Have you ever been to the mall, walking with your many bags of this and that, dragging your tired behind to your car, parked out somewhere in Row X or Y, wondering if you have the energy to make it out there, fingers aching from clutching non-ergonomic plastic handles, overheating from carrying a coat through the 85 degree climate controlled shopping experience – when suddenly, you smell…salt. Not just salt…butter…wait, oh yeah, mustard…no, that was sugar…and cinnamon, no mustard and salt…
The smell pulls you by the nostrils and you find yourself in front of a pretzel stand/shop/kiosk, looking at those sodium encrusted baked goods like a deer at a salt lick. Ooh, they have lemonade. I could go for some lemonade, I’m parched from the BOGO sale at the shoe store, you think, as you wait in line behind other bedraggled consumers, each eyeing the last cinnamon pretzel.
Admit it, you’ve done it. But why pay three bucks for a pretzel you can make for pennies at home? Well, because you are at the mall, not at home, right? And the lemonade tastes really good, even if it is from concentrate or some noxious gaseous conconction. Who cares, it is cold and makes a great chaser to salt. Big hunks of buttery salty golden goodness, drenched in mustard.
Alright, snap out of it. Either get in the car and go to the mall, or make the following recipe. Either way, be sure to wipe the salt smear off your cheek when you are done.
Bread Pretzels or Sticks (Joy of Cooking 1978)
Combine in a mixer bowl:
1 cup lukewarm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 package active dry yeast
When dissolved, add and beat at least 3 minutes:
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons soft butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
and knead until the dough loses its stickiness. Let rise in a covered greased bowl until doubled in bulk.
Punch down and divide into 12 pieces for pretzels or 36 smaller pieces for sticks. With your palms, roll the 12 pretzel pieces into 18-inch lengths about pencil thickness, tapering the ends slightly. Loop a twisted oval (the book shows a diagram). Place on a greased baking sheet and let rise until almost doubled in bulk.
Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.
Have ready a boiling solution of:
4 cups water
5 tablespoons baking soda
Do not use an aluminum pan for this mixture.
With a slotted spoon, carefully lower the pretzels into the water about 1 minute, or until they float to the top. Return them to the greased sheet.
Bake until crispy and browned, about 12 minutes for the pretzels, less for the sticks.
They are best served at once, but will keep about one week in an airtight container. Cool before storing.