So as though it's not enough to be in the midst of baking my way through The Bread Baker's Apprentice, a friend of mine from work emailed me on Friday with a recipe and this message:
"I was wondering if my Auntie Abby would make me some Auntie Annie's pretzels? :)
Seriously, I just thought of you when I received this and thought you'd be the person most likely to actually make it."
While the emailed recipe didn't scream out to me, I have been wanting to make Deb from Smitten Kitchen's pretzels for quite some time. And I do have a reputation to keep up. And baking is so much more entertaining than worrying about the 803 students I have to schedule into a class by tomorrow morning.
I used my stand mixer and the dough was really pretty easy to make (especially now that I'm used to Peter Reinhart's multi-day breads). Except that it was really sticky. So I used some advice I'd read somewhere (can't remember where) to just let the dough rest for a while and maybe it wouldn't need quite so much extra flour added. Not sure how well it worked; it was still mighty sticky, although I was able to finish kneading it. (I'd also read somewhere that the pretzels will turn out better if the dough is sticky...?)
Then came the rolling and shaping part. Now, nowhere that I'd read did it give me indication of just how frustrating and time-consuming this process was. I wasn't helped any by the fact that it was 4:30, I was struggling through rolling out these sticky pieces of dough, and I was supposed to start cooking dinner NOW. The kids were starting to get fussy, a good friend was over with the baby she was watching and I really wanted to be visiting with her, it was Sunday night, and I was tired. Needless to say, it didn't go well. Finally, at 4:50, I was about to throw the rest of the dough in the garbage. Instead, I wrapped up the two pans of (badly) shaped pretzels and the unshaped dough, and shoved them in the fridge, hoping that Peter Reinhart's theory that bread resting in the fridge improves its flavor goes for pretzels, too. (Actually I was trying to make mini-pretzels like Deb's, and either the strands of dough would break or it would all mush together into a shapeless blob. When I tried making normal sized pretzels, those actually turned out fine. But I was out of time.)
After dinner was made and cleaned up (thanks to the hubbie!), the kids were in bed, and the house was quiet, I pulled the dough back out of the fridge. I let it sit for almost an hour while I browsed some pictures for rolling out the dough. According to Deb, it's easiest on a non-floured board. I had been trying to use my floured counter (due to lack of space) and when that didn't work, just roll the dough between my two hands. Anyway, this time, I did as Deb suggested and the pictures I found showed (rolling on a board, starting in the middle and working my hands outward) and...it worked! In about the same amount of time as it had taken me to struggle through two mini-pretzels earlier, I finished all 10 of the remaining pieces! And they were adorable! I even took back my statement (to myself) that I would never make these again!
Here, look...aren't they cute?!
They were pretty popular at work, too. Another friend said they reminded her of the soft pretzels she used to get in Germany, so I considered that a pretty big compliment. I made mostly salted with a couple of cinnamon-sugar for the hubbie (who loved them). Still, it wasn't a joy, and I don't see making these often in the future. (I'd say ever, but the hubbie really liked the cinnamon-sugar ones.)