I used to call my favourite shopping centre the fish that blows bubbles, why? Well because proudly hanging from the ceiling of the shopping centre hangs a large clockwork fish that every half an hour plays a tune and blasts bubbles out to the waiting crowd below… yeah I have just realised how strange that sounds but to a little kid it is actually very exciting. To a bigger kid like my brother it was still an excitement way past the age it should have stopped being so. I have vivid memories of my big brother, head and shoulders taller than the collection of kids waiting for the familiar tune of ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’ the only children that could reach the bubbles before him were the ones that had secured a ride on their parent’s shoulders.
Now that I’m older I have realised I have been missing the real excitement of the shopping centre, I’m talking about the free sample tray from the pretzel place that you can smell from metres away. Occasionally I will cave in and buy a cinnamon sugar pretzel, usually when its winter because they are so warm and buttery. Although they go down well in the summer if you but a slushy with it. There is another excellent thing you can buy from there though at that is their pretzel sticks. Six little sticks of pretzel that are ideal for sharing. How could I not try and recreate that in my own kitchen?
So first question I found myself asking: what makes pretzels different from any other type of bread? Well it’s their almost chewy exterior. And that is achieved by giving your unbaked pretzels a dip in a hot water and baking soda mixture. As well as giving your pretzels their distinctive flavour it will also contribute towards their colourful crust and help with texture. All in all, the dip in baking soda and water is crucial step in making the perfect pretzel.
This recipe makes 12 pretzels or 48 pretzel sticks.
– 300ml warm water
– 2 sachets dried yeast (14g)
– 1 tsp dark brown sugar
– 530g plain flour
– 50g sugar
– 10g salt
– 1 tbsp sunflower oil
– 1 litre and 25ml boiling water
– 5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1. Measure out your water, yeast and brown sugar into a bowl or jug. Mix well then put in a warm place to allow the yeast to activate and produce a foam on the top. This will take about five minutes.
2. In a large bowl measure out the plain flour, sugar and salt.
3. Make a well in the middle of the flour and poor the yeast mixture into it.
4. Mix until it comes into a dough. It will be quite a sticky dough but resist adding flour unless you feel the dough really needs it.
5. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface.
6. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. About five minutes if you are using a stand mixer and ten if using your hands.
7. When the dough is well kneaded then form into a ball and put into an oiled bowl.
8. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, this will take from 1 hour to 1 and a half hours.
9. When the dough has risen heat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade and put the hot water and bicarbonate of soda into a saucepan
10. Knock back the dough and split into 20g pieces
11. Roll the pieces into sausage shapes
12. Briefly dip into the boiling water then put onto a lined baking tray.
13. If you would like savoury pretzels, then sprinkle generously with rock salt
14. If you would like sweet pretzels, then sprinkle generously with a cinnamon sugar or a vanilla sugar
15. Bake for 8 minutes
16. These are best eaten warm