People who have met me once or twice, but who don't know me very well, are often surprised to find out that I love football. You see, I'm kind of small and generally non-violent and even though I'm not quite a girly-girl, I'm also not they type of person you would think would enjoy watching grown men slam violently into each other in pursuit of a silly ball. And yet, I am a football fan. More specifically, I am a Chicago Bears fan. I was a kid in the eighties when the Monsters of the Midway pretty much ruled Chicago, and I have fuzzy, but warm memories of watching the Super Bowl on the living room floor. My older brother was obsessed with the Bears back then and so, by extension, was I. I've never really gotten over that obsession.
Watching the Bears this season has been, um, frustrating, to say the least. Watching the Bears for the past few seasons has been frustrating. (And those people who have ever watched a Bears game with me knows that I am very invested. And I swear. A lot. It has been a sweary sort of season.) The Bears seemed to have needed a little bit of this and maybe a little bit of this. (Or maybe they just needed some Tom Hiddleston. Everything is better with a little Tom Hiddleston). In any case, believe it or not, the Bears and football are not actually the subjects of this post.
No, no. The subject of this post is my friend Daniel, who, back when I was in Chicago, so graciously let me watch the Bears game from the comfort of his lovely couch. I hadn't seen a Bears game on actual t.v. (as opposed to a computer screen) in years. So it was nice. Especially since the Bears handily beat the Vikings (and much as I like Chris Kluwe, I kinda hate the Vikings. Not as much as I hate the Packers, but still.) Also, there may have been pretzel making.
Daniel is an old friend. Or rather, an old acquaintance. We sort of knew each other in high school, inasmuch as two people who went to different high schools with strict policies regarding mingling with members of the opposite sex. By which I mean, of course there was mingling, just not much of it. We got to know each other a little better after high school and then some more after he married a friend of mine. A few years back Daniel started a food blog, and it just seemed natural that we should take an interest in each others' blogs. Daniel and I think very differently about food. He has a background in science and is follower of the cult of Alton Brown. I have a background in the humanities and am more of an Alice Waters girl myself. And that is why we convened on Daniel's kitchen/living room that very lovely Sunday- to watch football, yes, but mostly to bake together and to chat about blogging a bit. There's always something to be learned from cooking (and/or baking) with someone who has a different way of going about things than you do. And sometimes, what you learn can't be quantified or even really described. There is just something about seeing the way somebody else does something that makes you think about the way you do things. Plus it's always nice to talk about food-blogging with a fellow food blogger. Like our cooking styles, our blogs are two very different creatures. And that's fine. In fact, it's better than fine, it's good.
So- we made soft pretzels. I had originally wanted to make scones, but there were technical issues and after all, we were watching football. You can't really eat scones while watching football. What are we, Brits? Per Daniel's suggestion, we used Alton Brown's recipe. And I must admit, it was quite a bit of fun, and a lot less complex than I thought it would be. For some reason, I had gotten it into my head that homemade pretzels were a complicated and arduous undertaking. I was wrong. Daniel's stand mixer did most of the work, and rolling and twisting the dough made my inner-child pretty happy. You can check out Daniel's version of our pretzel making endeavor's here.
And finally. This. A thousand times, this. Sweetness.
Alton Brown's Homemade Soft Pretzels
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, about 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted (we used margarine. I say, if you can use butter, for God's sake, use butter)
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, sugar and salt. Pour the yeast on top of the water. Let sit for about 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low until just combined. Raise the speed to medium. Knead until smooth and pulling away from the side of the bowl, about 5 minutes.
2. Remove the dough from the bowl. Clean it, grease it, and return the dough to the bowl. Cover and let sit in a warm place for about 50 minutes to an hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and brush with oil. In a large pot, bring the ten cups of water and baking soda to a boil.
4. Meanwhile, dump the dough out on to a lightly oiled surface, and divide it into eight pieces. Roll each piece into a 24-inch rope. Shape each rope into a U and then twist the two end of the rope and press them into the bottom of the U to make a pretzel shape.
5. Place the pretzels, one by one, into the water for 30 seconds- to a minute. Remove from water. Place on baking sheet and brush with the egg yolk. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 12-14 minutes until golden. Let cool for at least 5 minutes. Eat with or without mustard.