I've made these many times before using some discarded sourdough starter, but this is the first time I've boiled them in a baking soda solution. I'd have to say the results are stunning. I would classify this recipe as tested and perfected! These do not have a very long shelf life in our house, and you will find them as irresistible as we do. Or maybe not. We are a couple of pigs in our home. Pigs for fresh baked soft pretzels!
Sourdough Discard Soft PretzelsMakes 12 Pretzels
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 cup unfed healthy sourdough starter, straight from the refrigerator (or use fed starter if you like): see sourdough starter recipe below
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk (I use Bob's Redmill brand, but you can use any)
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) non-diastatic malt powder (I use malted milk powder)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
coarse Kosher salt; pretzel salt if you can get it
Baking Soda Solution:
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
Mix all ingredients (to exclude the baking soda solution, of course) into a mass of dough. You will now need to knead the dough – either by hand or a mixer fitted with a dough hook, until smooth. It should be slightly sticky but not wet. If it seems dry, knead in an additional tablespoon or two of water. Shape the dough into a ball, and place it in a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rest for 45 minutes. The dough will not rise a lot.
Preheat your oven to 350°F, and then put 10 cups water in a large pot and add baking soda. Bring to a boil while you are rolling shaping the pretzels.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface; a silicone rolling mat works well. Fold the dough over a few times with your hands to gently deflate it, then shape it into a rough rectangle. I love the process of shaping the dough. It's so relaxing for me.
Score it once lengthwise, and five times crosswise, to make 12 pieces and gently cut the dough into pieces; you don’t want to cut into the silicone mat, if you’re using one. Or you can eyeball the dough and cut in half, then those two pieces in half, and then each piece into thirds.
Cover the dough you aren't using with plastic wrap, so it doesn’t dry out as you’re working with the individual pieces. No need to cover if you are seasoned pretzel-shaper like myself! Haha...yeah, that's what I'm going to keep thinking.
Roll each piece of dough into an 18″ rope (approximate is fine, no rulers needed). Keep the finished ropes covered if you are just learning, so they don’t dry out.
You may find it easiest to roll some of the ropes partway. That way, each has a chance to rest (and the gluten to relax) as you’re working on the other ropes.
Shape into pretzel shapes by making a loop, twist twice, tuck ends behind bottom of pretzel, and lightly press down from the front on top of the ends. Don't worry about leaving marks since they will boil/bake out. Just be careful not to get too pushy though and press the dough until it's flat. Flat pretzels are a no-no here. Place the shaped pretzels onto parchment-lined or lightly greased (again, I use my silicone mats) baking sheet and get ready to boil them. Don't be afraid! I've done this many times and I've never drowned one yet.
The baking soda solution should be boiling. Drop one pretzel in and boil for 30 seconds. Take out with a slotted spoon and place back to its place on the baking sheet. At this time, sprinkle with coarse salt and repeat until one pan is done. You can put them into the oven and start timer now. Repeat the same process on other pan and put in the oven and start another timer or do the math.
Bake the pretzels for 25 to 30 minutes, until they’re dark brown. Remove them from the oven, brush with melted butter, and cool slightly before serving. They get really shiny and quite lovely. You almost hate to eat them...almost.
I have tested freezing the shaped unboiled/unbaked pretzel dough, and then taking them out for about an hour before I want to bake them. This will give you time to get the oven going and the baking soda solution boiling, and your appetite going...
Wild Sourdough StarterMakes about 1 cup
This will be more prolific then a couple of bunnies, that is, if you take care of it. You just have to remember that your new starter will become a living thing, and like all living things, it needs to eat. You will be it's caretaker since it can't reach out and feed its self, but since you will be feeding it, you will have to throw some of it away. You don't want a garbage can full of it at the end do you? Once you establish a healthy starter, you can take the discard from your feedings to make the lovely pretzels above.
This will take time! Just like when you raise and nurture any living thing. Pulled the following from the King Arthur Flour website. I say, work smarter, not harder.
1 cup whole rye (pumpernickel) or whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cool water
a scant 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cool water (if your house is warm), or lukewarm water (if your house is cool)
Day 1: Combine the pumpernickel or whole wheat flour with the cool water in a non-reactive container. Glass, crockery, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic all work fine for this. Stir everything together thoroughly; make sure there's no dry flour anywhere. Cover the container loosely and let the mixture sit at warm room temperature (about 70°F) for 24 hours. See "tips," below, for advice about growing starters in a cold house.
Day 2: You may see no activity at all in the first 24 hours, or you may see a bit of growth or bubbling. Either way, discard half the starter (4 ounces, about 1/2 cup), and add to the remainder a scant 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 1/2 cup cool water (if your house is warm); or lukewarm water (if it's cold). Mix well, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for 24 hours.
Day 3: By the third day, you'll likely see some activity — bubbling; a fresh, fruity aroma, and some evidence of expansion. It's now time to begin two feedings daily, as evenly spaced as your schedule allows. For each feeding, weigh out 4 ounces starter; this will be a generous 1/2 cup, once it's thoroughly stirred down. Discard any remaining starter. Add a scant 1 cup (4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 1/2 cup water to the 4 ounces starter. Mix the starter, flour, and water, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for approximately 12 hours before repeating.
Day 4: Weigh out 4 ounces starter, and discard any remaining starter. Add a scant 1 cup (4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 1/2 cup water to the 4 ounces starter. Mix the starter, flour, and water, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for approximately 12 hours before repeating.
Day 5: Weigh out 4 ounces starter, and discard any remaining starter. Add a scant 1 cup (4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 1/2 cup water to the 4 ounces starter. Mix the starter, flour, and water, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for approximately 12 hours before repeating.
By the end of day #5, the starter should have at least doubled in volume. You'll see lots of bubbles; there may be some little "rivulets" on the surface, full of finer bubbles. Also, the starter should have a tangy aroma — pleasingly acidic, but not overpowering. If your starter hasn't risen much and isn't showing lots of bubbles, repeat discarding and feeding every 12 hours on day 6, and day 7, if necessary — as long as it takes to create a vigorous (risen, bubbly) starter. Note: see "tips," below.
Once the starter is ready, give it one last feeding. Discard all but 4 ounces (a generous 1/2 cup). Feed as usual. Let the starter rest at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours; it should be active, with bubbles breaking the surface. Hate discarding so much starter? See "tips," below.
Remove however much starter you need for your recipe (no more than 8 ounces, about 1 cup); and transfer the remaining 4 ounces of starter to its permanent home: a crock, jar, or whatever you'd like to store it in long-term. Store this starter in the refrigerator, and feed it regularly; we recommend feeding it with a scant 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water once a week.