Mrs Smyth... bakes Bretzels.

A couple of years ago our German friend Thomas invited Mr S & I over for a traditional German breakfast. Weisswurst, beer, saukraut and bretzels. Being the carb fiend that I am, I discovered where you could buy said bready pretzel-like treats and began to frequent my local German bakehouse.

Fast forward to now, where I got my hands on a copy of Can It, Bottle it, Smoke It and other Kitchen Projects by Karen Solomon. Yet another beautifully designed cookbook, this had so many easily laid out quirky projects. But what caught my eye? The Soft Pretzel (Bretzel) recipe. I marked it and began to eye it off weekly, wishing for time that I wasn't holding a baby, patting a baby to sleep, patting a baby to sleep on my chest... you get the idea.

It was hard to make my recipe book holder keep the book level for four whole hours.
She kept saying 'Dadadada get me out of here.'


Sunday was my 'Day Off'. Mr S & I have just begun having one Sunday per month each of family-free time. He's been hiking, and I asked him & Millie to leave the house so I could craft and bake up a storm. However, roll around Sunday and Mr S is sniffling with a cold and it's been raining torentially. He valiantly began packing bottles and thermoses... but I asked if they'd like to stay put instead. So they did and he MilWrangled (tm) whilst I baked.

I put on my best cupcake apron and began to blatantly disregard the finer points of the recipe. I used a Sourdough Rye bread flour packet, instead of white all purpose flour. I also didn't have any vegetable oil, so olive oil it was. No kosher salt, so flaked sea salt for me.



I started the mix in the Kitchenaid with the dough hook and then the recipe asked me to take it out once it had come together and hand knead for 5-10 minutes. Really? Isn't that precisely why I have a Kitchenaid with a dough hook? But I thought it might be fun. It was not. So I huffed and puffed, kneaded and thought of England, and lo and behold 5-10 minutes later the dough was ready to go in it's bowl for a rise.

I've been baking bread in this house for the best part of two years and the dough only rises if the temperature is nice and warm inside. Now, this is southern Tasmania, so this means that the bowl gets covered in gladwrap, snuggled up in a towel and sits in front of the fire. However, the recipe called for a damp towel in a warm place. I covered the bowl with a damp tea towel in front of the fire. An hour later there was no rising whatsoever. Bollocks. I covered in gladwrap and snuggled the bowl in a towel in front of the fire, and it was fine. Lesson learned: trust your instinct on dough rising matters.


After the dough had risen I followed the directions and created a long rope, which I then cut into twelve. Which I then rolled out into a 22inch rope and shaped into dog poo shapes pretzel shapes. At which point Mr S wandered into the kitchen and remarked that they resembled dog poos. True, but get out of my kitchen.


The dough then rested for 20 minutes whilst I got the remaining water and baking soda boiling. Apparently the difference between bread rolls and bretzels is the baking soda boil.

So I dipped and timed. Dipped and timed. Dipped and timed. Thanked my lucky stars I didn't have a Millie to wrangle whilst this was happening.

Dipped, eggwashed and salted. Ready for the oven.
With a quick eggwash and sprinkle with sea salt the Breztels were ready for a bake.

Then....


The recipe suggested sitting for 30 minutes to allow the crust to develop. I could not wait. I chewed thoughtfully and was mildly impressed. Then, I had another with a smidge of mustard and I realised precisely why you wait 30 minutes. Oh my. OH MY.

They freeze like a dream and I've been eating them for lunch with some ham, cheese, mustard and spinach, baked in the oven for 10 minutes.

I really enjoyed making these, and I'll do it again. I love baking bread and being able to do this has just bolstered my confidence further to try different types of yeasted treats.

Here's the exact recipe from the book's blog...


Soft Pretzels Recipe

Yield: 12 pretzels
Total time: About 4 hours

  • 6 cups (1 pound, 13 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more
    as needed
  • 1 packet (21/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1 egg


Instructions
  1. In a food processor fitted with the dough blade (or a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook), whirl together the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. The dough will come together and grab onto the dough hook.
  2. With the motor running (at low speed for a stand mixer), drizzle in the oil, then 2 cups of the water. 
  3. Dust a countertop with flour and knead the dough, pushing it in from the sides and then over from the bottom, for 7 to 10 minutes. It will become less sticky, more cohesive, and slightly shiny, and it will have the texture of an earlobe to the touch. (If it doesn’t, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.)
  4. Lightly oil a large bowl and dampen a clean kitchen towel. Heat a cup of water in the microwave and remove it. Roll the dough into a ball, transfer to the oiled bowl, and cover the bowl with the moist towel. Move the bowl into the microwave and let it sit for 1 hour. 
  5. Transfer the dough to a countertop lightly dusted with more flour. Stick your finger directly into the center to make a small hole. Use your fingers to widen the hole and work the dough, hand over hand as if you’re pulling on a rope, into a large O-shape about 2 inches thick.
  6. Cut the dough into a long rope and then into 12 equal pieces. Working with 1 dough piece at a time, roll into a 22-inch-long rope and fold into a pretzel shape: first, make a tall, skinny U shape, then cross the ends down and across each other to the opposite sides of the U. Pinch the pretzel to hold its shape. Form the other pretzels and let them rest for 20 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Bring the remaining 6 cups of water and the baking soda to a rapid boil in a wide-mouthed Dutch oven or other large pot.
  9. Remove the pretzels from the water with a slotted spoon and hold them over the pot to drain well, then place them on the lined baking sheets. Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon of water. Brush the pretzels with this egg wash and sprinkle with salt to taste.
  10. Boil the pretzels, one at a time, for 30 seconds each. Don’t skip this step: it’s what sets a pretzel apart from a doughy roll. 
  11. Bake both sheets of pretzels for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets and swapping their places in the oven halfway through. When they’re done, the pretzels will be golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow them to cool for a full 30 minutes—really: this sets their texture.




