By Kim Ode
Star Tribune (TNS)
Note: These are best eaten on the same day, but the dough may be mixed the night before and refrigerated. Remove dough from refrigerator at least 30 minutes before shaping pretzels. This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart.
1/3 cup baking soda
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons or 1 package instant yeast
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons room temperature butter, cut in 8 pieces
1 cup warm water
8 cups water (2 quarts)
1 tablespoon barley malt syrup or brown sugar
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Coarse salt for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spread baking soda on baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, yeast, brown sugar, salt and cayenne pepper. Stir in butter, then make a well in the center and add the water. Mix until the dough comes together in a shaggy mass. Using your hands, gather dough together and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for several minutes until it is no longer sticky. Cover with plastic, and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Turn dough out onto your work surface and cut into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into an 18-inch rope and set aside. If the dough seems sticky, flour your hands (not the counter) and roll. Repeat with remaining pieces.
Place parchment paper on 2 baking sheets and generously spray or oil well.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and place racks on bottom and upper third of oven.
With each rope of dough, form a U shape and make a twist about 3 inches from the ends. Fold the twisted portion backwards along center of U to form a pretzel shape, then gently press ends onto the dough to seal. Transfer to the baking sheet. After all are shaped, cover each pan with a clean towel and let rest for 20 minutes.
While the pretzels are resting, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil, then add barley malt syrup or brown sugar, and the baking soda. Mixture will froth. Stir to dissolve, then reduce heat to a simmer.
Carefully place three pretzels at a time, top side down, into the water. After 30 seconds, turn pretzels over. After another 30 seconds, lift with a slotted spoon or spatula, tapping to shed excess water, and return to oiled parchment paper. Repeat with remaining pretzels.
Brush each pretzel with egg yolk mixture, trying to drip as little as possible onto the parchment, then sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake for 7 minutes, then switch pans’ position on racks and bake for another 7 minutes.
Transfer pretzels to wire racks. Serve immediately, or keep uncovered at room temperature for up to 12 hours. Rewarm in a 250-degree oven, if desired.