20 October 2009
Adventures in Pretzel-Making
Okay, it wasn't much of an adventure, to be perfectly honest. I've made these pretzels half a dozen or so times prior to today's batch, and the recipe I always use seems pretty much fool-proof at this point. Since beginning my sour starter in June--I've heard that some people have kept and used the same starters for decades, which is incredible--I've begun making bread in various sourdough forms at least once weekly, preferring not to toss what's leftover (the "discard"). And I've always loved pretzels, so I make them maybe twice a month, consulting this recipe from The Foppish Baker. It's so easy to use, and the results are always delicious; my particular starter imparts a distinct sour flavor that is balanced by the sweetness of the sugar. This time around, I replaced some of the sugar with barley malt syrup (found in some bagel recipes, including my version). The Foppish Baker's pretzel recipe actually calls for boiling the pretzels rather than dipping in or brushing with a water-baking soda mixture, so I always compromise by boiling them in water with a bit of baking soda added. The lack of an eggwash makes always makes browning the pretzels problematic, so this time I tried brushing the boiled dough with agave nectar diluted with the boil stage liquid, then sprinkled the dough with kosher salt. It worked! The tops were a crusty brown, the salt stuck, and the centers were still soft and chewy. I thought pretzel-like buns would be interesting, so I shaped some of the dough into balls rather than twisting them into a typical pretzel design. Boiled and baked in the same fashion as the other pretzels, the buns turned out perfectly fine, holding their shape very well and maintaining that same, crusty-chewy texture. Mmm, sourdough pretzel perfection.