Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pretzels R Us

Neighbor Girl and I have been swapping skills over the last couple of months, and we are having a blast with it. She happens to be at one extreme of the fitness scale- hiking, mountain biking and winning races, running and who know what else- and I am, ahem, at the other extreme. So she's dragging me out to run with her, making me huff and puff up stairs, and making me do something called P90X videos, where the X stands for extreme and don't I know it. If I keep up with this much physical activity, I will be all fit and slender-like by the end of summer. Or dead from a heart attack, one of the two. She's also helping me overcome my driving phobia with vigorous encouragement ("You made a right turn- YAY- you're so clever") and the occasional hollering ("You have to step on the gas and I mean it- or don't cry if other drivers honk at you").

In turn, I am teaching her to knit- we started with a cute and easy baby blanket for her friend's baby shower- and to cook. And supplying her with homemade yogurt. We're both pretty darn grateful to have each other because it is not often in life that you find a buddy to inspire and motivate you, to hold your hand through learning something new and making your life better.

Anyway, Neighbor Girl announced that she "lurves pretzels" so I looked up a recipe and on Sunday, she and V and I had a little pretzel party. Imagine if you can, three adults plus two dogs (she has an adorable mutt too) squeezed into a little galley kitchen on a sweltering summer evening. Refer to Gattina's recipe for details; what follows is a quick recap of what we did.

Pretzels!

Step 1: Make the dough. I started by making the dough in the food processor. You can certainly make this dough by hand-kneading too.
  • 3.5 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp. instant yeast
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1.5 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. soft butter
  • 1.25 cups lukewarm water (or as much as needed to make a soft elastic dough)
Step 2: Let the dough rise. The ball of dough went into a greased covered bowl to rest and rise for 1.5 hours. I could almost hear the yeast cheering at the heat and humidity that evening; the dough rose to the point where the lid popped off the bowl. 

Step 3: Divide into portions and let them rest. Next, I briefly kneaded the dough and divided it into 12 equal balls, and let these rest for 15 minutes.

Step 4: Shape the pretzels. That's when my peeps came into the kitchen and all wanted to help shape the pretzels. Each ball is rolled into a rope (we swung the two ends like a mini skipping rope between our hands) and twisted into the characteristic pretzel shape. 



I just noticed that the pretzel on the bottom left corner was not twisted correctly- obviously, one of those two made that one ;)

Step 4: Let the pretzels rest. Start preheating oven and boiling water. It does not matter if the pretzels look wobbly, misshapen or otherwise imperfect at this point. They rest for another 20 minutes and puff up to hide all the flaws.

Towards the end of this resting period, we cranked the oven to 400 F and put 6 cups of water to boil on the stove.

Step 5: Boil the pretzels. Add 6 tbsp. baking soda to the water, carefully because it will bubble up madly. Dunk each pretzel carefully in this boiling alkaline water bath for 10-15 seconds on each side. Place back on the parchment on the baking sheet. It is this step that gives the pretzel its characteristic color, flavor and shiny taut crust.

Step 6. Flavor the pretzels. My plan was to use plain sea salt but each person had a different idea. I try to run a democratic kitchen, so I salted my quota of 4 pretzels, Neighbor Girl used a heavy coating of cinnamon sugar on her 4 and V used cheese on his 4.




Step 7. Bake the pretzels. 400 F for 10-12 minutes. They taste so very good right out of the oven. Although next time, I would dunk in cinnamon sugar later, after baking.

It was thrilling to break open a pretzel, to see the shiny golden-brown crust and the airy interior, just like the ones I've eaten in pretzel stores. What an easy and perfect recipe; it also makes just the right amount for 3-4 people.

And this is how three thirty-somethings had a relaxed and fun evening playing in the kitchen, shaping and twisting dough and baking a treat for ourselves.

45 comments:

  1. Loved the fact that you have a neibor gal to help you drive and be fit! Now I should say you got an angel next door. I am dying to make some girl buddies here as I recently shifted to NYC.

