Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Too Many Cookbooks

I possess a ridiculous number of cookbooks.  Take a look at the pictures and you'll see what I mean.  I've been collecting them for years and I have quite an assortment.  They are stashed everywhere - in my kitchen, in the hallway to the garage (well, at least they're not in the garage) and in my office upstairs.  And this is what's left after I got rid of at least half of them when we moved a few years ago!

Guess one of these days I should do a post about my favorite cookbooks.  Hey, and blog about my favorite recipe from each one.  That could be fun!  For now, though, you have to hear about my mad search for a pretzel recipe.

Yup, soft pretzels.  Here's why.  We did one of our marathon walks yesterday (having not done one in six weeks for obvious reasons) and it was tough.  It always is when we haven't done it for awhile.  We started around noon and by 3pm we were pretty much toast, just about the time we passed a grungy pub. We were still about an hour's walk from home.

Can you say "pretzels and beer?"  They turned out to be big, soft, homemade pretzels, warm from the oven and loaded with salt.  Pig heaven!

So that started my quest for the perfect pretzel recipe.  Out of ALL those cookbooks, I came up with only four.  The internet is loaded with them, but not my selection of cookbooks.  Leads me to wonder why we even need cookbooks anymore .... except I love reading them and you just don't get the same rush from reading recipes online or on your iPhone Kindle app.

These were the only four with pretzel recipes.
Guess there's just no getting away from Martha!

After perusing the recipes (in addition to some on the internet), I came up with what I think is the perfect pretzel recipe.  It was good.  So good, in fact, that Henry ate one for dessert tonight!


2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
2 packages yeast
5 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 oz. butter, melted and cooled
10 cups water
2 tablespoons baking soda
2 egg yolks plus 2 tablespoons water, blended in small bowl
Coarse salt

Combine the 2 cups of warm water and sugars in bowl of electric mixer.  Blend briefly, then add yeast.  Let sit for 5 minutes until mixture is foamy.  Add flour, salt and butter and mix again to just blend.  Let sit for 10 minutes then turn mixer on low speed and mix for 10 minutes.  Remove to a bowl that has been well-greased with butter or oil and let rise for 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Before and after rising

Remove from bowl and punch down.  Divide into 16 pieces.  Roll each piece into an 18-inch log and form into a pretzel shape.  Place on 3 greased (or Silpat-lined) baking sheets.  Let rise for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 450-degrees.

In a large, shallow saucepan, bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a boil.  Drop pretzels in (I did 4 at a time) and cook for 30 seconds.  Turn over and cook for 30 seconds more.  Remove to a greased baking rack to cool slightly and drain.

Transfer pretzels to 3 well-greased baking sheets.   Brush with egg yolk/water mixture.  Sprinkle VERY liberally with salt.  Bake for 20-30 minutes or until deeply golden and well-browned.  Remove to cooling racks.
Yield:  16 very large pretzels
Eat as soon as they are cool enough so as not to burn your tongue.  Revel in the salt overload!  Oh, and eat these the same day you make them.

A word about salt.  Conventional wisdom says to use pretzel salt.  Not having any in my cupboard, I used coarse French sea salt.  Worked just fine!

Yeah, that lonely leftover bite is killing me - I need to finish it!

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