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.
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.
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.
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.