Saturday, August 24, 2013

We Knead to Bake - 8 - 1 Crunchy Hard Pretzels

Having skipped a few months in between and making up for those meant that I had a set breakfast idea for Monday mornings. I scheduled all those baking experiments for the week end when I assigned some jobs to the rest of the members at home. Thus I had baked the Torcettini di Saint Vincent and the Bialys baked, though yet to be posted in this blog.
The advantage of baking with this group is that you get to read a lot of discussion focused on the given bread of the month. You come across unexpected tips that may help you. Most importantly, we are introduced to baking breads that I have never come across nor have the patience to look for.  Also Aparna, our group's mentor, shares a lot of information about the history of the bread, the origin and such.
During the month, when a fair number of members have attempted the baking, we start nagging for a glimpse into the next one. We play guessing games and have our fun. Repeatedly, members were showing interest in Pretzels. Hence Aparna decided that we bake them this August, the eighth bread of the year.

She had given us the recipe for these hard pretzels, while giving us an option of trying soft pretzels from an earlier post in her blog. Pretzels were something, I have only had at an Auntie Anne's Pretzels outlets and the hard salty pretzel sticks that used to be sold like biscuits. So I approached baking them with a lot of misgivings initially. I did not have to, for they turned out great in taste while the shape could have been done with some patience. Not to be discouraged, I baked them again, this time shaping them better while having the taste just as great.
The soft pretzels will follow today's post, in a day, not to crowd two recipes in one post.
The recipe I am sharing here is as Aparna had given. I reduced the proportions to bake fewer in number.

Crunchy/ Hard Pretzels
(Adapted from Alton Brown's recipe)
1 3/4 cups of warm water (40 Degrees C/ 110 degrees F)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour ( and a little more, if necessary)
2 teaspoons salt ( you may want to decrease if you are planning to add pretzel salt or coarse salt while baking)

For the soda bath:
6 cups water
2 tablespoons baking soda/ sodium bi carbonate

Eggwash (1 yolk added to 2 tablespoon water and whisked) ( optional)
Pretzel salt or coarse salt crystals

Add the warm water to the yeast and sugar. Leave aside for a few minutes until the yeast is frothy indicating that it is active.
Add salt to the flour and to this add the yeast mixture.
Knead until you have a soft elastic dough that is smooth, slightly sticky to touch, but pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is very sticky, add a few more teaspoons of flour only.
Shape the dough in a ball and place in an oil coated bowl, turning the dough around so as to coat it slightly with the oil. This helps in the dough not drying on the surface.
Cover the bowl and allow the dough to double in volume. This might take about an hour or so.
Take the dough out and deflate it knocking all the air out.
Dust the working surface lightly with flour. roll the dough out in a 12"X12" square. Using a pizza cutter, divide the dough into 36 smaller square pieces. It is easier dividing thus, than pinching out exact portions.
Oil your palms very lightly to prepare to work on the bits of dough. Work only as many as you will be able to bake in one batch, keeping the rest of the dough covered.Also use oil in frugal quantities, or else you will not be able to roll them well.
Working on one square piece, flatten it a bit and tightly roll it into  a cylinder thinner than a pencil.
Roll this out in a 15"long rope. Make a U shape with tapering ends. Bring the two ends to cross at about 4 inches from the ends forming a circular shape with 4" long arms.Cross the lower arm over the upper and flip them on top of the circular base. This will resemble the chest area of a person who has crossed arms to touch the opposite shoulders.

Place the shaped dough on a greased tray leaving 1/2 an inch space between them.
When you are ready with your batch of shaped dough, cover the tray with a damp cloth to prevent them from drying.
Now prepare the baking trays first before doing the soda bath.
Line the trays with baking sheets. Lightly smear oil on the lining.
Place a large non-aluminium  utensil filled with six cups of water on the stove. when the water boils, add 2 tablespoons sodium bi carbonate. Allow the mixture to froth and when it is done, lower the heat to simmer.
Carefully slide a pretzel into this soda solution. Allow it to cook on one side just for 10 seconds and turn it over. cook again this side for 10 seconds only. Remove this from the water with a slotted spoon and place it on a tray.
Repeat this with the rest of the shaped pretzels.The pretzels will cook in the water and swell.
Do not allow them to stay in the water for longer for you will end up with a slimy dough.
Arrange the pretzels in the baking tray.
Give the egg wash if you are doing so. 
You mat add the salt crystals to them at this point too.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 Degrees C and bake the pretzels for 40 to 50 minutes until they are crunchy brown.

You may instead make pretzel sticks. For this, at the stage for rolling, use lesser dough and roll out very thin sticks of required length and bake them for a lesser time at the same temperature.
You may also make pretzel bites. In this case, do not roll out the 12" sided square. divide the dough in four porions and roll each portion into a rope of 1" diameter. Cut each rope into 1 1/2" bits. Proceed with the soda bath and then bake. Again the baking time has to be adjusted whilethe temperature is 180 degrees in this case also.
Stay tuned for the next post on Soft pretzels.
Please check Aparna's post where the other members have also shared their links with their Pretzel baking experiments.


  1. It looks yum..New recipe to me ..Very well tried mam :)

  2. looking yummy, perfectly baked

  3. wow...beautiful luking...n perfectly baked too..

  4. These look perfect. I just can't get myself to eat hard pretzel but it seems that I will have to change my mind :)

  5. I can feel the crunch! Love a hard crunchy pretzel.


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