    Prezels look awesome! I love the one with cheddar cheese1

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  2. The arranged to be baked pretzels looked strange to me at first ... then I scroll down to see some gorgeous and so very perfect ones! :-)
    This is a must try Nupur ... the step by step instructions always are a huge help for baking.

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  3. love the ones with cheese....yummmmmm...looks so professional...perfect knot....treat to the eyes and mouth

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  4. Could you please send some for us? Pretty Please!

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  5. I am not a pretzel fan-- at all-- but these look good enough that I could change my mind. :)

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  6. My list of 5 great American experiences would include pretzels. (And public libraries, but that's the stuff of a post in itself.)

    And oh, that neighbour girl! I could use some fitness-urging "dough"-shapers in my life...

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  7. Nupur, those are some wonderful looking pretzels, I will be scared to death for shaping them. Your shapes look great, like professional ones. That is such a blessing to have someone so close to inspire and motivate you. Count it :)

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  8. Neighbor girl sounds total fun...umm except the video part. And don't step on the gas all that much,I have recently learned my lesson

    Pretzels are perrrrfect

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  9. I am a huge pretzel freak and I-ABSOLUTELY-LOVE-THIS-POST. I could dive into the picture and eat them right away. Damn, I will have to go to NY tomorrow to eat these, but the day I buy a food processor, this will be number one on my to-do list.

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  10. LOL...Pretzels look terrific..can I sub all purpose flour for Breadflour?thanks

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  11. I LOOVVVEE soft pretzels. Especially when you can make them at home and add any toppings you want. These look fantastic.

    You know, if you move to NY I can teach you how to intubate someone! (Not super appealing, even to me. i know.)

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  12. Driving? Oh Nupur, you are so clever. Come visit some time soon!

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  13. you and your neighbor sound like a great pairing! its so much fun when friends complement each other. pretzels look delicious.

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  14. Oh Nupur the pretzels are so perfect :)
    I really wish I was your neighbour...I would have got two nice girl friends...though I would be exactly on your side cooking knitting reading..we have lots in common ( I am not much of a huffing puffing exercising gal nor do I have the courage to step on the gas so much)

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  15. Lovely change from muffins and cakes. Shall try this baked goody.

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  16. Nupur you tried variations too! You make me want to bake them ..may be this weekend. Haven't baked them for sometime now. When I first made pretzels I felt so proud of my baking skills coz u don't get them here in the bakeries in India.

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  17. I miss my old neighbour now!

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  18. You sure had some fun gal !

    And these look too perfect .. loved the cheese ones, seems totally soft n creamy types !

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  19. pretzels looks perfect n delicious. Nupur My hubby checked out the problem in the blog, see if it ok now. thank u

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  20. how much yeast did you use? I really want to try this

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  21. Absolutely Nupur! having a buddy works for pretty much everything.

    I am not a fan of pretzels but the process is absolutely charming.

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  22. They look so perfect! I have to try these soon - have been on my list for a long time and this recipe looks so easy. Same weather here - since they are quick in the oven, that is a good thing!

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  23. I am not a pretzels fan, but they look so good. Especially the last snap... it literally made me feel to just jump on it and taste it. I always enjoyed cooking with someone's company. It makes cooking much more fun. My cousin and I used to do that often.

    You are so fortunate to have such a cool neighbor girl. I wish I had someone to push me to exercise :( Huh....

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  24. My favorite food in the whole wide world! I am so excited, I think even my baking-challenged self can make these :) Congratulations on your new neighborly partnership - I love it when I hear about women supporting each other in such a positive way. Far too often girls are hard on each other instead of helpful. Keep up the good work with your driving practice (I'm a very low-key driver should you need more tutoring) and don't forget to hydrate when you're doing your extreme sports!

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  25. Haha.. sounds like neighbour-girl and you have a ton of fun together. Running, climbing stairs, P90X.. what can I say.. too good, Nupur!! Whoo-hoo! :)

    Driving is very intimidating, but I do it none-the-less. Just yesterday, I took a wrong turn and got on an expressway ramp (inadvertently)!! "Deep breaths, ok ok.. swear swear swear.. ok ok.. merge, SS, merge. LET ME MERGE you, #&$#!! Good girl.. still alive!!!" :D

    Your pretzels look so nice.. I am with neighbour-girl and would go for the cinnamon-brown-sugar! All that driving and running, I need the sugar! :D

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  26. LOL! That un-twisted one looks like someone's earnestly tried to, but didn't know it ended up untwisted!! That's the cutest one in the lot :D

    Meera.

