Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter Pretzel Nests

This Sunday is one of my favorite holidays. Easter! And yes, I will most definitely be at church that day, but I'll also have an excuse to hang out in the kitchen for multiple hours. Without anyone thinking I'm crazy.

Easter is a great excuse to cuteify everything. Eggs go from white to colored, bunnies appear on everything, and no one thinks anything's off. Yay! 

To combine my love of cute with Mr. S's love of pretzels, I came up with this idea - Easter pretzel nests! Perfect for pleasing both your soft-pretzel-loving husband and your cute-loving self. Triumph!

Begin with warm water, yeast, and sugar in your KitchenAid's bowl. But which kind of yeast?

Why, the open one of course. We don't need the rapid rise, because we are going to proof it. Let the water, yeast and sugar sit for 5 minutes until it's all bubbly. If it doesn't get foamy and bubbly, throw it out and start over (the yeast was dead).

Once the yeast is bubbly and foamy, measure out your flour. We want 22 oz. 

If you don't have a little kitchen scale, I highly suggest getting one. They are pretty cheap, and indispensable when it comes to this type thing. One recipe I read for pretzels said you wanted 22 oz, or about 4 1/2 c. Well, I measured out 22 oz of my store-brand flour, but cup-wise it was 3 1/2 cups... I've got some seriously heavy flour. Be aware you guys!

Mix the flour, melted and cooled butter, and salt into the foamy yeast. 

Now, with your dough hook on the KitchenAid, beat it on low for several minutes. 

Until a ball forms. Beat that ball on medium speed for 4 minutes or so. You're kneading!

Take the slightly sticky dough ball out of the bowl. Grease the bowl up with Crisco or veggie oil.

Dunk the ball back in there, top first, and swirl it around. Flip the ball over and dust with a sprinkling of flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place (like a 150 degree oven).

While you're waiting on the bread, lets color eggs! First - hard boil those suckers. Fifteen minutes in boiling water should do the trick.

Then, follow the directions on the back of your favorite egg dye to set up your bowls.

I think I could dye eggs every day and not get tired of seeing the transformations....

Some of my eggs look a little spotty. I tried to create polka dots with a bit of parafin wax I had lying around. The boiling water melted it... so I have slightly spotted eggs.... Oh well. 

Back to the dough! It's ready!

Nicely doubled in size. Now, dump it out on a slightly oiled counter and cut into 12 pieces. Aka, 6 pieces per half.

Now, while you shape the pretzels, but 14 c. of water on to boil. Dump in a cup of baking soda. Stir it in.

Back to the pretzels!

I've got two types of nests for you to choose from. One that looks more braided and nest-like, and one that more resembles the thorny crown that Jesus wore. 

We'll start with the braid:

Roll your dough out into a rope, about 18 inches long. Bring one end around, making a circle in the middle. Twist the end around the circle. 

Now, wrap the other end around the other half of the circle. Be sure to pinch those ends together well!!

Lay your finished twists on a lightly oiled, parchment-lined baking sheet.

Now for the other option - and it's easier.

Roll your dough out into a 12 in long rope. Loop it into a circle and twist the ends together to seal. 

Take a pair of kitchen shears (or clean scissors) and make small snips around the inside and outside of the ring. 

Place the finished dough rings on a lightly oiled, parchment-lined baking sheet.

Now, dump the rings, a few at a time, into the boiling water/baking soda. Let them cook for 30 seconds, poking them down into the water with a spatula a few times.

With a slotted spatula, gently remove the rings and place them back on the baking sheets. Brush your boiled rings with an egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

They'll look a little puffier once they've gone for their bath. 

Now, into the oven they go! 425 degrees for 12-14 minutes. 

Once they're nice and brown, you can take your eggs and nest one in each hole.

Or you can just leave them plain. They'll get eaten either way!

Easter Pretzel Nests
Makes 12 nests
Adapted from Joy the Baker

1 1/2 c. warm water
1 tbsp sugar
1 package active dry yeast
22 oz flour
2 tbsp melted and cooled butter
2 tsp salt

14 c. water
1 c. baking soda
1 egg, beaten + 3 tbsp water
Coarse sea salt for topping

12 hard boiled, colored eggs

Combine the warm water, sugar and yeast in the bowl of your KitchenAid mixer. Let sit for 5 minutes. If yeast is foamy and bubbly, proceed. If not, start again. 

Add flour, salt, and butter to the foamed yeast mixture. With the dough hook on the machine, beat on low for several minutes until a ball of dough forms. Once the ball is formed, increase the speed to medium, and beat for 4 more minutes. Remove the dough ball from the bowl and scrape off sides if necessary. Grease the bowl with Crisco or oil. 

Return the dough to the bowl and sprinkle with flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour, until doubled in size. 

Once the dough has risen, divide into 12 equal-sized pieces. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Put the 14 c. water and baking soda into a large stock pot and set to boil.

Roll out the pretzels on a lightly oiled surface, using either method listed above in the photos. Set completed rings on lightly oiled, parchment lined baking sheets.

Dunk completed rings, a few at a time, into the boiling baking soda mixture. Allow to boil for 30 seconds. Remove rings with a slotted spatula. 

Brush boiled rings with the egg wash and sprinkle with salt.

Place in your 425 degree oven, with the racks in the top 3rd and middle of the oven, for 12-14 minutes. Or until a dark golden brown. 

Once the pretzels are browned, put on plates and insert the colored hard-cooked egg into the center of the ring. Serve.

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