Sunday, December 29, 2013

Salty, Carby Goodness: Pretzel Rolls

Browsing through my "dough" board on Pinterest looking for my next baking challenge, my eyes rested upon one from une bonne vie: Pretzel Rolls. Warm pretzels are pure ecstasy to a salt and carb lover like me, so I decided to make this my next baking adventure.

I had an ulterior motive for making pretzel rolls aside from my rabid drooling. Right now there are only two places in town I know of where you can buy pretzel rolls: The Fresh Market and Schnucks grocery. After hearing some friends wail on Facebook about having to wait for their next trip to Cincinnati to stock up on some decent pretzel rolls, I figured I should try making them and see if I can't become their favorite in-town supplier. So I got to work on these right after I finished all my Christmas cookie baking.

Here is the recipe direct from Une Bonne Vie:
Pretzel Rolls
The Dough
6 - 7 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups milk, slightly warmed
1 cup water, slightly warmed

Coarse sea salt for sprinkling

The "Bath"
7 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
4 tablespoons baking soda

In a small container, mix yeast with warmed milk and let rest for 10 minutes. Whisk 5 3/4 cups of flour and teaspoon of salt in a large bowl. 

Add canola oil and warmed water to yeast mixture. Pour into bowl with flour and salt. Knead in the bowl until dough is mostly smooth. Only add more flour if your dough cannot be easily handled. The dough will be somewhat stiff. Cover the bowl with a dish towel and put in a warm place to rise for one hour.

Punch down dough and knead in bowl for one minute. Cut dough into 15 pieces. (Cut more pieces if you would like smaller size rolls.) Form balls by pulling the dough under. Place on a well-greased surface. Let the dough balls rise for 15 minutes.

While the dough balls are rising, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and get the pretzel "bath" ready. In a large pot, bring water, salt, and baking soda to a rolling boil. Plunge three dough balls into the water and let them "poach" for 1 minute total. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to a well-greased baking sheet. With a serrated knife, cut 2-3 lines across each roll and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until pretzels are a rich brown.  These are best eaten the same day they are made.

Here are my notes and results:

Since it was pouring down rain the day I made these, I think I ended up using about 9 cups of flour before getting the dough stiff enough. (Tip: Humidity affects yeast goods. The damper it is outside, the more flour you're gonna need inside that dough.)

The Big Guy and I scarfed a couple down while still warm, and they were sooo good. I went easy on the sprinkling of sea salt on the top, and I think they could've done with more. But maybe that's just me and my salt craving talking. They were also delicious lightly warmed in the microwave the next day. But after a couple days in a Ziploc bag on the counter, they were definitely not good anymore. I have a bag left in the freezer to test out how they are frozen for later use. Will report back on that in a future post.

The true test, though, was in giving a couple of these rolls to those Facebook-ranting friends. We delivered a roll to each of them along with their bag of holiday goodies, and a few days later I checked in for an opinion. According to Friend #1, who gave me his brutally honest opinion (as always), there was not an even enough distribution of salt throughout the dough, and they were a bit uneven in bake. The center was too doughy to work properly as a sandwich roll. Overall, though, I think he thought I did well for my first attempt. Persnickety bastard.

I appreciated the candid feedback, though, and now I know what to do differently next time. I'll be more diligent in whisking the dry goods together, and I'll make them smaller to try and avoid the doughy center. I think because of the amount of extra flour, the dough was probably larger than the original poster's, so my rolls were probably larger than hers. They did seem pretty big - like a VERY large hamburger bun. But boy, were they pretty. Check it out. *drool*

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