Pretzels take some time and patience, but the results are so worthwhile you will find yourself perfecting the technique and making them often. Poaching first in an alkaline bath of water and baking soda is the secret to the crusts’ chewy texture. We like to sprinkle half the pretzels with coarse salt for snacking, and the remaining pretzels with cinnamon sugar for breakfast!
1 ½ cups (375 mL) warm water (100°F / 38°C)
2 ½ tsp (8 g envelope) dry active yeast
1 Tbsp (15 mL) honey
1 ½ cups (375 mL) whole barley flour
1 ½ cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp (7 mL) salt
2 Tbsp (30 mL) softened butter
½ cup (125 mL) baking soda
1 Tbsp (15 mL) milk
Coarse salt or cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling
Pour warm water into a large mixing bowl and stir in yeast and honey to dissolve. Let rest for 10 minutes to proof the yeast, it will begin to foam. Stir in barley flour, all-purpose flour, salt and butter until blended.
Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, until the dough is soft, smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a large bowl; put the dough into the bowl and cover with a cloth. Let rise for an hour and a half, until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Place oven racks in the top third and bottom third of the oven. Grease two baking sheets.
Remove dough to a lightly floured surface and cut into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 10 inch (25 cm) long rope. To create the pretzel shape, loop one end over the centre of the rope. Loop the other end into the centre, placing it on top of the first end, and forming a heart shape. Place on baking sheets and rest for 15 minutes; the pretzels will rise slightly.
In a large, non-aluminum pot, bring 10 cups (2.5 L) water to a boil. To prevent the water from foaming over the top. slowly add baking soda, one large spoonful at a time. With a slotted spatula, carefully lower two pretzels at a time into the boiling water, and poach for 30 seconds on each side.
Transfer pretzels back to the baking sheet. Brush lightly with milk, and sprinkle with coarse salt or cinnamon sugar mixture. Complete both pans before placing in the oven.
Bake for 7 minutes, remove, rotate trays and return to the oven, placing trays on the alternate oven rack. This will ensure even baking. Bake another 7 to 8 minutes, until pretzels are evenly browned and shiny.
Cool slightly, and serve warm. Pretzels can be stored in a sealed container for 2 days, or frozen for 1 month. Reheat in a moderate oven until warm.
Makes 12 pretzels.
Nutritional Information (per pretzel): Calories: 128; Protein: 2 g; Carbohydrate: 24 g; Fibre: 2 g; Sugars: 2 g; Fat: 4 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Trans Fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 5 mg; Sodium: 368 mg; Potassium: 29 mg