And here's what I found when I wandered out of the kitchen...

Mrs Smyth... can't read. But she can bake.

On Saturday Mel from Honey, You Baked, her husband Ash1, our friends Ash2 & Erika got together to celebrate Mel's birthday with a Brownie Bake-Off. After a relatively disorganised morning where Millie couldn't sleep, the dishes needed doing, I hadn't baked my brownie offering yet, the fire went out and aliens crashed in the front yard*, I was ready for our guests to turn up. Millie finally asleep, I checked my phone to find a message from Mel with directions to Ash2's house. Oh...

It turns out that checking Twitter at 2am perhaps requires a) more attention that I was giving it and b) one to wear one's glasses. Oops.

Luckily my friends are wonderful and all happily relocated to the Huon Valley where they knocked on the door and I was lying on the couch with Millie halfway through a nap. 'Hi, welcome! Err... I'll be up soon.'

But brownies prevailed and I was in sugar shock for the rest of the evening. Millie had a great time talking to her future husband Oliver and I cherished having a houseful of friends. Friends who bake.

Mel wrote a great post about it all over here... so without further ado I'll leave you to go and bask in the glory that is several brownie recipes.

I baked these brownies again, with the addition of white chocolate, dark chocolate and dried cranberries. I also didn't undercook them this time, so they were just brownies. But still - yum!


*may or may not have happened. But you get the gravity of my situation.

Mrs Smyth... makes Double Baked Melted Centre Brownies.

On my list was 'Bake weekly.' It's no secret that in his house we are massive fans of anything home baked. Mr S bakes once a year - my birthday cake. I make his, he makes mine, it's how we've always rolled. Other than that, the baking's up to me.

I love baking brownies. So simple and so delicious. This recipe has taken me through many variations, my favourite still being additions of dried cranberries, white and dark chocolate. However, Casa Smyth was short on white chocolate and dried cranberries, so it was two kinds of dark chocolate instead. I know, dreadful.

I did a bit of a pictorial of my process for you. This also coincided with my '24 hours with' documentation for Sarah over at Dear Baby G.

We started with this...
I started after Millie self settled in the cot for the first time in weeks. EMPTY HANDS? WHAT NOW? I toddled around the kitchen getting everything out and measured in record time, because honestly? A baby that suddenly self settles again makes me uneasy and overjoyed. In equal measures. And makes me work at lightning speed in case she wakes up before her allotted 40 minutes.

I love learning about baking and I've always wondered why this recipe calls for eggs first. Can anyone enlighten me about this?

This is my best kitchen friend, my Willow Blue Kitchenaid. 
I love baking from a trusted recipe. This brownie recipe lives in my display book that I made when I moved out of home. It's full of family recipes and some that Mr S & I cut out and thought they'd be nice. I have an entire bookshelf of cookbooks and really, I mostly cook from this one. I've been baking these brownies since I was about 13 and Mum tells me that it's from a No Frills Cocoa packet. Way to give me glamorous designs on this Mum. I'd like to think it's at least from a Bourneville Cocoa packet...

64% & 72% chocolate. Choppity chop chop chop.
Ingredients together and I'm humming away, with one eye on the time. The kitchen and our bedroom are at opposite ends of the house, and it's very convenient when you lock yourself in the kitchen to get away from the screaming every now and then don't hear the baby wake up, but I kept an eagle ear out. Radio silence from the bedroom. Brilliant! 

I get the mix into the pans, and I hear the protests of a baby who hates waking up almost as much as she hates going to sleep. I go and retrieve her, we play a peek a boo game through the cot bars and I sing my version of 'Breaking Up Is Hard To Do'... 'Waking Up Is Hard To Do'.

My baby is free range.
I give Millie the empty egg carton that the politely poses with but has no idea why I've given it to her. She's happy enough to sit in the Bumbo while I finish up.

Pans in the oven, timer on, we head to the lounge room. Millie knows just how to pass the time. Pushups anyone? (No. No thankyou.)

I did a thousand you know...

Then, we had these.*
Delicious!

Fancy Brownie Recipe
125g margarine (whatever, I don't do margarine. I used unsalted butter.)
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup cocoa (I'm pretty sure I always use more than this.)
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts/chocolate/kitchen sink

Method
  1. In a large bowl beat eggs.
  2. Add sugar and butter and beat until smooth.
  3. Add baking powder, salt, sifted cocoa and flour, beating thoroughly until all ingredients are mixed.
  4. Add vanilla and other additions. Mix should be firm, not runny.
  5. Spread mixture into a greased sandwich tray and bake at 1800C for 30-35 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool in the tray. After mix is cool, using a sharp knife cut into slices.
footnote
Mr S & I had a cup of tea and brownie as I was writing this. The brownies I baked for 20 minutes are not cooked. Gooey and delicious, yes, but not cooked enough. They're back in the oven and now they're extra fancy brownies... Double Baked Melted Centre Brownies.