Today I had the pleasure to join a cross-section of the St. Louis food blogging community for the Share Our Strength National Bake Sale -- a coast to coast, one day effort to raise funds to fight childhood hunger in our country.
Bloggers from all over St. Louis pitched in and made baked goods to sell, and I'm pleased to report that we vastly exceeded our fund-raising goal. The baking talent on display today was something to see -- tables covered two tiers deep with cookies, bars, cupcakes, muffins, bread, pies, cakes and my personal contribution, soft pretzels spiked with roasted garlic.
I've been practicing these pretzels all week and I expect them to quickly become a regular around the house for parties and night time snacking. While the process is a bit cumbersome and time consuming, the end product is soft, chewy and salty -- with a hint of roasted garlic that grows stronger with time. For me, they are worth the extra effort, and because they freeze well, they trump any snack you are going to find in the freezer section.
My pretzel recipe is based on Alton Brown's modified bagel/pretzel formula, which produces a great soft pretzel. Alton's recipe starts with:
1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
I've taken this recipe and changed it a bit with the addition of a tablespoon of honey and roasted garlic, mashed with a fork and blended with olive oil -- infused with an essence of garlic from roasting -- before combining it with the dough.
Besides my additions the process and times required to make these pretzels do not deviate from the original recipe.
The key to Alton Brown's method is a bath in baking soda and simmering water, which along with a thin coat of egg wash applied before baking help to achieve a brown exterior. The quick dip also helps set the pretzel, ensuring that it has that soft and chewy interior that is the hallmark of a good soft pretzel. I also think the additional sugar -- in this case honey -- helps with the browning as well. I noticed a distinct difference in color between batches made with and without it.
I'm glad that these pretzels worked out and that so many people enjoyed them. More than anything though, I'm glad that our community of St. Louis food writers came out to support this great cause. Many, many thanks to you for donating your time and talents to support this event. Many thanks as well to my co-organizers for this event, Stefani Pollack (Cupcake Project) and Kimberly Henricks, (Rhubarb and Honey) who did an amazing job -- and the lions share of the work -- to make today a success. Kudos are due to them.
Lastly, but no less importantly, many thanks to Jonathan Pollack for the photos. They look delicious, as always.