I really dislike the Food Network show called Throw Down as I think Bobby Flay should say shove it and not be lowered to such humiliation, but somehow when I found out the challenge was soft pretzels, I failed to turn the TV off last night. I miss those chewy salty doughy pretzels every once in a while and have been doing my best to develop spelt recipes for all of my favorite things I miss. Luckily for me, spelt cooperates pretty well with a bit of a learning curve. I was already planning on making some in the future, but after last night, I knew it had to be today. A nice rainy thunder-stormy day, first sign of spring – the thunder storms melting all the snow far far away. I think we have had an inch already. Edited to add: Before I go any further, let me add, that spelt is not gluten free, but it is wheat free. Apparently some people with Gluten Intolerance and Celiac can eat it and some can’t. I am one who can.
True pretzels require lye, which is not so easily found around here and is very caustic. I still need to see if the hardware store carries it (what my bread baking book recommends). So I was curious to see what they would use on the show – baking soda water! In Germany, where I developed a strong brezeln and Laugenbrötchen taste, the pretzels always have a dark brown exterior and a creamy white dense interior. Laugenbrötchen used to be my favorite morning brötchen with a little butter cheese, a thin slice of ham and maybe some jam instead of ham. German breakfasts are fabulous and ever since I have had no taste for the traditional American breakfast fare, although I still eat it and work on perfecting hash browns. All I need is a cast iron skillet with no sides and that one will be perfected.
So it appears that here, baking soda is used instead of lye. Probably the FDA making sure we don’t kill ourselves while baking. It worked pretty well, but I will be seeking out lye and working on perfecting the pretzel. For starters, I would like them to be a bit bigger and thought they would rise more than they did, but at this size 2 are a perfect snack with mustard.
The method is actually very similar to making bagels and really easy to do. Really easy to eat too!
Speltzels or spelt preztels
1 and 3/4 cup white spelt minus 1 Tbs
3 Tbs whole spelt
1 tsp yeast
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs water about 90 F
1/2 tsp sugar
1 and 1/8 tsp kosher salt
Mix water, sugar and yeast together and let them get creamy and puffy. Mix the flours and salt together. Toss them all in a KitchenAid and blend with the mixer paddle until it is together, then switch to a dough hook and knead until it is a smooth but slightly sticky ball. The key to using spelt is to knead it half as much, let it rise a shorter time and since it is so water soluble, use 1/4 more flour than regular flour or cut back on liquids by 10% (adding 1/4 more is easier math for me).
Knead the dough on the counter with just a little spelt flour until it is not as sticky and then divide it into 12 equal pieces, or for your normal size pretzel on the street and at college games, into 6 pieces. Let these rise, covered (with something non stick) for an hour. I put mine on parchment paper. Then roll into a log (at least 12 inches if you can) and take the ends, twist twice and bring them down towards you with the bottom of the pretzel near you. Put these on your baking sheets with parchment paper (and cover with oiled plastic wrap) and let them rise for another 1/2 hour. Then stick them in the fridge to firm up for a 1/2 hour or so to help them not loose their shape when you drop them in boiling soda water. Get your oven preheating to 400F and bring 10 cups of water with 2/3 baking soda in it to a boil. Place a cast iron pan on the bottom shelf of the oven while it is heating up. You will be placing about 6 ice cubes in the cast iron pan when you load the pretzels in the oven. This helps make a chewy, strong crust.
Drop the pretzels two at a time in the boiling baking soda water for 30 seconds, making sure to splash water on the top. I flipped mine over once. Remove and let them drain for a second (while on the strainer) and then set directly on the parchment paper. Once finished with the hot baking soda bath, mix one egg with about 1 Tbs of water and brush on the egg wash. Sprinkle with chunky salt of your choice, I choose Kosher. Bake until dark brown 14 – 18 minutes – likely a bit longer if you only made 6 and they are bigger. Let them cool as long as you can and then squirt your favorite mustard on top and chew!
I learned the hard way (no pun intended!) to not put the leftover pretzels in a plastic bag and seal them up. The salt pulled all the humidity out and they got spongy on top and rock hard in the middle the next day.
I am in the process of developing a separate tab for all the spelt (wheat free) recipes. Hopefully all the Gluten Free recipes will go in a separate one, knitting in another and gardening will have it’s own tab too. Maybe. Or just one for spelt.