Two months ago I started participating in what's known as the "Secret Recipe Club". You may remember the homemade Butterfingers. The fun of this adventure is discovering new recipes and bloggers, never knowing what to expect. It's all a big secret until Reveal Day when we all find out who made what from who's blog.
I opted for something salty this time - Soft Pretzel Bites. I've made Soft Pretzels before but we made them in the traditional twisted shape. This recipe forms them into much easier to shape "nuggets". The other difference that I was curious about is the use of butter in making them instead of shortening. I wondered if it would change the texture or make the dough more difficult to work with. I'm happy to said it did neither and this dough worked perfectly for us. Just keep in mind, using butter means these pretzels won't keep fresh as long as the shortening ones, so plan on eating them or freezing them. I did both and the frozen ones were just as delicious when thawed on the counter at room temperature.
Making Memories created and nurtered by my twin-in-another-life, Erin. Just like me, Erin is a little obsessed with Family Fun magazine. All you have to do is search either of our our blogs for Family Fun and you'll see tons of things we've done - many of them the exact same projects (we just made the gumdrop arrows for Valentine's Day)! I actually cracked up when I saw the header photo on her blog because she has a photo of the milk jug Halloween ghosts just like the ones hanging in our basement right now!! Now if we could just get Family Fun to hire us as testers - right Erin?
Erin is one of those people that I'm in awe of. She's a single mom with two precious kids. I really am amazed at single moms. I mean there's no break, no..."wait til your Daddy gets home to deal with you". And she's not just going through life, she's making a FUN life with her obviously happy kids. She makes time to say, "yes" and I love that about her. Much of her blog is creative and clever ideas for crafts, gifts or goodies. When I read the recipe for Soft Pretzel Bites it sounded like she decided to make them almost as a challenge and she was pleasantly surprised at the results. They turned out better than she expected and easier than she expected. I hope you take the yeast challenge and your results are as delightful as Erin's.
Soft Pretzel Bites
(recipe originally adapted from Bobby Flay)
1 1/2 c warm water
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 pkg active dry yeast (or 3 tsp of bulk yeast)
1/3 c unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
4 1/2 c flour
6 c water
3/4 c baking soda
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbls. cold water
Coarse sea salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds
Combine water, yeast, brown sugar in glass measuring cup to allow yeast to proof (which is a fancy way of making sure the yeast is alive and awake). If you don't get foam in about 5 minutes you may have killed the yeast with water that was too hot OR it's not awake because the water was too cold OR the yeast is too old. Yeast is the big scary part of yeast breads (that's why it's so prominent in the name - to scare you off). Really yeast is easy, you just need to make sure it's alive and kickin. Proofing is way to make sure you aren't going to end up with unrisen flatbread. Once you have proofed it, you know it's gonna all work out. If you don't get foam, just throw away what you mixed up and try again. The water should feel warm to your fingers, but not hot.
|this is what it looks like when the yeast is first added to the water (with a sprinkle of brown sugar)|
|this is activated yeast: foamy and smells yummy|
Once your yeast is all foamy goodness, pour it into a mixer bowl and add the melted butter. Make sure the butter has cooled so it's not raging hot and kills the poor little yeasties. Mix on low to combine. Add the salt and 3 1/2 cups of the flour into the bowl and mix on low speed until combined. This is where a dough hook and a stand mixer come in handy, otherwise you are kneading the dough by hand on the counter. Incidentally, you could easily start this recipe in a bread maker appliance, just take the dough out after the first rise and hand shape it and continue following the recipe from there.
You want to knead the dough in the mixer for about 5 minutes until the it's smooth, adding small amounts of the remaining 1 cup of flour a little at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forming a ball. You may not use all of the flour if it's a dry day or you may need a little more if it's a humid day outside, but you shouldn't vary more than 1/2 c more or less in what you need. When the dough is "right", the sides of the bowl should be really clean and the dough should all be gathered around the dough hook. The dough should feel soft and elastic. "Like your tummy", my darling 6 year old innocently stated. @#!! Ah the honesty of kids!
Put your dough into a clean greased (is that an oximoron?) bowl and cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Let it sit in a warm place (you may remember I use my turned off oven with the light on in the winter) until it doubles in bulk. This should take around 1 hour unless your kitchen is pretty cold. You can figure out if yeast bread is ready with the poke test. You poke your finger gently into the risen dough and see what happens. If springs back - then it's not ready. If the dent stays put - it's perfect. If the poke makes the whole thing collapse - then it's overrisen and you need to start over from the kneading stage to try to salvage it. All of this SOUNDS complicated, but it's not - I promise. You just have to try it out to see really it's not hard. It takes a little planning since there is waiting around, but it's not hard. When the dough passes the poke test, you need to gently deflate it by folding it or "punching" it down. That means put your fist into the middle of it. It's not a shazam move, but more of a gentle push. Then let the dough rest for 5 minutes or so (which means just leave it alone for a few minutes).
Put your 6 cups of water in a pot or deep skillet and add the baking soda. Bring that to a boil.
Instead of watching and waiting for the pot to boil, go ahead and shape your bites. Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces, using a bench knife makes this much easier (my 8 year old was happy to volunteer). Roll each piece into 22" long ropes. If the dough is hard to stretch, it hasn't rested long enough. Then cut the rope into small bites approximately 1" wide. You can roll these into or just leave them cut like tiny squares.
my favorite silicone mats) cookie sheets.
This reminds me to tell you to enter my giveaway for two silicone baking mats to celebrate my birthday which is today!!
Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Watch carefully so they get brown, but not burned.
Don't forget to enter my giveaway for two silicone baking mats to celebrate my birthday today!!