Monday, March 28, 2011

Lenten Pretzels

Pretzels are a really great Lenten snack. Some people claim that they were originally baked by monks and distributed as reminders to pray during Lent. (A common prayer posture used to be arms crossed over the chest, which forms a shape like a pretzel.) These simple breads made of water, flour, and salt (without dairy products) remind us of the call to simplicity and fasting. The features of a pretzel can also be symbolic. There are three holes, representing the three persons of the Holy Trinity. Salt is a reminder that we are called to be "salt of the earth and light of the world."

We made pretzels as part of our Lenten observances last year, but this year we've discovered a new and very yummy recipe! It's a modified version of Alton Brown's recipe. (Thanks Emily!)

1 1/2 cups warm (110-115 degrees) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
Approximately 4 1/2 cups flour (You can make 1.5 cups of it whole wheat and the rest white)
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt (or kosher salt)


Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to faom. Add the flour and butter and mix until well combined. Knead until the dough is smooth, approximately 5 to 8 minutes. Wipe out the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surgace and divide it into 8 or 16 equal pieces (depending on the size of pretzels you want to make). Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope (or 12-inch rope if you're making the smaller ones). Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel.

Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels ino the boiling water, one by one, for 30 seconds.

Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt.

Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving. 

Note: These freeze very well and can be reheated in a toaster oven or regular oven.


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