Friday, January 21, 2011

When Life Gives You an Earthquake, Make Pretzels - makes 8

I consider myself pretty organized.  My kitchen, obviously, is the tidiest and cleanest room in the house, next to the rest of the rooms.  I try to maintain order within our walls and when things get too unorganized I can actually hear the fault lines begin to rumble.  I truly believe that my daughters room could quite actually split the state of California in half, her room is so messy.  We've begun to rank her room according to the Richter Scale, 10 being the worse.  If you actually look under the scale dimensions of the Richter Scale, you would see that 10 has so far, not been reached.  Well, come to my daughters room.  It appears it has hit and there are all sorts of debris scattered amongst the floor.  Stuffed animals look as if they've been crushed with their eyes gazing helplessly for medical attention.  Clothes strewn across the room as if a tornado whipped its way through, flinging pants, dresses, shoes in every direction.  And the socks.... I have yet to find them their mates, lost forever in a sea of clutter, never to be found again.  I stare at the rubble in disbelief, wondering how we will get these things back to normal again, not knowing where to start.  Then, out of nowhere, a man we'll call my husband, leaps over soccer balls and beheaded dolls, saves the day (roughly 4 hours of it) cleaning it all up.  EVERYTHING.

I shut the door and go and make pretzels.  Unlike the twisted mess in my daughters room, they can certainly put a smile on my face and serve up as a nice snack to my red-caped husband.

 3 3/4 cups bread flour (20 ounces), plus more for dusting
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
10 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup baking soda
2 cups boiling water
Coarse sea salt or Kosher salt, for sprinkling

 In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the 3 3/4 cups of bread flour with the warm water, yeast, kosher salt and butter and knead at medium speed until the flour is evenly moistened, 2 minutes. Increase the speed to high and knead until a smooth, elastic dough forms around the hook, 8 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Cover loosely with a dry kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces and form each one into a ball. Cover the dough balls with the towel and let rest for another 5 minutes.

On an unfloured surface, roll each ball of dough into an 18-inch-long rope, tapering them slightly at both ends. To shape each pretzel, form the rope into a U shape. Cross the ends over each other twice to form the twist, then bring the ends to the bottom of the U and press the tips onto it. Arrange the pretzels on 2 large baking sheets lined with parchment paper and let stand uncovered in a warm place for 45 minutes, or until slightly risen. Refrigerate the pretzels uncovered for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Dissolve 1/2 cup baking soda in 2 quarts of boiling water. Boil the pretzels for 30 seconds, then drain on wire racks before salting and baking.

Sprinkle the pretzels with coarse salt and bake on the top and middle racks of the oven until shiny-brown and risen, about 17 minutes; shift the pans halfway through baking. Let the pretzels cool slightly on the baking sheets before serving.

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