December 2, 2009

Pretzels and Pretzel Pups

For months now my mom has been talking about wanting to make pretzels, and since she planted that seed in my head I've been wanting to make them as well. I've certainly never been one to turn down an opportunity to eat a twisted mass of dough. Or dough in pretty much any form, but that's beside the point. My mom wanted to make pretzels, and my brothers and I were happy to assist. Although the process of making something like pretzels or bagels can seem a little daunting at first, once you've done it a couple times it's really no big deal. You just throw everything in a mixer (or not, as my brother has successfully made pretzels sans any sort of special equipment), let it rise, shape it, boil it, and bake it. If you have 5 people working together to do the shaping, it takes no time at all and can be really fun.

After it was settled that we would be making pretzels, my brother mentioned the bagel dogs from Einstein's, and that got the ball rolling on pretzel project #2. Way back when we would buy bagel dogs from Ted, the Schwan's man, but I think Kyle was too busy picking his nose and eating it to remember that. Roasted! Besides, bagel dogs are so fifteen years ago. Pretzel dogs are the new thing. Pretzel pups, rather. Forget about those dried up hot dogs sitting behind the plastic case at Einstein's. Pretzel pups are the real deal.

My mom almost drove into town to pick up smokie links for the pups because she sometimes gets cravings for things we used to feast on back in the 80s (Cheez Whiz, Chef Boyardee ravioli, Bugles), but after discovering a package of Niman Ranch hot dogs in the freezer we decided to just use those. It turns out, not surprisingly, that Niman Ranch makes some top notch hot dogs. I think they actually call them Fearless Franks, but let's be honest, they're hot dogs. As the old saying goes, you can put lipstick on a hot dog, but it's still a hot dog. Am I right?

By the way, I don't mean to turn all Rachael Ray on you by making up a cutesy name like Pretzel Pups. I just felt like busting out a little alliteration. A little alliteration: an oxymoron? Anyway, puppies are so cute, so why not name foods after them?

The pretzel recipe we used is from Bobby Flay, and you can find it here. We doubled the recipe, but we didn't follow it to a T. Instead of muscovado sugar we used regular brown sugar, we didn't have the full amount of yeast so we used slightly less, and we certainly did not use 3/4 cup of baking soda in the boiling water. I don't think using all of that baking soda would hurt anything, but for some reason my brother was adamantly opposed to using so much. In the end it all worked out, and that's what matters.

Soft Pretzels
Slightly adapted from Bobby Flay

1-1/2 cups warm water
1 package active dry yeast
2 tbsp brown sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter
2-1/2 tsp kosher salt
4-1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
Olive oil
About 3 quarts water
About 1/4 cup baking soda
2 whole eggs beaten with 1 tbsp cold water
Coarse sea salt or pretzel salt

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan. Add the water, yeast, and sugar. Turn off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes so the yeast activates. You could also melt the butter in advance and just combine the four ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer.

After the 5 minutes, add the butter mixture to the bowl of a mixer. Add the salt and flour 1/2 or 1 cup at a time, mixing to combine. Once you've added all of the flour, increase the speed to medium for 3 or 4 minutes or until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

If the dough is too wet and not pulling away from the sides after a few minutes you can add more flour in small increments. It will look something like the photo above when it starts to pull away. Remove the dough from the bowl, and transfer it to a flat surface to knead with your hands.

Ahh! My brain has been sucked out of my skull! Unfortunately my numerous talents do not include the ability to cross my eyes, so the whole brain-outside-of-the-skull trick did not work as I had hoped.

Knead the dough a few times and form it into a ball. It should be pretty smooth at this point.

Drizzle some olive oil or vegetable oil in a bowl, add the dough, and turn the dough to coat it. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and set it in a warm spot for about an hour, or until the dough doubles in size.

While the dough is rising, cover a couple baking sheets with parchment paper and spray the paper with cooking spray. Toward the end of the rising period preheat the oven to 425, and turn the heat on under a large pot of water and baking soda.

Pretzel making is fun for the whole family! I'll spare you the more obscene pictures that you can imagine ropes of pretzel dough would produce.

Once the dough is ready, all you have to do is tear of chunks about the size of an orange and roll it into ropes. You could also turn out the dough onto a flat surface and divide it into eight equal pieces, but what fun is that?

Look at that thing fly!

Form the ropes into pretzel shapes (you can add another twist in the middle if you prefer), and they're ready to boil.

Boil the pretzels two at a time for 30 seconds in the water and baking soda.

After boiling, transfer the pretzels to one of the lined baking sheets and brush with the egg wash. Sprinkle liberally with salt or other toppings. My brothers put some minced fresh garlic on a couple of them. Grated cheese would be good, too.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown. Let them cool for a few minutes before diving in.

Did I mention there was cheese sauce involved? Because there was. My mom would never consider making pretzels if there was not cheese sauce. The original recipe makes a poblano cheese dip, but we didn't have poblanos so we used pickled jalepenos. There was a mustard sauce as well, but I prefer plain old yellow mustard to the sweet, grainy mustard sauce from the recipe.

For the pretzel pups, follow the same steps as above for regular pretzels. The only difference is that you wrap a rope of dough around a hot dog instead of forming it into a pretzel shape. Everything else is the same. Boil the dough with the dog in it, brush it with egg wash, sprinkle with salt, bake until golden, etc. Please, please, please do not skip the step where you make a rope with the dough and just wrap a chunk of dough around the dog or you will end up with more of a hot dog bun than a fully encased hot dog once they are baked. See the difference between the bottom one and the third from the bottom? The third from the bottom one was done properly.

P.S. My apologies to Ted, but homemade pretzel-wrapped hot dogs are so much better than frozen bagel dogs from your big, yellow truck.

P.P.S. If I one day get a wiener dog I am going to make him a pretzel dog costume for Halloween instead of the traditional hot dog costume.

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Anonymous dsm1alw said...

you guys have some kind of good ole fun! those pretzels look good and inspire me to do it too..... thanks!

December 02, 2009  
Blogger Kyle said...

I thought you were afraid of dogs.

December 08, 2009  
Blogger jessica said...

or the fun recipe, I can't wait to try it with my kids this weekend! Jessica

December 15, 2009  

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