If you follow the tenet, ‘listen to your gut,’ I would not recommend making these pretzels. What started out as a small piece just to get a taste, turned into 5 whole pretzels, a stomach-ache and a situation that could have gotten really out of hand, had my rational brain not intervened.
Putting aside the recent pretzel fiasco, I have been relying a lot on my gut these last few weeks. I can’t figure out if I’m going through a rut, an existential crisis, or just being a big crybaby. I have been trying to loosen my grip and let things come naturally, without force or intervention. My rational brain is not so into the process, as it wants certain things and believes that it knows best. The process of letting go hasn’t been easy, and while I have gotten really good at figuring out what I don’t want, the question of what I DO want has been looming over my head like a dark cloud.
I’ve been finding solace in different ways as I navigate my current rough patch on this journey called life. I’ve started reading a great self-help book, I’ve been making an effort interact with friends and I’ve entertained the idea of starting an exercise regime. I’ve also let cooking and baking help guide me out of the hole I have burrowed for myself.
Making these pretzels is fun. You start with a sticky, pliable mass of dough that with some patience and gentle kneading, turns into soft and outrageously delicious pretzels. I paired them with caramelized shallot jam and labane cheese, a thick and slightly sour middle eastern cheese that is similar in consistency to yogurt. The two are a match made in a heaven that can be found in my stomach. Next time you find that you’ve lost your footing, make some pretzels and know that better times are coming!
Soft Pretzels with Labane and Caramelized Shallot Jam
Makes 1 dozen pretzels
For the pretzel dough:
- 1/4 C light brown sugar
- 2 C warm water
- 1 envelope (2 and 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 1/8 cup vegetable oil
- About 3 C (360 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
- Sea salt
- In a large bowl, combine the sugar and water until dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let stand until it become foamy (approximately 5 minutes). Stir in the vegetable oil and 1 and 1/2 cups of flour. Knead in the remaining flour. The dough will be slightly sticky.
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth (approximately 3 minutes). If you find the dough to be very sticky, knead in 2 tablespoons of flour. When done kneading, transfer the dough to a large, oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until double in size (approximately 45 minutes).
- Preheat the oven to 450 F (232 C). Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper and butter the paper. Punch down the dough and place it on a floured work surface. Knead the dough lightly, flatten it out and cut into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a 9-inch stick which is about 1/2-inch thick. Transfer the sticks to the baking trays, leaving a few inches of space between them. Let stand uncovered until puffed (approximately 25 minutes).
- In a large deep pan or pot, stir the baking soda into 1 quart of water and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium. Using 2 slotted spoons, carefully transfer 3 pretzel sticks at a time to the water for 30 seconds, turning once. Add about 1/2 cup of hot water before cooking the next batch of pretzels. Transfer the pretzels sticks to paper towels to drain, then return them to the cookie sheets, spacing them evenly.
- Brush the pretzel sticks with the egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Bake until richly brown, approximately 10 minutes.
Labane and caramelized shallot jam
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 large shallots, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 oz (170 grams) labane
- In a saucepan, heat oil over med-high heat. Add shallots and brown sugar and cook for approximately 5 minutes until the shallots are soft, making sure to stir constantly. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the shallots are reduced to a jam consistency. Stir in vinegar and salt.
- Spread the labane on a serving plate or bowl and top with the caramelized shallot jam.
Pretzel recipe taken from Food and Wine.