I suppose the following recipe violates the general purpose of my blog: It does not feature anything local, seasonal, or even vegetable. File this one under regional nostalgia.
You see, growing up in Philadelphia, soft pretzels are a part of my culture, and they are one of the few foods associated with that city that I actively seek out (along with the occasional tuna hoagie.) They're fun to make at home, and a good recipe to make with kids: Lots of opportunities to play with dough.
Caboodle and I whipped up a batch of these on Sunday, and they gave us the fortitude to shovel out the driveway. If you make some for yourself, remember to eat them warm, preferably with a smear of mustard. (Gulden's Spicy Brown, thank you.)
Philadelphia-style Soft Pretzels
(adapted from The Philadelphia Inquirer)
For the dough:
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tsp salt
4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour, plus up to 1 cup extra flour
Canola oil, for greasing bowl and baking trays
For the boiling:
4 tsp baking soda
4 cups water
Procedure: In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in one-quarter cup warm water. Stir in remaining water. In a large bowl, combine the salt and four cups of flour. Stir in the yeast water. Add more flour, as needed, to make a stiff dough. Knead dough for 10 minutes or until it feels smooth and elastic. Shape dough into a ball and place into a greased bowl, turning to coat dough. Cover loosely and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Separate dough into 12 pieces. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll each piece into a coil, about 18 inches long and 3/8 inch in diameter, and twist into a pretzel shape. Set shaped pretzels aside, loosely covered, in a warm place.
Dissolve the baking soda in four cups of water and bring to a boil. Drop in the raw pretzels, one at a time, and let boil for one minute or until the pretzel floats. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Transfer the boiled pretzels to a greased baking sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a rack.
Optional: Brush the baked pretzels with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse salt. (Personally, I consider butter a sacrilege. Real pretzels need mustard.)