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February 13, 2012

My Salty Valentine

There's still time for a homemade Valentine (if you have salt and brown sugar and bread flour and yeast on hand, or time to pick some up from the store).

Wombat calls them "prentzels." If I put them in cellophane bags, he'd say they're wrapped in "plaskit."

For his pi party, I formed them into circles, but since most of you are probably NOT planning a pi party any time soon (although March 14 is just around the corner...), I thought it would be fun to suggest heart-shaped pretzels, either for a Valentine's party, as treats to give away to friends, or just a fun snack for home. (They'll go fast, believe me.)


I made them in my bread machine using a recipe from the manual, minus the last bit, which said to dip the uncooked pretzels in a mixture of water and baking soda(?). Instead of doing that I used the egg wash from this recipe, and although it didn't make much difference in the taste (pre-party I made a test batch and finished them up half and half with each technique), the egg wash made the cooked pretzels shiny and pretty, and obviously that is very important.

Below is the recipe from my bread machine manual. I have no idea if you can just use a regular mixer to make it work. If anyone tries it, let me know, would you? Otherwise, the recipe on Prudent Baby looks pretty similar (and it uses BUTTER).

(Please know that I triple-checked this recipe after I typed it, having learned that misprints in baking can be spectacularly disastrous. For the official party pretzels, I used the instructions for a larger batch, instead the smaller one for my test batch. It called for 1/4 CUP of salt instead of 1/4 TEASPOON of salt (aka a little more than A PINCH). Had I not started them at 11:30 p.m. after a busy day with houseguests, I might have noticed that something was awry, but alas I did not and had to make a third batch the morning of the party. This will not happen to you.)

Homemade Pretzels

Makes 8 small pretzels.

3/4 cup of water (80-90 degrees F)
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
2 1/2 teaspoons of brown sugar, firmly packed
2 cups plus 6 tablespoons of bread flour
2 teaspoons of dry active yeast

I put everything in the bread machine, in that order (making sure the yeast didn't touch any water), and then set the program on the Dough mixing cycle, which mixes for 24 minutes and then lets the dough rise for an hour.

Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and preheat the oven to 425. Divide the dough into however many pretzels you want to make and then form them into the shape you want on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 20 to 30 minutes.

Now you get to boil them. Place two inches of water in a wide saute pan and bring to a boil. Carefully slide each pretzel into the water and let cook, flipping after about a minute and a half. They'll be in the water for about 3 minutes total. (Only put in as many as you can keep track of and with room so they don't stick together.) Put them on a wire rack to drain. I did all this with a flat slotted spatula.

Before putting them in the oven, brush each pretzel with egg wash (1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon of water) and sprinkle with pretzel salt. Note: Do not let anyone (ahem, lady at Safeway} tell you that kosher/sea salt will work the same as pretzel salt. The latter will not give you the salted pretzel effect you're used to but will just melt into the dough, where it will be tasted but not seen. If you want the real pretzel look, you need real, honest-to-goodness pretzel salt.

Bake until the pretzels are golden brown. I did them for about 15 minutes and then checked them at 5-minute intervals after that until they looked good. Let cool on a wire rack and serve with the mustard of your choice (plain yellow for me).

I served these in a napkin-lined basket at Wombat's party, but if you're making circles or hearts, they might be cute threaded on a dowel or even stuck on a stick, lollipop style.

You really should make them. Big impact for not that much work, and if I--queen of culinary mishaps--can do it, so can you! Munch, munch, munch.


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