One of my favorite guilty pleasures has always been the soft pretzel so I have been exploring different ideas of how to make these delicious treats at home.
Soft pretzels are available at the mall, they are also available in the freezer at the grocery store, the problem is that I do not really trust all of the ingredients being put into the pretzels and I am not a big fan of manufacturer produced freezer food. Besides, microwaving a frozen pretzel just sounds like the wrong thing to do!
I am a huge advocate for using fresh ingredients and having an understanding of what is in those ingredients. This doesn’t mean that I am a strict ingredient monger and refuse to use anything deemed unhealthy for us, it simply means that I prefer to have control over the ingredients to be able to avoid the additives and chemicals that are present in so many of today’s foods.
Getting back to more wholesome ingredients, made with care and love for those you are preparing it for, is very important to me. It is true, it’s easier to roll up to the grocery store and buy the frozen stuff and pop it in the microwave, but are you sure the way that food was prepared or handled is of the same quality as your own kitchen? I prefer to find easy ways to make delicious food at home. Cooking at home, to me, is important. You have the opportunity to involve the family in the preparation, which can help bring everyone closer together. It will also instill in your children a sense of tradition and togetherness that will make memories they will take with them throughout their lives.
It’s also important to me to try to make the preparation of the food easy. If it’s too difficult to make and it looks like a disaster as a final product, that’s not a good thing. So I try to approach things in a way that makes it easier. For example, in making these leaf pretzels, I use a cookie cutter. Simply rolling the dough out and cutting it like a cookie. That saves so much time over having to roll and twist, which does take a bit of practice, and allows you to enjoy the same great flavors, but cutting down on the complexity.
If it is easy to make, I’m more likely going to make it again instead of buying the frozen stuff or mall pretzel. Let’s face it, do you really trust the people making the pretzels in the mall, I struggle with that, sorry Aunt Annie!
In a large bowl, add 2 cups of 110 degree F water. Stir in the brown sugar and stir until dissolved.
Open and sprinkle the yeast over the water. Allow the mixture to stand until it becomes foamy. This should take about 5 minutes.
Stir in the vegetable oil. Slowly stir in 3 cups of the flour. Then knead in the remaining 2 3/4 cups of flour. Expect the dough to be slightly sticky.
It's time to kneed! Transfer the dough on to your floured countertop or work surface. Kneel the dough for about 3 minutes until it becomes silky. If the dough is stickly, you can kneed up to about 1/4 cup more.
Oil a bowl with vegatable oil. Place the dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the bowl stand at room temperature until he dough doubles in size.
Line (at least two, you will really need three) cookie sheets with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper.
Punch down the dough, literally punch the dough in the middle. Transfer the dough back to your work surface (floured) and kneed the dough lightly.
Flatten the dough and and roll until the dough is about 1/2 inch thick. Using a floured leaf shaped cookie cutter, cut out leaves and place on to cookie sheet. Repeat the process until the dough is gone, this should make about 36 pretzel leaves. Let stand uncovered until they puff up again, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450°.
In a deep skillet or large pot, add 2 quarts of water and baking soda. Bring to simmer over high heat. Once simmering, reduce heat to medium.
Using a pair of slotted spoons, add (one at a time) up to 6 pretzel leaves to the water. After 15 seconds, turn over the pretzel. Remove from water after 30 seconds and place on paper towel to drain. If you allow it to cook longer, the texture of the preztel can change.
Before adding the next set of 6 pretzel leaves, add 1 cup of hot water.
Transfer the pretzel leaves from the paper towels back to cookie sheets. Ensure that the leaves are space evenly.
Prepare an egg wash with the egg and a small amount of water.
Brush the pretzel leaves with the egg wash and sprinkle with salt. If you forget the salt at this point it will be difficult to add the salt after they come out of the oven (the salt won't stick).
Bake the pretzel leaves for about 10 minutes or until browned.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Creamy Cucumber Soup
Traditionally, soup is hot and eaten on a cold winter day or a blustery spring afternoon, but today I am