Sunday, August 25, 2013

We Knead to Bake - 8 -2 Laugenbrezel (German Style Soft Pretzels)


This is the post I wanted to put up as a follow up of yesterday's Hard pretzels. Many of the members of the We Knead to Bake group had expressed that they preferred the soft pretzels and hence Aparna suggested that we follow the recipe already in her post from an earlier date. It was a simple recipe that many of us vouch for a keeper recipe. Everyone of us who had tried seemed to love their texture and taste.

It also was the family's choice, though they liked the hard ones the second time I baked them. we found that they kept well and tasted better the day after. However, the soft pretzels are best consumed fresh.
It was again a weekend agenda when the daughter was willingly helping in shaping and taking pictures, making my workload less.
Without much ado, I shall share the recipe. I have tried Aparna's recipe which she in turn had adapted from My Recipes. She has taken time to read and share the information available on pretzels in her post. I skip that and request you to check her post for an interesting read. There are many recipes that use butter or eggs and this one has neither. Hence, you can still bake them even if you were short of such ingredients.

 Soft Pretzels with Sesame seeds

31/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
1 teaspoon salt

For the soda bath:
6 cups water
2 tablespoons baking soda

For dusting the baking sheet:
1 teaspoon cornmeal or semolina

For the topping:
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
(she has used black sesame seeds also, but I did not want a very crowded top on mine, so did not use)

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm milk and allow the yeast to activate.
Meanwhile take the flour and salt in a large bowl and whisk them together.
Once the yeast is frothy, add it to the flour mix and gather them in a dough.
Turn this on to a surface dusted lightly with flour. Knead into a dough that is smooth and elastic. It may feel a bit sticky. If needed add a little more flour. It takes about 8 to 10 minutes of kneading.
Transfer the dough , after shaping it in a ball, into a large oiled bowl. turn the dough in the oil to coat it with oil. Cover and allow it to rise until double in volume. This may take an hour or just slightly less.
To check if the dough has risen, gently press two fingers into it. If the indentations remain, the dough has risen sufficiently.
Turn it on to the work surface and deflate the dough, knocking much of the air out.
Cover again and rest for 5 minutes.
Divide the dough in 12 equal portions.Work with one portion of the dough at a time, while keeping the rest covered in a damp cloth.
Roll each portion into an 18 inches long rope with tapered ends. shape the pretzels as suggested in my previous post.
Keep the shaped pretzel dough on a tray that has been lightly greased and cover it to prevent drying.
Once all the pretzels have been shaped, keep them covered and allow to rise for 10 minutes. They do not rise much.
Prepare the baking trays with lining a sheet and lightly greasing the sheet on top. Sprinkle the semolina/ cornmeal on this surface.
Keep the 6 cups of water for boiling in a large utensil. When the water has come to a boil, add the baking soda. Allow the froth to settle and keep the water simmering.
Gently slide a pretzel dough into the water. Allow it to cook on one side for 15 seconds before flipping it quickly to the other side. Let this side cook for 15 seconds too. The pretzels will cook and swell. do not leave them in the water for longer as they may become very slimy.
Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and transfer them on to a wire rack that has been lightly greased with oil.
Repeat the procedure for all of the shaped pretzel dough.
Place them on the prepared tray. While keeping the oven to preheat to 220 Degrees Centigrade, brush the top of the pretzels with milk and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.
Bake for 12 minutes or until the pretzels are deep golden brown.

Remove the baked pretzels and cool them on wire racks.
Serve them with a dip of choice or fresh and plain.
This recipe makes 12 pretzels.

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.

Friday, August 2, 2013

We Knead to Bake - 6 Baked yeasted Doughnuts

This may be a bit confusing that I posted a bread few days ago and numbered it ‘We knead to Bake 7’ while this has been numbered 6. I had missed a few breads that the members of the group had done. Now I am trying to bake those and post them too.
The first Friday of June has been marked in the US of A as National doughnut Day. The first National doughnut Day dates back to 1938, to raise funds for the Salvation Army. It was that during 1917, the First World War, the Salvation Army volunteers made them for the homesick American soldiers who were then serving in France. They were so popular that later a day had been marked to celebrate them.

Aparna had suggested we bake doughnuts in June. I was able to bake them much later and post them only now.
There was a time that to me bread meant only the regular sandwich ones or buns. Even if I were to spot anything other than those, I may not have tried them. Only when we moved to Malaysia and during the initial days of hotel accommodation, I ventured to try the varieties that came in our breakfast bread basket. I was particularly fond of the sugar dusted doughnuts. Later, my friend warned me that they were fried stuff which led me to approach them with caution. 
I have, in my books, a recipe for the fried doughnuts. This month's is not; I cannot claim that these are healthier and such. But they were sure better tasting and stayed soft for a day longer. I set aside a Saturday and my husband and daughter were around to do a few errands. So we baked a few, glazed, jam filled and pops. This is a recipe that I might use often for we liked them much.

Recipe adapted from Lara Ferroni's Doughnuts.



1/4 cup superfine sugar
1 cup warm milk (45C/115F)
3/4 tablespoon instant yeast (or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups cake flour (or all-purpose flour) divided, plus more for kneading
100gm butter, cut into 1 inch cubes 

For the topping:

75 to 100 grams butter, melted
1 cup superfine sugar and 2 tablespoons cinnamon (more or less, depending on your taste), mixed together
Glaze of choice - Maple syrup and heavy cream
Jam to be piped in


I used the processor to knead but you can do this by hand also.
Place sugar, milk, yeast, salt and vanilla in the processor bowl and pulse to mix well. 
Add the cake flour and 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Process this adding a little more of the flour as necessary till the dough is thick and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Add the butter pieces one at a time and process till there no large chunks of butter are left in the bottom of the bowl. 
Now add a little more flour until your have a soft, pliable and elastic dough that is most but not overly sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently until the dough no longer sticks to your hands. 
Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased large mixing bowl. Turn the dough around to coat well with the oil. 
Cover with a damp cloth and leave it rise till double in volume, say for about an hour.

Punch the dough down, roll out to a 1/2" thick somewhat circular disc. 
Cut out doughnuts using a doughnut cutter of 3” diameter and 1” diameter holes.

If you’re making doughnuts to fill with jam, do not cut out the holes.

Place the doughnuts and the holes on parchment lined or lightly greased baking sheets, leaving at least 1” space between them.

Re-roll the scraps and cut out more doughnuts. 
I used the last scraps of dough by pinching off bits, rolling them into balls and baking them as pops.
Let them rise for about 20 minutes or till almost double in size.

Pre heat the oven to 200 Degrees Centigrade.
Bake the doughnuts at 200 C  for about 5 to 10 minutes till they are done and golden brown. Do not over bake them.

Take them out of the oven and immediately brush them with the melted butter and then dip them into the cinnamon sugar mixture. 

For  jam filled the doughnuts, allow them  to cool. 

Place the jam into a piping bag with a writing nozzle/ tip and press into the doughnut from the side and gently press out the jam into the doughnut till it starts oozing out. Jam doughnuts do not need too much jam to fill them.
For glazed doughnuts, let them cool completely.
Prepare the glaze of choice and then dip one side of the doughnut in the glaze and  set.
To make the Maple syrup glaze, I mixed 1 cup of icing sugar with 1/3 cup heavy cream and mixing in enough Maple syrup to achieve a slightly thick mixture that set quickly in a thick glaze.

For some interesting facts about doughnuts check out this post and there you may also find links to other members' posts.