birthday special: chemistry-art

(A special Thursday post, for a special birthday.)

A few weekends ago, walking home well past midnight, C.T. said to me, "We should make pretzels!" So when we got back, we pulled out Joy of Cooking and checked the ingredients. We had all of them except yeast, so the project was set aside without another thought. (Did I mention it was well past midnight? Yeah.) Until this weekend - I suggested, why don't we make pretzels, because what is better than a fresh hot soft pretzel? (Answer: nothing.) So we stopped by the market, grabbed some yeast and beer and cheese for a dip, and headed back to the kitchen.

C.T. has had most of the food that I have posted about here foisted upon him, but this was the first time we had ever made something together and it turned out brilliantly. We talked about how fun cooking is, especially with yeast and baking powder and what seems like, well, science. I say, yeah, it's like chemistry, and C.T. one-ups me by replying, "It's like chemistry-art." Which is pretty much it, when you think about it. It was also the first time I'd made anything with yeast, so it was a relief to find that everything worked out. The only thing we didn't count on was how much time it would take to make these - hours, between all the times the dough needed to rise. So we watched some episodes of 30 Rock, jumping up every so often to check on the rising dough.

So we didn't wind up eating until around midnight, a fabulous dinner of homemade pretzels and beer cheese dip, because we are Grown Ups and can Do What We Please. I also took a lot of pictures of the process because, well, it'd be silly to have both of us kneading and also because, as C.T. noted, "you should put this in your blog." Oh, what a time to be alive! Anyway, instead of trying to cram all the pictures in this post, I'm just going to link key parts to the flickr pages.

Adapted from Joy of Cooking

Remember, these take hours to make, so you've got to be dedicated to the process. That said, the process is so totally worth it. These pretzels are magnificent. You'll probably feel that way, too, after you've made and eaten them. I know we did.

1 pkg active dry yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp baking powder

Combine the yeast with 1/2 cup warm water and let sit for about five minutes, until the yeast has dissolved. When it has, add the flour, butter, sugar and salt and mix while slowly adding another 1/2 cup of warm water. Mix for about a minute - the dough should be moist but not sticky. You may have to add some more flour or water (we had to add a couple dashes of flour). Knead the dough for about ten minutes until it smoothes out. Transfer to an oiled bowl and make sure to turn it to completely coat the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit and rise for about an hour, or until it's doubled in volume.

Punch down the dough (this was one of our favorite parts) and separate it into twelve dough balls. Cover these with plastic wrap (lightly oiled) and let them rise for ten minutes. While they're doing that, grease two baking sheets. Now comes the fun part: make each ball into a rope, like you may have done in art class with clay as a kid, and make the pretzels. Don't forget to twist the middles! Put the newly-made pretzels on the baking sheets and let them rise again for about 35 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine 8 cups of water with the baking powder in a pot and bring to a boil. Don't worry if it seems like a chemistry experiment. Reduce the heat to a simmer. When the pretzels have finished rising, slide a few at a time (we did four) into the pot. Leave them for 30 seconds, then flip and let them simmer until they puff up. Sometimes this happens right away, sometimes it takes 30 seconds. Place them back on the baking sheets.

Sprinkle with some course sea salt, if you'd like, and put them in the oven. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until they are golden brown.

Makes 12 pretzels. Store in an airtight container.


  1. These look so damn good. My mouth is watering...

    Also, that cheese dip looks deadly--in the best way possible.

  2. Anna, thanks! Yeah, that cheese dip recipe made way way more than we were expecting and it was also delicious. All in all, a success!

  3. i think i might try it... my new year's relolution was to learn to make bread, and i need to get to it.
    ps, i miss you! and i like your blog!

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Liza! (And for the compliments! I miss you too, lady.) The process is pretty easy, just time-intensive.

  5. These pretzels look amazing and doughy and wonderful. Also with cheese? Almost too good.

  6. Why hello, Jodi! They were all of that, to be sure. I keep craving them, more than a week after the fact. It's too bad they take so much time...