Friday, May 20, 2005

Pretzel Bread Loaves and Nuggets

Pretzel Bread Loaves and Nuggets (Adapted from reader J. Boynton)

For the dough

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/3 cup nonfat dry milk
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup luke-warm water
1 tablespoon barley malt syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
1 teaspoon salt

For the water bath

enough water to come 3/4 of the way up the side of a 5 to 6 quart pot
1/4 cup baking soda

For the toppings

1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons milk
coarse salt, for sprinkling

To prepare the dough

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour, dry milk and yeast. Pour in warm water and malt syrup - stir mixture until you have a smooth batter. Add butter and salt, stirring well to combine. Mix in 1 1/4 cups flour until you have a stiff dough - scoop mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, elastic and just tacky to the touch, adding enough of remaining flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.

Move dough into a large bowl lightly coated with cooking spray, turning to coat the top. Cover and let rise until about doubled in size.

Just before the dough is done rising, preheat oven to 450 degrees with a baking stone and rack placed in the upper third.

Scoop dough out of the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Pat mixture into a rectangle and divide into desired amount of loaves. Take one piece of dough and gently pat it out into a rough rectangle. Fold the bottom third of the dough, letter style, up to the center and press firmly to seal. Fold the top third of the dough down over the top, pressing firmly to seal the seam closed and ensuring a taunt surface. Place the roll, seam-side down, onto a parchment-lined baking sheet - cover with a clean towel. Repeat process with remaining pieces of dough. Let loaves rest for 10 minutes.

To prepare the water bath

Meanwhile, add enough water to the pot to come three-fourths of the way up the side. Bring to a rapid simmer - stir in baking soda to dissolve. Reduce heat to keep the water at a gentle simmer.

To prepare the toppings

In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and milk.

Using a wide spatula, lift 1 roll up and place it into the simmering water - use the spatula to bathe the top of the roll with the water. After 20 seconds, remove loaf from the water and gently pat it dry with a paper towel.

Place loaf on a clean surface (I used a sheet of parchment paper) - and quickly brush it with the egg mixture, sprinkle with coarse salt and using a clean razor blade or sharp knife, firmly slice two or three diagonal slashes on top. Immediately lift the loaf off the surface and place directly onto the hot baking stone. Repeat process with remaining loaves.

Bake the loaves until they are deeply golden brown on top, about 8 to 15 minutes depending on the size of your loaves. Remove and place rolls on a wire rack to cool.

Alternatively, to make pretzel nuggets, roll or stretch dough into a large rectangle. Using a pizza cutter or pastry wheel, divide dough into 1 1/2" wide strips. Slice strips into bite-sized pieces (about 1" to 1 1/2" wide). Instead of letting the dough rest, dip nuggets as directed above into the water bath, brush with egg mixture and sprinkle with salt, skipping the ten minute rest. Place nuggets right onto the stone and bake until deeply golden brown all over. Remove and place pretzel nuggets on a wire rack to cool.

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