Friday, September 13, 2013

Pepperoni and Cheese Soft Pretzels

When I was in the States earlier this year, I was introduced to Wetzel's Pretzels and Auntie Anne's delicious baked pretzels. I'm a carb whore (no shame ;)), so of course I fell in love with the soft, chewy breadiness that both brands had to offer, and I promptly asked the Google if there was any likelihood I would be able to find a Wetzel's or Auntie Anne's in Canada, or at least close to my neck of the woods. And the answer was a resounding no. A few months after I got home, while at the grocery checkout the latest issue of Bon Appetit boasted a recipe for a simple dough that could be used to make (you guessed it) soft pretzels! Let me tell you, it was $5.99 well spent :) You can go crazy with toppings, or add-ins (pearl sugar, anyone?), and this particular time I was hankering for some pepperoni and cheese pretzels (this one might look at bit strange because it was vegan pepperoni and tofu cheese) and they certainly did the trick!

Pepperoni and Cheese Soft Pretzels (just barely adapted from Bon Appetit April 2012)

For the dough:
1/2 cup milk (recipe calls for whole, I used 2% skim)
4 tablespoons, sugar (divided)
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 large eggs, at room temp.
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour, unbleached
1 teaspoon salt 
1/2 cup (or 1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp; cut into 1" pieces
an extra 1/2 tablespoon of butter, melted

1 package of pepperoni slices (or your choice of meat)
1 package of mozzarella cheese, grated

1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until the temperature of the milk reaches 110-115 degrees. Transfer the milk to a 2 cup measuring cup and stir in 1 tablespoon of sugar. Sprinkle the yeast into the milk; whisk to blend. Let it sit until yeast foams (~5 mins). Then add eggs and whisk until smooth.
2. Break out the stand mixer and pop in your dough hook. Combine the 3 tablespoons sugar, flour and salt in the mixer's bowl. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients and start the mixer. Add the butter, one piece at a time, mixing well between each addition. Mix on medium speed for 1 minute, then knead on medium-high speed until the dough looks soft and silky (~5 minutes). 
3. Grab a medium-sized bowl and brush the melted butter onto it; place the dough in the bowl and brush the top with melted butter. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.
4. Allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft-free area until it's doubled in size (~1-1 1/2 hours). 

Making the pretzels:

1. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Punch down the dough and divide into 12 equally sized pieces.
2. Take one piece of dough (cover the rest with a tea towel) and roll it on a lightly floured surface into a (approx.) 17" rope. Form the rope into a U; lift the top left end and fold it over (or under) the opposite side. Gently press it together about 2/3 of the way down from top right side. Lift the right end up and fold it over (or under) and press it in; it should look like a pretzel :)
Now do the same thing with the 11 other pieces of dough.
3. Place 1/2 of pretzels on each sheet spaced ~ 2" apart and loosely cover them with plastic wrap. Let them rise again (warm, draft free area!) until they're puffed, but not doubled (~30-45 minutes).
4. Arrange the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (~190 Celsius).
5. If you want glossy pretzels, beat an egg white with 2 teaspoons warm water and brush this egg wash on the pretzels prior to arranging pepperoni on the pretzel. Sprinkle with grated mozzarella.
6. Pop your pretzels in the oven and bake for ~10 minutes; rotate the baking sheets and continue to bake until they're golden (~6-8 additional minutes). Let cool on wire rack and enjoy!

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