SOFT PRETZELS: Yesterday we discussed the difference between classic Pennsylvania Dutch cooking/baking and Amish cooking and baking. Homemade pretzels is one of those “borderline” recipes. While a lot of Amish do make homemade pretzels they tend to be something mainly found in Pennsylvania. And the Amish that make them there have picked up the culinary tradition from Pennsylvania Dutch in the area. So while pretzels aren’t Amish in origin, the basic ingredients needed for a homemade pretzel made them an attractive and logical treat for Plain cooks to adopt.
Perhaps the most well-known Amish pretzel baker is Anne Beiler, founder of the Auntie Anne’s Pretzel chain (pretzel dog, anyone?). She was born into an Old Order Amish home in Pennsylvania, but the family switched to the Amish Mennonite faith when she was a young child. Anne Beiler started selling pretzels from a farmers market stand years ago and now sits atop a pretzel empire with outlets all over the world. What is your favorite Auntie Anne’s pretzel? I like the pretzel nuggets dipped in cream cheese. Yum!
Many Amish and Mennonite bakeries now sell homemade, hand-made pretzels like these seen in the bakery case at one of my favorite Amish bakeries: Keim Family Market in Adams County, Ohio. Yum, yum, I like these dipped in spicy brown mustard or cream cheese.
And The Amish Cook’s recipe for homemade pretzels is not to be underestimated also. LA Weekly, a prominent Los Angeles newspaper, in calling The Amish Cook’s Baking Book one of their top cookbooks for 2009 said this about the Amish Cook’s recipe: The soft pretzel recipe doesn’t offer a single tip for shaping the dough into a pretzel shape — the photo provides all the information you need. The absence of all the usual recipe clutter enticed us to make the pretzel on a whim over the weekend: these took 30 minutes from start to finish. There isn’t even a rising time given (most soft pretzel doughs are left to rise for an hour). But when your panic subsides, you realize by the time you carefully brush the dough with beaten eggs and sprinkle each with salt, they’ve risen just enough. The pretzels come out of the oven gloriously misshapen, barely golden and without that bagel-like crust: these are not boiled prior to baking. But they’re warm, doughy, satisfying and exactly what we were craving on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
Okay, it’s hard to beat Auntie Anne’s pretzels, but you can make your own. They are really easy. Above is a photo of the pretzels when reader Susie C. made them. Try this recipe from The Amish Cook’s Baking Book:
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm but not hot water
1 3/4 cups bread flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
coarse salt for sprinkling
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yeast, sugar, salt and warm water. Stir in the flour until a rough ball forms.
3. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead with lightly floured hands until smooth (about 5 to 8 minutes).
4. Divide the dough into 6 equal balls. Roll each into a rope about 10 inches long. Shape into pretzel forms. Brush the pretzels with the egg and sprinkle with the salt. Bake until barely light golden, about 10 minutes.