#1 – 48 Recipes Challenge: Recipe 40: Pretzels
As there has been an abundance of sweet recipes in recent months (seven out of the last eight!) I thought I had better head back to the savoury end of the spectrumin July, and you can’t get much more savoury that a lovely salty pretzel. It was also another opportunity to work with dough – I’m still getting used to it but I’m less scared of it than I was before I started this challenge!
This month’s recipe also introduced me to a new ingredient – malt extract. I had to buy it from a health food shop. I assumed it would be a powder, like flour, but it was actually a liquid more like syrup or treacle. When I opened it, the smell immediately took me back to my childhood with memories surfacing of small tubes of beige Horlicks tablets which used to stick my teeth together. However, this recipe only used one tablespoon of the stuff so I had a whole jar left! (This is why one bake always leads to another in my world… To see what I did with it, check the end of this article.)
The pretzel dough was easy to make – it was a fairly standard dough with only a short prove required. The difficult part was rolling the dough and shaping the pretzels.
It took me ages to get the sausages of dough stretched out to the right length!
Traditionally, you are supposed to hold the ends of the dough so it makes a U shape and fling the roll round to twist it and create the iconic pretzel shape. I didn’t master that as I didn’t trust my dough not to break! Instead I left my dough sat safely on the worktop as I shaped the sausages into crescents, twisted the arms around each other and tucked the ends under.
The odd part about this recipe was having to ‘par-boil’ the pretzels before baking them. Commercial bakers use lye for this – sodium hydroxide dissolved in water to create a caustic solution – but this is not readily available for home baking. The recipe I used called for boiling the pretzels in a bicarbonate of soda solution, then baking them.
I was curious as to why this is done so I looked it up. Basically, boiling the pretzels creates a crust and causes the end product to darken, developing the flavour via something called the Maillard reaction (which is what also happens when the exterior of meat is seared in a hot pan). This makes some sense as when I was making these I was confused as to why these pretzels had such a short prove and concerned that would affect the flavour because usually with breads the flavour develops during the prove, so the longer you prove it the more flavour it has. But it would appear that boiling the pretzels essentially shortcuts this and reduces the time needed to create flavour.
Having shaped them and boiled them, the last thing I had to do was salt the pretzels before popping them into the oven.
Mine were not all brilliantly shaped. They weren’t uniform, some of them rose more than others during the bake so the holes closed up, some of them were thin at one end and fat at the other. But, they did have a good dark colouring, a satisfying crust and they were salty and tasty, as they should be. So that’s what really matters.
Scores for this bake are:
Healthiness –5/10 (They’re not particularly bad for you but not particularly good for you either)
Ease of prep – 6/10 (If you’ve worked with dough before they’re not difficult but the rolling and shaping can be!)
Flavour/taste –8/10 (Crusty, salty, very definitely savoury)
Here’s the recipe I used in case you’d like to give it a go:
The trouble was, I’d only used one tablespoon of the malt extract. So then there was all this leftover malt extract… One bake led to another… I made a malt loaf too. That tasted great!
The recipe for that is: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1411653/sticky-malt-loaves