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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Amish Soft Pretzels

I recently picked up a copy of The Amish Cook's Baking Book. I thought it might be interesting since they do a lot of traditional baking and cooking which interests me. Of course, in Abbeville, SC near where my sister lives there is a wonderful Mennonite bakery that we would go to quite often. The food was simple and tasty, particularly the breads and cakes.

Liking the lack of pretension, I thought this book would be a good fit on my "traditional" cooking shelf. What I'm finding is that it's more of a fit than I could have imagined. Like so many handwritten and swapped recipes, it appears that there are a goodly number of "fixes" that need to be done with these - at least in the few I've tried so far.

My first outing with the book was Shoo-Fly Pie. I followed the directions exactly but ended up with enough filling for about one and a half pies and enough topping for two or three! The pie itself was pretty good - a bit too sweet and rich for my tastes (after the first slice I remembered that had been my first reaction to it years before).

My next outing with the recipes in the book were soft pretzels. I love soft pretzels and years ago had a friend who worked at Auntie Anne's in a local mall. I think I ate enough to feed a small German city!

At first I was going to follow the recipe exactly in the traditional manner by doing the dough by hand. However, I found the dough to be very sticky and hard to get to come together. So I went back to the drawing board and decided to use a mixer and dough hook. That result was somewhat better but I still found this recipe formed a dense pretzel bread - not at all like mall pretzels. Still, they were pretty good. I used cinnamon and sugar (my soft pretzel flavor choice) rather than the plain coarse salt called for in the recipe. I think with just salt these would be far too plain for my taste.

This one is worth a try and is pretty easy and simple to do - just don't expect the pretzels you get at the mall as the finished product. These are much more down to earth and homey.

1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (around 100°)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (or bread flour), more if necessary to get dough to come together
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup sugar mixed with 2 tsp. ground cinnamon, for dusting

Preheat oven to 425°. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Allow yeast to "bloom" (about 5 minutes). Stir together flour and salt in separate bowl and add to yeast mixture. Knead dough with dough hook until it comes together and forms a somewhat shiny ball.

Remove dough from bowl and form into log shape. Divide into 6 equal pieces. Using hands roll each piece into long ropes. If dough is too elastic, allow it to rest a few minutes. Form each rope into pretzel shape on parchment lined baking sheet.

Beat egg with a bit of water and brush over pretzels with a pastry brush. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over tops of pretzels. Place pretzels in oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving.

Optional: For a richer flavor, brush pretzels with a little melted butter and sprinkle again with cinnamon sugar just before serving. Serve slightly warm for best flavor.

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