Recently Night Owl has gone back to working behind the bar two nights a week again, which leaves me with the exciting nights of Friday and Saturday free. Instead of hitting up the party scene like I would have done six or eight years ago, grown-up me now spends these evenings have an exciting time lounging on the sofa or the bed, depending on what kind of day its been.
Two weeks ago I felt like baking something but didn’t want to bake something that required too much effort. So I knew what it was I needed to make: bread. I’ve been making bagels again lately but didn’t have enough milk. I decided to have a first time play around with the bagel’s cousin: the pretzel.
It’s funny how winter is the best time to turn on your ovens and have the aroma of freshly baked good wafting through the house, yet it’s the worst time to wait for your yeast to take effect! I ended up watching RuPaul and Elementary while the dough-yeast mixture sat in front of the heater. I’ve found that either in front of the heater or throwing the bowl into the closet with the dryer on are the best warm spots around the apartment.
I was very pleased with how the pretzels turned out and while they are delicious with the butter, they also freeze very well and you can bring them out anytime you’ve got a lonely bowl of soup.
To make eight pretzels, you will need:
- One 7g sachet dry yeast;
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar;
- 2 + 1/2 cups bread and pizza flour, plus extra for dusting;
- 1 teaspoon salt;
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar;
- 1/4 cup bicarbonate of soda;
- 1 egg, lightly beaten;
- 1 tablespoon sea salt.
For the mustard butter, you will need:
- 2 large garlic cloves, unpeeled;
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil;
- 160g butter, softened;
- 1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard;
- Liquid smoke, optional.
It’s funny how winter is the best time to turn on your ovens and have the aroma of freshly baked good wafting through the house, yet it’s the worst time to wait for your yeast to take effect!
Place one cup of warm water, the yeast and half of the caster sugar in a medium jug, stirring well to combine. Stand in a warm place for ten minutes or until frothy.
Sift the flour into a large bowl, stir in the salt and the remaining caster sugar. Make a well in the centre and add in the yeast mixture. Using a butter knife, gently stir the mixture until a soft, sticky dough forms, adding a little more water if you need it. At this stage you can use an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook to knead it for five minutes, but it’s so easy to tip it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead away with your hands (push and pull with the bottom part of your palm) until it’s smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with greased cling film. Stand in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile make the mustard butter. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius. Place the garlic on a piece of foil, drizzle with the oil and bring the edges of the foil together, twisting the top to enclose. Roast for 20 minutes or until tender. Stand for 30 minutes to cool, before squeezing the garlic from the skins into a bowl. Add the butter and mustard, and a teaspoon or two of liquid smoke if you have it. Mash with a fork until well combined.
Don’t worry about this making A LOT of butter. Spoon whatever you don’t think you will use immediately into a small box or bowl for the fridge. It’s wonderful for bechamel sauces or spreading on savoury chicken sandwiches.
Back to the pretzels. Punch the dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into eight equal portions and roll out each portion into a 40cm long log. Turn it into a horseshoe shape with the two ends facing you, bring the ends together and twist twice, before lifting up and folding down to meet the curve. Place on a lightly oiled baking tray and stand in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Half fill a large saucepan with water, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and bicarbonate of soda, watching it carefully as it will fizz. Add the pretzels, one or two at a time, to the simmering water. Cook for 30 seconds a side. Drain on a paper towel quickly before transferring back to the oiled baking tray (pretzels will stick to the paper towel if left for too long).
Brush the pretzels with egg, before sprinkling with sea salt and seasoning with pepper. Bake for 12 minutes or until dark golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving with lots of butter.