This is going to sound ridiculous: We’re relocating again. In two weeks, possibly three, it’s right back to the town we left not four months ago. It seems like we just finished unpacking, and now we have to repack? Search for another new home? Too soon.
Despite my best efforts to ignore the fact, the stack of boxes in the living room grows daily. The bookshelf is packed, the guest bedroom slowly returns to empty, suitcases bulge with cold-weather clothes, less essential kitchen items wrapped carefully and marked FRAGILE. Soon enough we’ll be running out of tape and biceps. I’ll accumulate an impressive display of bruises; well on my way already.
In gathering up the closet I came across a stack of old photos. This one gave me an idea.
1989 — my grandparents’ ploy to keep little hands occupied
A floury diversion? You bet! The fact that we’re back to Corpus before the month’s end remains, but it shouldn’t be so stressful, nor should it keep us from enjoying starchy snacks.
These are exactly what you imagine a soft pretzel should be; golden, chewy, yeasty. The addition of celery seed and cayenne bumps the flavor to another level and updates a classic German recipe. Eat them warm out of the oven: dipped in spicy German mustard, alongside bowls of creamy Wisconsin cheddar ale soup or plain, in all their glory.
Whether you’re stressed out about work, your kids’ homework or an impending move, these knotted snacks are a happy diversion — and for those of you lucky folks without a care in the world, simply a treat.
Soft Pretzels [makes 12]
2 1/4 t dry active yeast (1/4 oz or 1 packet)
2 t brown sugar
1 c warm water (110° to 115° F)
3 c all-purpose flour
1/4 t coarse salt
1/8 t cayenne pepper
1 t celery seeds, lightly crushed (or powdered)
2 T unsalted butter, softened
cooking spray, to coat pans
3 T baking soda
1 T pretzel salt, or more coarse salt
Whisk yeast, brown sugar and warm water in a small bowl until sugar and yeast are completely dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, cayenne and celery seed. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Slowly pour yeast mixture over flour mixture, stirring to combine. Using a stand mixer with the dough hook attached and running on the lowest speed, or your hands on a floured surface, knead 5 minutes, until dough is no longer sticky. Cover with plastic and let rise 30 minutes.
Lightly spray 2 large baking sheets, and set a wire rack over a few paper towels.
Cut dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each into an 18″ rope directly on the countertop or on a large wooden cutting board (no flour). Form a U shape with 1 rope and twist ends together twice. Fold twisted portion backward onto the center of U shape to form a pretzel shape, then gently press ends of rope into dough to seal. Transfer to a baking sheet and repeat with remaining balls of dough. Let rise uncovered 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 475° F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add baking soda. Boil pretzels in batches until puffed and slightly shiny, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to prepared wire rack to drain. Return to baking sheet, sprinkle with pretzel salt, and bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Pretzels will keep, uncovered, at room temperature for up to 12 hours, and in a sealed container for up to 2 days. Rewarm in a 250° oven if desired.
Adapted from Martha Stewart