I felt very Bridget Jones today, but not in a good way that might suggest I look at all like Renee Zellweger or might be able to frolic through rainy streets in my underpants and sneakers without looking like I have to pull my nylons up (while not wearing any). Can I have a do-over?
And remember my mention of far too many bread products consumed over the weekend? I haven’t even slowed down a little bit. How quickly we forget. Or maybe just don’t even care. At least I can say it’s all in the name of research.
My 11 year old niece Emily came over today. When she comes to stay for the day, we always make bagels. Today we broke with tradition and made pretzels and pretzel rolls. Which, like bagels, are nowhere near as complicated as they sound. Honest. The dough is simple to mix and then take turns kneading, and was covered for an hour while she went off to read her book and I to the computer before we converged again in the kitchen to shape them, then boil in water heavily spiked with baking soda, sprinkle with coarse salt, and bake.
The Rustic Sourdough Bakery on 17th Ave. SW sells chewy little mahogany rolls sprinkled in coarse salt on Saturdays – they are like the very biggest, softest, chewiest part of a baked pretzel, with none of the scraggly bits. I adore them. While flipping through Tastespotting the other day I immediately zeroed in on some of the same. While most recipes are filed away in my to-make yellow milk crate (seriously, it’s brimming with torn out magazine pages and notes), this got front-of-the-line treatment.
They came close to the ones from Rustic Sourdough, but didn’t quite hit the mark. (I blame myself, and the day, although perhaps I shouldn’t compare my first try with a bakery that has been making them for decades.) I think I need to give them another go, paying closer attention to the order of things this time (I missed the cutting of the crosses, for one, which is what makes them so especially pretty) and trusting the baking soda:water ratio Sarah gives. (I was afraid they might taste metallic. They don’t.) They are chewy, and lovely, but more practice is in order. Maybe not anytime soon.
Pretzel Rolls or Pretzels
Adapted from One Fine Day; her recipe instructs 750 g of flour, which according to my calculations (and digital scale) is about 6 cups. I started with less (easier to add more than to take away) and found 4 cups, plus a little extra worked in during rolling, was sufficient.
2 tsp. active dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
2 Tbsp. canola oil
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
2 L water
1 Tbsp. salt
4 Tbsp. baking soda
In a large bowl, stir the yeast into about half of the water (measure it, then just pour a bit into the bowl to make sure the yeast is active); let it sit for about 10 minutes. If it’s not foamy, toss it out and buy fresh yeast.
Add the rest of the water, milk and canola oil to the yeast, then stir in about 3 cups of flour and the salt. Add about a cup more flour, and when it becomes too difficult to stir, turn it out onto the counter top and start kneading. Once all the flour is incorporated, keep kneading, adding extra flour if it’s too sticky, for about 8 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover with a tea towel and let rest for an hour.
Cut the dough into 10 pieces and roll each into a ball, or a rope if you want to make pretzels. Cover the balls, or shape the pretzels, then let rest for 15 minutes while you bring 2 L of water to a rolling boil with the salt and baking soda. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Boil about 3 at a time, so you don’t crowd the pot (they will swell) and bring the temperature down, and simmer for a minute per side. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and place on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Sprinkle with coarse salt as soon as they come out of the water, so that it sticks, and if you’re doing buns, cut Xs on their tops.
Bake for 20 minutes, until golden. Makes 10 pretzels or pretzel buns.
So after I downed two pretzels straight from the oven and had a minor panic attack (not over the pretzels – panic attacks burn calories though, right? my heart rate was up about as high as the elliptical trainer gets it) the doorbell rang. It was Aviv, whom I had forgotten was delivering a loaf of his hand-made bread today. I can’t wait to tell you this story.
So Aviv bakes bread. He is practicing the art of artisanal bread baking in the hopes of one day opening his own bakery. In order to practice his craft and further his endeavor to raise money for CODE, a Canadian organization that builds and supports schools and libraries across Africa, he started baking organic loaves and delivering them on his bike (he has a little covered trailer) around downtown Calgary every Monday (his day off). He started off baking 10 loaves a day, and selling them for $6 apiece. Now he has use of a larger oven space (although he still does all the kneading by hand), and today he delivered 50 loaves of delicious caraway-specked light rye, along with small pots of smoked salmon pate made by his friend, Chef Michael Saucy. Mighty cool, don’t you think?
Of course it was last week that I answered his email-out saying yes, I’ll take a loaf, and of course by this afternoon I completely forgot. So I opened the door, all full of pretzels, to a new, fresh, spectacularly beautiful loaf of bread. One guess what I had for dinner.
So now I am attempting a bread detox. Just as soon as I finish Aviv’s light rye.
One Year Ago: Coffee-rubbed Bison Steaks, Ichiban Salad, Smashed Potatoes and Passionfruit Pavlova