Oktoberfest has officially passed… I actually just discovered that. For years I thought Oktoberfest was celebrated all month long, but a quick google search revealed that Munich has already moved on and begun planning Oktoberfest 2016.
Well, I’m not telling. Either way, it’s still October and my culinary wanderlust is craving soft pretzels, bratwurst, sauerkraut, and mustard to go with it all. Every fall, brats and sauerkraut enter the dinner rotation at White House Red Door. One year around this time, probably for Halloween, I made “witches fingers” with homemade pretzel dough. The fingers- or pretzels seemed a natural accompaniment to the brats, so I thought instead of a “finger” or traditionally shaped pretzel, why not a roll?
Have you ever had a pretzel rolls? They turn humble fillings into something special. From burgers to cold cuts to peanut butter and jelly (which my middle guy makes himself for lunch everyday), they all taste better on a pretzel rolls. They are terrific for a snack on their own or with some spicy brown mustard for dipping. White flakes of crunchy sea salt contrast beautifully with the deep golden brown chewy texture.
This recipe makes pretzel dough and while I’ve made rolls, the final form is entirely up to you. This same dough can easily be transformed into traditional pretzels, “witches fingers,” or even letters for the pre-school set. It’s entirely up to you. Remember, have fun and play with your food!
*adapted from Alton Brown
1 ½ cups warm (110°-115° F) water
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 ½ cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 Tablespoon water
coarse or flaked sea salt
Combine water, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.
Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4-5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, rolling it around so it is lightly coated in the oil used to grease the bowl. Cover with a slightly damp dish towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot for 50-55 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.
After the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 450°F. Line 2 half sheet pans with silicone mats, or parchment paper lightly brushed with vegetable oil. Set aside.
Bring 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in a large saucepan or stockpot.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface (I did not do this, just a regular wooden cutting board worked for me- not oiled). Divide the dough into 8-10 equal pieces. Form dough into balls- by rolling and shaping with your hands. Using a very sharp knife or pair of scissors cut an X in the top of each roll. Place each roll onto a lined sheet pan.
Place the pretzel rolls into the boiling water, one by one, for 60 seconds, flipping them at the 30 second mark. Remove them from the water using a slotted spoon or similar tool. Return to the half sheet pan, 4-5 rolls per pan. Repeat until remaining rolls are done.
Brush the top of each pretzel roll with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with coarse or flaked sea salt. Bake one batch at a time until deep golden brown in color, approximately 15 minutes, or the bottom of the bun sounds hollow when rapped with your knuckles. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.