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  27. I love pretzels too..mainly the jalapeno ones. These look perfect Nupur...just like the store bought ones! Its always nice to have a friend who inspires you. Now, you have inspired me to try these ASAP :-)

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  28. I am not the biggest pretzel fan (usually they are too salty) but these look AMAZING! Also, P90X does kick you butt but if you have the time and can stick with it, its totally worth it. Its great that you have someone to do it with because that's the main catch. So, happy fitness and happy eating!

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  29. Hi Nupur! I love these guys--they look delish! If you get to the point of driving and want to road test for a spell, head down south and come visit me! (I have a driving phobia, too!) By the way, I am now crazy-crocheting my way through a "hexagon" blanket thanks to your inspiring photo of what you had on your hooks! Took me a bit to get it right, but finally, I do see a hex shape forming!

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  30. Preeti Kashyap- Yes, she is an angel all right!

    Sharmila- They came up pretty good considering it was our first try :)

    Sanyukta Gour (Bayes)- Thanks!

    CrocheterFrmCA- No, but you could make some yourself quite easily :)

    Vaishali- I'm not much of a pretzel fan either, made it only for the peeps but I enjoyed eating the homemade ones!

    Niranjana- Really? So you are a fan! Oh yes, I have lots of dough that needs shaping ;)

    Priya- Shaping them is real easy and there are online videos if you need help figuring it out the first time.

    Bong Mom- Oh no, I am not one for speeding at all. But driving like a snail is bad too so I need to strike a balance :)

    jk- You definitely don't need a food processor, just knead the dough by hand with muscle power!

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  31. Madhuli- Yes, that would work fine!

    Joanne- Intubating someone- now there's a life skill I have always wanted to learn! preferably intubating with a ball-point pen :) I think I've seen that in some movie :D

    Alanna Kellogg- I know, aren't you proud of me? :D The good citizens of St. Louis should be fairly warned that I am on the loose!

    PJ- Exactly- having complementary strengths is what is making this so much fun.

    Koki- Thanks!

    Anjali- I know, I only ate pretzels for the first time in the US, but they are so easy to make anywhere, no special ingredients needed.

    Sanjeeta kk- Yes, worth a try!

    Raaga- Aww, yes, it is hard when good neighbors move away (or when you move away from them).

    Kanchan- The cheese ones really were delicious!

    Niloufer Riyaz- Yes, the entry is in, thanks.

    Anonymous- 1 tsp.

    indosungod- I agree, the process is much more fun for me too, but I have to say fresh homemade pretzels taste great even if you are not a fan!

    Anita- I know, heating the oven in this weather seems too painful but this barely needed 10-15 minutes.

    Amruta- Yes, the exercise is where I need someone to literally order me around, otherwise I am full of excuses.

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  32. Holly- Really? If we get together for another crafting afternoon, I'll make them for you :)
    Yes, we are all about girl power here. Thanks so much for offering driving practice, I might take you up on that!

    SS blogs here- Yes, your posts have been motivating me to get off my butt too :)
    Oh dear, your driving incident gave me chills but I think you handled it with panache. If you make the cinnamon sugar version, dip it after baking not before.

    Meera- LOL yes the imperfections remind us that trying is the most important thing!

    Rachana- OOh, jalapeno pretzels sound good, and would be easy to work some chopped jalapenos into the dough. Do give them a try, they are easy and delicious.

    Sharan- P90X is certainly kicking my butt but then my butt needs kicking ;) if I am to get anywhere. When I am doing it, I realize how heavy and stiff my body feels. I have a very long way to go.
    With these pretzels, you totally control the salt so I hope you try them :)

    Kelly- Would love to visit you and your lovely garden! That's a good incentive for me to get behind the wheel. You started a hexagon blanket?? No way- I want to see pictures, please!

