Because this is the sort of person I am, I stayed in bathrobe until two o’clock. I had a bowl of leftover Chinese take-out for lunch. I am on my second replay of Candy Crowley’s “State of the Union” on CNN. It is dreary outside, but rather warm, and I should probably go for a run, or at least a little mosey around the block, but I think I will make bretzels instead.
A bretzel, you adorably inquiring minds, is a pretzel roll. It’s like a dinner roll, but a pretzel. Obviously, it is better. We’re not having a particularly pretzely — I guess that would be German? — meal tonight but I will confess that, when I found this recipe yesterday, I had a fleeting but persistent vision of listening to my German recitation tapes, pouring over textbooks, and committing the sixty-one-and-a-half cases/tenses to memory (again) this afternoon. I was wearing glasses in this vision, thank you for asking, and one inescapable detail rose to the top, like cream in a milk jug: a warm bretzel slathered with cream cheese. Inauthentic cream cheese and all. Don’t ask questions.
I will give you one guess as to which of the three — German studying, glasses wearing, or bretzel noshing — actually happened.
If you get this wrong, you are not allowed to read this blog anymore.
Or maybe that means you need to read it more.
this is your first clue
and this is your second
These are good. Oh, these are very good. Unbelievably good. Pillow soft on the inside, with a crackly, crusty exterior. I was a little skeptical on the “pretzel taste” front — flour, salt, sugar, water, yeast, how does this a pretzel make? This is the ingredient list for all bread products. The secret, friends, lies in the boiling water bath. Which is not just any water (which would make it a bagel, in case you’re interested), but water with a couple tablespoons of sugar and a healthy dump of baking soda. Baking soda + sugar + a roiling, boiling pot of water = pretzel! Now you know. Go make these.
Makes 8 bretzels
- 2 3/4 cups bread flour
- 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 cup hot water, more as needed
- cornmeal, for sprinkling
- 8 cups water
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 egg white, beaten
- coarse salt
Combine bread flour, yeast, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp sugar in a food processor and blend to combine. Slowly add 1 cup of hot water through the feed tube, more as needed, to create a smooth, elastic dough. Process a couple seconds more to knead. Oil a medium-sized bowl, dump the dough into it, and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a tea towel. Set in a warm, draft-free area to rise until doubled in size. This took me about an hour.
Flour a counter space. Gently deflate the dough and knead lightly until smooth. Divide into eight pieces of equal weight. Form each piece into a ball and flatten slightly. Cut an X into the top of each dough ball. Cover with a towel and let dough balls rise until almost doubled again, about half an hour.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with cornmeal. Bring eight cups of water to a brisk boil and add baking powder and sugar. Water will foam up! Add four rolls and cook 30 seconds per side. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer rolls to prepared sheet. Continue with four remaining rolls.
Brush rolls with egg white glaze. Sprinkle generously with coarse salt. Bake until brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer racks and cool ten minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
* Best eaten the day of, rolls will keep at room temperature for up to two days. Do not store in a covered container, or they will become soggy.