I remember eating pretzels while walking along the streets of New York. Pretzels are the perfect nosh food. Most New Yorkers like eating them slathered in mustard, and Philadelphia is so famous for their pretzels that the city is nicknamed the “Big Pretzel.” In Europe, pretzels are hard, salted bread snacks suitable for dunking into a cold glass of beer.
I prefer my pretzels plain, with the customary rock salt sprinkles. Here in Manila, I buy my pretzels from French Baker, where I can choose from large pieces of twisted dough or balls of dough, which I call “pretzel middles.” Pretzels are actually small classic yeast breads, whose family members include bagels, bialys and English muffins. These breads all come from the same dough, but depending on the proportion of ingredients and how they are shaped is what gives them their unique crumb and crust characteristics.
Pretzels come in two types ”“ hard and crisp (good for dipping into chocolate, that sweet-salty combination is hard to beat), and soft and chewy. Most commercial pretzels are dipped in lye, which gives it that nice sheen that begs to be licked. Homemade pretzels are usually very doughy, similar to Auntie Anne’s or Wetzel’s Pretzel’s here in Manila.
Some time ago, I tried my hand at making pretzels. It’s a simple bread dough ”“ flour, salt, yeast, water; mixed, kneaded, proofed, then shaped. I couldn’t help but let out a loud guffaw the first time I shaped a pretzel. It looked so odd… and yet, so perfect at the same time. (?) Twisting these things take some practice, but it’s actually very easy. I started out with thick logs of dough, which is why my pretzels look a lot fatter than those found at Auntie Anne’s. Man, those are skinny. Naturally, bread has no problem rising in this torrid Manila heat. Look how puffy mine got after a mere 20 minutes!
Before popping the pretzels in the oven, I brushed them with some beaten egg yolk for shine and color. I didn’t want pale pretzels. After 25 minutes in my convection oven, here they were:
These were delicious for a first try. I can see these as being even better if dipped in butter and cinnamon-sugar. Ooh-la-la.