinization.Whew, what a mouthful.

  3. Mmmm, Laugenbretzel. When I lived in Germany I couldn't walk through Karstadt Department Store without stopping for pretzel bread or a soft pretzel. So yummy. Your post brings me right back…

  4. Skoolie — we thought about the egg wash afterwards, too — I was going to scan some other recipes online and see what I can find about that, or maybe to a side-by-side experiment.

  5. Wow — thanks for the investigational research Hapa! They certainly did get the crisp outside and the chewy inside right. I wonder if my baking powder boiling pot was too dilute… clearly experimentation is in order!!

  6. I've never been to Gernany even though I'm more than 50 percent German :( but I do live in Orlando and we go to the Beirgarten Restaurant inside epcot and drink liters of beer and pretzels. Not that it's even close.

  7. Those look great! I could have one (or three) of those.Sounds like you are setting up some experiments so I suggest a couple of recipes I have used for bagels and pretzels. Both turned out great and are very easy to make. I also made a super easy focaccia bread earlier today that I intend to blog about. Since you are experimenting, you could consider adding it one to your list of delicious breads. Ohhhh… I love baking breads!

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