This past summer when we were visiting my brother in Chicago we decided to stop at a neighborhood restaurant (Northside) for a quick lunch on the patio. Chicago’s July was much, much better than July in Texas, so we took every chance to sit outside and enjoy the nice weather. I had a BBQ sandwich served on a pretzel roll, which I had never heard of before. Pretzel roll…yum, BBQ..not so much, way to saucy. Funny thing, by the end of the weekend I noticed that pretzel rolls were a popular menu item at a lot of the restaurants we visited. I’ve been thinking about making them ever since.
Besides pizza dough, I’ve never attempted to make bread before. On Superbowl Sunday and I had high hopes to whip up tons of these babies to bring to a party. Like with most things I procrastinated and started too late, then tried to rush things. Not having a thermometer doesn’t help either, I think it is probably crucial to have the exact water temperature when activating yeast.
The handy KitchenAid mixer took care of mixing my dough. I couldn’t find the dough hook, but the paddle seemed to work just fine. After it reached a nice pliable consistency, I transferred it to the counter to kneed for a few more minutes.
This is the part I am good at…making a gigantic mess in the kitchen. Flour on the counter, sprayed onto cabinets, all over me and the floor. After a few minutes of kneading, I rolled the dough into a long snake like shape and divided into 12 sections. These were then covered with plastic wrap for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, the rolls were moved to a lightly floured surface area and allowed to rest for another 30 minutes. This time, covered with lightly oiled plastic wrap. I guess I didn’t rush them too much because they actually started to rise! In the meantime, I prepared the Lye. According to Wikipedia, Lye is a corrosive alkaline substance, commonly sodium hydroxide. Doesn’t sound like that goes well with food, does it? Apparently Lye is used to cure many foods,like olives and hominy, and of course pretzels.
After 30 minutes was up, the rolls were ready for their bath. I dumped the baking soda into the boiling water, which had a pretty fun “chemical” reaction. Each roll goes into the lye, topside down, for 30 seconds. Carefully fished these out with a large slotted spoon or spatula and placed back on to a baking sheet right side up. At this point, I didn’t really believe this part of the process was going to do anything. Now I just had wet soggy dough.
A nice quick egg wash and a good sprinkle of kosher salt and then in to the oven…
They actually look like pretzels! And they look much more brown in the pictures then they actually were. I tore one open immediately – perfect, chewy, and tastes like a pretzel too!
- 1 1/3 cups warm water
- 2 tablespoons warm milk
- 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- kosher salt or pretzel salt
- 2 quarts cold water
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- In a small bowl if using a bread machine, or in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix a 1/3 cup of the warm water (105-115 degrees) with the yeast and let stand until foamy.
- Add the remaining cup of warm water along with milk, sugar & melted butter and swirl to dissolve the sugar. (If using a bread machine add mixture to bread machine at this point and continue). Add flour and mix on dough cycle or med-low speed. Remove dough from bread machine once it forms a nice a firm, pliable dough ball. Add more flour if necessary.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured table and knead for 2 minutes. Roll into a 2 foot long log and cut into 12 even pieces. Cover dough with plastic and a damp cloth and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Pat dough into rolls or form knots and arrange on a lightly floured surface about an inch apart and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let the pretzels rest for an additional 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 425°. Lightly oil 2 baking sheets.
- In a large stockpot, bring the cold water to a rolling boil and add baking soda.
- Drop two rolls into the boiling water and boil for no more then 30 seconds, turning once. Carefully remove with tongs or slotted spoon and hold above pot and let drain. Beat egg yolk with water and brush the top of each roll with the mixture. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat with the remaining rolls.
- Arrange rolls on the oiled baking sheets and bake on the upper and middle racks of the oven for about 8-10 minutes, or until browned all over; shift pans from top to bottom and back to front halfway through, for even baking.
- Let rolls cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a rack.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.