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  33. That is fun- you cook and she motivates you. The pretzels like it came from a pro- wait, you are one heck of cook and a baker!

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  34. What fun that you have a pal like Neighbor girl!! Sadly I don't really have any girl friends that I hang out with often and I miss that sometimes- so much so at one point I realized I was treating my husband as one..lol- He was finally like,"There is only so much girl talk I can handle at a time"..*grin*..It's great that you motivate each other to develop new skills!

    The pretzels look yummy- as usual I think I like V's toppings the best..:)

    As for being intimidated by driving- is it a Taurus thing??? Can I tell you a secret?- I don't yet have a driving license in the U.S (Shhhhhhhhh)..I keep planning to get one every summer but FAIL..:( And I live in SoCal which has pathetic public transport- so really shame on me.. This Summer- definitely!!

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  35. What a fun bake Nupur! Loved the entire post :)

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  36. Wow! Majja! The pretzels looks so good! I wish u were my neighbor.
    How is Dale?

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  37. Lovely.. even I made this yesterday.. But was quite difficult to get them into shape..

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  38. I loooove pretzels and these look too tempting. I will be making them soon!!!!

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  39. You as well? Guess what? I learnt driving three times and have a VALID driving licence too (India) but then I can't drive even a few meters now.. I'm THAT afraid

    For the pretzels -perfectly yummilicious

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  40. What fun!! I would "luurve" to have someone next door who would urge me to start driving in this testerone fuelled aggro city :(

    I have heard of pretzels, but never knew they were sort of steamed before baking, I though they were just deep fried!

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  41. How nice that both of inspire each other! I'd love to live in your building and have BOTH of you as my neighbors :)

    I'm not a fan of pretzels (one of the few foods that I almost never eat - I blame it on the airline pretzels that killed it for me, even though I know these soft ones aren't like the mini ones) but yours look absolutely delicious. All of them look good but I think I'm partial to V's cheese-topped ones.

    And as always, your choice of colors for the hexagon blanket in the previous post is outstanding. I can't wait to see the finished product.

    Mamatha

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  42. Sounds like you're having some fun adventures. Having a fitness buddy always helps :) As far as driving, I guess it's a useful skill to have, but not being dependent on a car is better by far!

    If I can ever convince myself to turn the oven on again in this heat, I'll have to try some pretzels. I also want to try bagels (which I think might be similar to pretzels) and English muffins. One of these days!

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  43. wow those pretzels are so pretty - I have had a hankering to make them but never thought of trying different flavours like this - great idea

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  44. Shankari- LOL Thank you for saying that, I enjoy trying new things is all!

    Lavanya- Funny thing is I have had a driver's license since I was 16 and the reason why I've never really started driving regularly in the US is because I've always lived in places with excellent public transport.
    Maybe this summer will be the time for you!

    Mandira- Thanks!

    Manasi- Dale is doing very well- thanks for asking :) He likes to stay indoors during this heat wave!

    Nitha- Really? For me, it was a lot easier than expected to shape them. Did you look up any tutorials or videos?

    Mints!- I hope you do, they turn out great!

    Preeti- I understand, the only way to build confidence is to practice and "just do it" as they say :) so that's what I am doing.

    Miri- Oh no, the brown color is a result of boiling before baking, thankfully there is no deep-frying involved here.

    Mamatha- I would love to have you as a neighbor too :) so please do move in ;)
    Oh, these pretzels are a far cry from those dry hard pretzel sticks. The cheese topped ones are especially tasty, dunked in a bit of honey mustard. Mmm.

    Melissa- I agree 100% and never ever want to depend on a car, that's why I will continue to live in a walking-friendly neighborhood, commute to work by Metrolink etc. But driving is definitely a useful life skill to have, there are times when my spouse or friends have to drive me someplace, drive back, then drive again to pick me up and that gets wasteful. Hence the need to learn and be independent for those occasions when a car is needed.

    Johanna GGG- I hope you try them, there are other flavors like jalapeno that I would like to try too, when I make these again.

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  45. its very nice blog
    Thank you :)

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