Whole Wheat Pretzels
Adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking
They’re threatening another snow day for tomorrow. I don’t know if I can take it anymore! I’m a hardy Midwestern girl. When it snows in Chicago, you just drive slower. You slog through it. Why does the world stop for New Yorkers every time it flurries? Seriously people!!? You are KILLING me with the snow day silliness. Trapped again in the house with four bored kids, it takes a spurt of creativity to break up the day.
These pretzels are a very satisfying way to make the best of the day. Their flavor and texture are fantastic. They’re minimally time-consuming. The dough is incredibly forgiving of the kind of torture young kids inflict. If your preschooler just decides to stretch his piece into an oddly-shaped clump and insists that’s how he wants it, it’ll bake just fine.
This is an interesting exercise of motor skills. Rolling out the dough requires a gentle rolling and stretching motion. Surprisingly, my two youngest kids grasped it more quickly than the older two. I think the older two wanted it to behave like Play-doh.
This recipe may introduce you to two unfamiliar ingredients. The first is bread flour. I use whole wheat bread flour but the average chain grocery only carries white bread flour. As soon as you start working with yeast, you’ll find that many recipes call for some proportion of bread flour. Essentially, it facilitates the leavening of the dough.
The second “exotic” ingredient is barley malt. This is a syrup with a lovely malty flavor that really makes these pretzels special. They won’t taste malty. Rather they just have an indescribable depth and balance of flavors that comes from using it. The distinctive malty flavor is more clearly showcased in Yeast-raised Malted Waffles. You can buy barley malt syrup at some chain groceries, but a health food store or Whole Foods is more likely to carry it.
1 ¾ cups (7 oz.) whole wheat all-purpose flour, traditional or white whole wheat
1 cup water, at room temperature
1 tablespoon soft butter If it isn’t already soft, chop it into pieces or use a cheese grater.
1 ½ cups (6 3/8 oz.) unbleached bread flour I use whole wheat bread flour. If you do the same add another 1/4 cup of water to the recipe and soak the bread flour along with the all-purpose.
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon barley malt extract, syrup or dried You could use honey or corn syrup.
8 cups water
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt
Large grain salt such as kosher or sea and/or seeds for topping
Soak the flour
1. Mix the whole wheat flour with the water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for about 20 minutes. This resting period gives the bran in the flour time to absorb the water, which results in more tender pretzels.
Mix the dough
1. Add the butter, bread flour (if not already added), salt, yeast and barley malt extract. Stir to combine using (in order of preference), a stand mixer with a dough hook, a food processor with a dough blade or by hand.
2. Knead the dough about 4 minutes by machine or 6 minutes by hand.
Rise the dough
1. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. There’s no need to transfer the dough to an oiled bowl because it is very stable.
2. Leave the dough on the counter to rise until approximately doubled in size, about 60-90 minutes, depending on the temperature of your kitchen. Alternatively, you can speed it up a bit by heating your oven to 200-degrees, turning it off, opening it for about 30 seconds to let the edge off the heat and letting your dough rise inside. In this case you’ll get closer to a 60 minute rise.
Roll the dough
1. Put the water and baking soda on the range to boil. Grease two baking sheets and turn your oven on to 450-degrees.
2. Remove the dough from the bowl onto an unfloured surface. If you flour the surface, you won’t have enough friction to do the rolling and stretching. Your dough will just slide around.
3. Using a bench scraper or spatula, cut the dough into 8 pieces.
4. Roll each piece into a long “snake” of about 15-18 inches long. This dough is really stretchy. It tends to want to spring back when you roll it. The action is to place your hands in the center of the snake. Spread your fingers apart and ooutward, applying a bit of pressure as you roll. If there isn’t enough friction and your dough won’t roll, dampen your hands slightly and try rolling again.
5. Shape the pretzels. Form your “snake” into a circle with the ends crossed one over the other and overlapping by about an inch. Give those ends a twist. Flip the ends over so that they rest at the “top” of what was your circle. It looks like a pretzel now. Properly done, it should look scrawny. When you boil the pretzels, they will rise significantly in the water. If they’re already too “fat” they’ll rise into themselves and you’ll just have a pretzel-shaped hunk of dough.
Boil the pretzels
1. One or two at a time, drop the formed pretzels into the boiling water. They may stick to the pot bottom when they drop, so give them a nudge with a spider or a slotted spoon to free them up.
2. Allow each pretzel to boil for about a minute. Remove it to the prepared baking sheet.
Glaze the pretzels
1. Brush the pretzels with the egg glaze. This is my three-year old’s favorite step.
2. Sprinkle the pretzel with salt and or seeds.
1. Bake in the preheated oven 12-15 minutes, until golden.
Cinnamon sugar pretzels: brush the baked pretzels with melted butter and roll them in cinnamon sugar.