Monday, October 13, 2014

Soft Pretzel Bites

Last weekend, it was sunny and gorgeous outside, and I stayed holed up on the couch, coughing until I had no voice (amongst other lovely side effects).

This weekend, the weather was gray, drizzly, and just generally unpleasant. My two favorite baseball teams squared off in the ALCS championship here in Baltimore, and my Orioles just couldn't pull it off (seriously, what was up with our pitching?), but my extended family out in KC are all doing the happy dance. And I was off-the-wall busy this weekend! After cooking dinner for my brother, who has the flu, and watching the O's lose on Friday, I dashed off to the homestead on Saturday for a sewing day with my mother followed by watching a family friend make his stage debut at the theater I got my start in. I've known the kid since I was taller than him, and now he's playing Lurch in "The Addams Family"!

But on Sunday, I got down to business. October business, that is.

Georgia played dead.

All around the web, people have been posting pumpkin spiced this, and apple caramel that. And that's all well and good. But to me, October is about all kinds of baking. Whether it's apple dumplings for my birthday (I'm so looking forward to these this week!) or Mexican cornbread or peanut butter oatmeal muffins, I am inevitably bitten by the baking bug as soon as the crisp autumn air swoops through the region.

This year, I decided to try something new. As a kid, I was fascinated by soft pretzels and always wanted to learn how to make them. My mom insisted that they were too much work. Now I have my own kitchen, so I thought I'd (finally) give it a try. They are a bit of work, but so incredibly worth it!

I found quite a few recipes online, each varying just a tiny bit. A work colleague suggested using this recipe, and since Alton Brown is The Man, this was the recipe I went with (you just have to appreciate a man who understands the science behind his art!). Boy was it the right choice! These soft pretzels were amazing! I made them into bites - cutting each of the 24-inch dough ropes into 1-inch pieces instead of the the traditional pretzel shape. I wanted to be able to ration them out a bit more than for just 8 pretzels, which is what the recipe makes. But they're so delicious that they may not last as long as I hoped!

One of the things that surprised me as I was teaching myself how to do this is that the dough, once shaped, has to be briefly boiled in water and baking soda. This struck me as a bit strange, but as I was doing that step, I noticed that it visibly changes the consistency of the dough, which is pretty nifty. Science at work!

Tonight, I'm hoping to mix up a beer-cheese sauce to dip them in, but they're so delicious, they don't really need any embellishment. Last night, I was popping them into my mouth without any extras, and they were mouth-wateringly wonderful!

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