Sunday 5 August 2012

Wholemeal pretzels and Pea soup

Soft pretzels, fresh from the oven, are one of life's little pleasures.  I first discovered them on a visit to New York many years ago.  Now we can find them in the markets and pubs of Melbourne.  Yet I have long had a yen to bake them at home.  A couple of weeks back I was preparing to bake a loaf of bread and suddenly I was distracted by a pretzel recipe I bookmarked ages ago.

When I tried pretzel buns last year they were disappointing.  Despite all my problems in my recent venture, these pretzels were a huge success.  I had thought they would be lots of fun to make with Sylvia.  Once I divided up the dough into 8, she had her own piece to roll out.  She rolled out a snake, made a doughnut, remade it as spectacles to wear, and then wanted to make the dough into a birthday cake for Dolly.  We got out some fancy toothpicks to decorate it.  Then we disagreed about whether that dough became the eighth pretzel.  Argh!

My timing was also out with either letting the dough rise too long or forgetting it altogether (in the last rise).  I made the pretzels between making chocolate macaroons with Sylvia, preparing her dinner, bringing in the washing, and making a case for why Sylvia should eat her dinner.  And when I finally got the pretzels in the oven, I remembered I hadn't salted them.  I took them straight out, sprinkled a little salt, Sylvia sprinkled a lot more.  But I couldn't do anything to take the shine off these gorgeous knots of dough.

I had planned to make a chickpea, potato and tomato stew for dinner.  The pretzels were so substantial and time-consuming that I postponed the stew and simplified the rest of dinner. Jules at Stone Soup, with her minimalist recipes, is the perfect place to go for simplicity.  It is not my thing so I took a two ingredients recipe and added in a bit extra.  The Pea and Pesto Soup had instantly gone on my to do list.  I only added stock, seasoning and rice.  It was easy and delicious.

The other little extra to serve with the pretzels was a tofu cashew ricotta.  It was delicious a spread and even added a wee garnish to the soup.  Dinner was delicious.  I was pleased to have enough leftovers to take for lunch the next day.  The biggest surprise was at breakfast when I had a pretzel and found somehow one of Sylvia's toothpicks had gotten into the pretzel dough!  Oops!

I am sending these pretzels to Yeastspotting.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Around Orange - the vision splendid
Two years ago: Honey, Yoghurt and Chocolate Cake
Three years ago: GYO Paradise banishes the Chutney Fear
Four years ago: My Vegetarian Lasagne
Five years ago: Favourite food books

Wholemeal pretzels
Adapted from King Arthur
Makes 8 pretzels

1 1/2 cups white bread flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
approx 1 cup warm water


1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons bicarbonate of soda (aka baking soda)
sea salt flakes, optional
1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter (I used margarine), melted

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl to form a ball of dough.  (I added another 1-3 tbsp water because mine was so dry.  This made it too wet so I had to knead in a little extra flour.  Possibly this was a result of using some wholemeal flour.)  Knead about 5 minutes or until it is soft and smooth (King Arthur says it should also be quite slack but I am not sure mine was). 

Cover with clingwrap and leave for about 30 minutes.  (I left mine for longer.)  While the dough is proving, place the bicarb of soda into a large container in which you will bathe the pretzels (I think my casserole dish that I used is about 22cm square).  Pour boiling water over and stir until the bicarb dissolves.  (Traditionally lye is used here, but bicarb seems acceptable in home cooking.)

When dough has risen, punch down and lightly knead dough.  Divide into 8 pieces.  Set aside uncovered for 5-10 minutes.  Preheat oven to 230 C (450 F).

I found a useful post on how to shape pretzels in The Kitchn.  Roll each piece into a long stick.  King Arthur said to make it about 28-30 inches (70-76 cm) but I couldn't get my head around this length so I just did 6 of my handspans (and my hands aren't huge).

Shape stick of dough into a U shape.

Twist the ends twice.

Fold the twisted end down onto the bottom of the U shape to make a pretzel shape.  Sylvia has put her 3 year old hand beside it to show that my pretzels weren't huge.

Place pretzels in the bicarb soda and water mixture for 2 minutes each, spooning water over the dough.  King Arthur suggested that you might fit in 4 at a time but I only fitted in 2 at a time.

Place 'soaked' pretzels on large lined baking tray.  King Arthur says to rest 10 minutes but I forgot this (and it wasn't a disaster).  Sprinkle with sea salt if desired (ideally not the liberally sprinkling of a 3 year old) and bake for 9 minutes or until golden brown.

When the pretzels come out of the oven, brush with melted butter.  King Arthur instruct to use all of 3 tablespoons of melted butter.  I used about 1 tablespoon and thought that was quite enough.  Great eaten warm.  Ours were still good the next day too, especially if lightly warmed.

Pea, rice and pesto soup
Adapted from Stone Soup
Serves 2-3

400g frozen peas
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup vegetable stock (I used home made)
1 cup cooked brown rice
2 tbsp pesto
1 tsp french lavender salt

Place all ingredients in a medium to large saucepan.  Bring to the boil and simmer for about 5-10 minutes to warm everything together.  Puree.  Check and adjust seasonings.  Serve hot.

On the Stereo:
Roaring Days: Weddings Parties Anything


  1. They look great - I've never tried pretzels, but now I want to!

    1. Thanks Carolyn - hope you have a go - they are fun to make

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Lisa - I think next time the knots need a bit more overhang on the edges - but I was surprised that they are quite easy to shape

  3. Oh, how fun! I have never tried baked pretzels, never mind thought to make them at home - I'm really impressed with how yours turned out (even with that stray toothpick!!).

    1. Thanks Kari - they really do taste delicious and the shape is such fun - highly recommend them

  4. Ahhhh! Yum! They do look pretty fantastic. I thought it said "roll each piece ONTO a long stick".. Glad I looked again!

    1. Thanks Matt - that is just the sort of typo I would do :-)

  5. I had a chuckle after reading the title of your post as I made pretzels to have with soup last week too! Your pretzels look fantastic and I love the extra effort you went to in getting the twists right.

    1. Thanks Mel - it is funny we both posted soup and pretzels this week - interesting to see how you made yours

  6. Soft pretzels are such a pleasure to eat. Yours look like they turned out wonderfully!

    1. Thanks Joanne - high praise coming from a new yorker - you new yorkers know your soft pretzels :-)

  7. oh eeeek! To the toothpick!

    1. Thanks City hippy farm girl - I felt the same way when I discovered it

  8. Your pretzels look great! And it's so good that Sylvia and Dolly could helpt out.

    1. Thanks Cakelaw - it was a good recipe for sylvia to and dolly to help with (but next time the toothpicks might stay in the cupboard)

  9. Your pretzels are works of art! And the soup sounds intriguing, too. I bet they made a great combination. And 30 inches of dough? had to be a typo! ;-)

    1. Thanks Ricki - it was a great dinner - mel who commented above made some pretzels and I think hers were a lot bigger than mine because she seemed to roll hers out a lot longer but she also made less so if I had done them at 30 inches they would have been much skinnier


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