It’s kind of a chilly night tonight. We’re staying at home and keeping cozy with beer cheese soup, but we needed a bread to match the soup better than a plain ol’ roll. Chef Zach his exercised his pastry abilities to make pretzels, a classic but with his own twist – well, not really, no twists but instead sticks. You can make them whatever shape you want.
4 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups of warm water, plus more water for boiling
1/2 cup of baking soda
4 tbs. of melted butter
1 1/2 tbs. of local honey
2 1/2 tsp. of dry active yeast
2 tsp. of kosher salt
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbs. of water
Coarse salt for sprinkling
Combine 1 1/2 cups of warm water, honey, and yeast in a measuring cup or bowl. Let sit until it starts to foam, about 5 minutes.
In a stand mixer with a dough hook, combine the flour, kosher salt, yeast water mixture, and butter in a mixing bowl on low speed until well combined. Turn the speed up to the second lowest setting and continue kneading the dough for another 5-6 minutes, until the dough doesn’t stick to the side of the bowl anymore and has a smooth appearance.
Remove the dough from the mixing bowl, clean out any leftovers remaining, and oil the bowl with vegetable oil or a nonstick spray. On a wooden cutting board, form the dough into a ball; use just a few drops of water if you have to, to keep the dough from getting too smooth, which would prevent it from forming a ball (otherwise the dough would slide around as you tried to form it). Transfer the dough back to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit in the top rack of your off oven for 50-55 minutes with the oven light on to proof. Once done proofing, remove the mixing bowl from the oven and begin preheating the oven to 450 degrees F. Add the baking soda to about 15 cups of water and bring to a light boil in a medium sauce pot.
Turn the proofed dough out onto the wooden cutting board. Portion out 8 pieces and shape as you like (knots, twists, sticks, horseshoes, etc).
Gently place in the boiling baking soda water for 30 seconds, one at a time, and carefully lay out on sheet pans lined with silpats.
Brush with the egg yolk water mixture, then sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for 15 minutes until deep golden brown. Cool on a rack for about 5 minutes before eating.