Sunday, May 16, 2010
Although I've been to Germany a number of times (my brother lived there for 8 years), my knowledge of the German language is practically non-existent. My vocabulary basically consists of the words danke, bitte, auf wiedersehn and laugesemmel. That last word? It means pretzel roll. My brother wrote it down for me so that I could go to the bakery and ask for what I wanted without having to point. And every time I went to the bakery, that's what I asked for.
So, I was very pleased when I moved to Northampton and discovered that the Bakery Normand--a German bakery, after all--made pretzel rolls regularly. Round ones and long ones, some with cheese melted on top. Yum. And though I don't go to Normand as often as I used to since the Hungry Ghost came to town (and because the counter people are surly, as a rule), I still stop by occasionally for a pretzel roll. Encountering the surliness is a small price to pay for a good pretzel roll.
Not long ago, I discovered that now the Whole Foods bakery also makes pretzel rolls. I tried one, and it was fine, though not as good as Normand's. I tried another one, just to make sure, and my judgment stood. And then I remembered that a few years back, Deb at Smitten Kitchen had written about making pretzel rolls (called "bretzels"), and I decided the time had finally come to try them myself.
The dough itself is easy to work with. What makes these pretzel rolls rather than just ordinary rolls is that they are boiled for a minute before baking in a water-sugar-baking soda bath.
Basically, you make the dough, (I used my Kitchen Aid mixer rather than the food processor in the original recipe.), let it rest and then divide it into 8 balls. I used my nifty new(ish) scale to make sure that the dough balls were approximately the same size. (They were after I fiddled with them.)
You make an X in each ball and then let them rise again til doubled in size:
Meanwhile, the oven is preheating, and the water is coming to the boil. Here's the action shot:
And then you place them on a baking sheet, ideally one covered with a piece of parchment paper sprinkled with corn meal. At this point, I followed Deb's suggestion and slit the X into the rolls a second time, as the boiling seemed to close it back up. (Next time, I might just wait til the end to do it, or I might do it twice.) You brush them with an egg white wash and sprinkle on coarse salt. When I got to that point, I (mentally) kicked myself; I have kosher salt and Malden salt and regular salt . . . but no coarse salt. I sprinkled with the kosher salt and hoped for the best.
The pretzel rolls were, I have to admit, not as good as Normand's. But I've decided that they've just had a lot more practice, and for the first time around, these were just fine. In the meantime, coarse salt is going on my shopping list, and pretzel rolls are going onto my regular baking agenda.
2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 envelope quick-rising yeast or 2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon celery seeds (I didn't use these as I don't really like celery, though some of the epicurious reviewers recommended them.)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (about) hot water (125°F to 130°F)
8 cups water
1/4 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg white, beaten to blend (glaze)
Combine bread flour, yeast, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar and celery seeds (if using) in food processor or bowl of Kitchen Aid mixer and blend. With machine running, gradually pour hot water through feed tube, adding enough water to form smooth elastic dough. (If you use the mixer, just add the water and then turn it on. I used the lowest speed and the dough hook, and it took several minutes to come together into a ball.) Process 1 minute to knead. Grease medium bowl. Add dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 35 minutes.
Flour baking sheet. Punch dough down and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 8 pieces. Form each dough piece into ball. Place dough balls on prepared sheet, flattening each slightly. Using serrated knife, cut X in top center of each dough ball. Cover with towel and let dough balls rise until almost doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal. Bring 8 cups water to boil in large saucepan. Add baking soda and 2 tablespoons sugar (water will foam up). Add 4 rolls and cook 30 seconds per side. Using slotted spoon, transfer rolls to prepared sheet, arranging X side up. Repeat with remaining rolls.
Brush rolls with egg white glaze. Sprinkle rolls generously with coarse salt. Bake rolls until brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Serve rolls warm or room temperature. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm in 375°F oven 10 minutes.)