Go very quickly

Okay. We are just the tiniest bit short on time around here this week, so here's what we're going to do: I'm going to go back to Pro Tools and tax forms and sink scrubbing and sorting whites and darks, and you are going to do something much more fun. You are going to click over here, send Pete Wells a joyous, grinning, thankful cyber-kiss, and fire up your oven for a batch of these:

Oh, and you are going to get a jar of slightly sweet yellow mustard out. Then you are going to slide around your kitchen in your wool socks listening to Harvest Moon and doing a little jig, because you are going to be uncontainably, terrifically happy. This is one of the side effects of eating soft, salty homemade pretzels dipped in good mustard, at least in my experience.

I made these pretzels last week, with my mother, after she sent me the link to the New York Times recipe. We were up skiing for a few days in Maine, with Alex's family and my family and all sorts of cousins and nieces and plenty of beer and helmet hair and hot-tubbing. I had never come across a recipe for soft pretzels before, but if ever there was going to be a pretzel-y occasion, this seemed like it.

So I brought along some freshly ground rye flour from our grain CSA and some Maine honey and Raye's mustard and an ungodly amount of baking soda, and my mother and I put together a batch. We started after dinner, after bowls of chili and salad and homemade brownies, and we filled our tiny hotel kitchen with flour and butter and salt and stacks of carefully arranged baking sheets and teetering dishes and went to work. Between the rising and the boiling and the baking, the whole process took about three hours, which for an after dinner snack can be sort of a long time to wait. Luckily, we had a) already consumed at least twice the amount of food that any human could possibly require in a day, and b) were too busy enjoying live entertainment in the form of Alex's brother and cousin Joel playing guitar and his other cousin Sam singing every Neil Young song ever written to notice or care. About the time they made it to Unknown Legend (careful! there's noise), the pretzels were hot and soft and salty and we ate all but two right there on the spot. Alex's other brother declared them better than the ones at Bullwinkles, and we decided they were almost as much of a smash hit as Neil Young when he came out with Heart of Gold. (Again, watch out for the noise.)

I did not make a single tweak to the recipe, so when you get in to your kitchen, do just as Pete Wells says. The only words of caution I have are that thirty seconds of poaching go very quickly, so be prepared and have a baking sheet on hand and a timer and a spatula ready. Also, get some nice mustard. Heinz is fine, but it is no Down East Schooner.

Whatever you do, make these soon, and I'll see you when the laundry's done.


Emily said...

Thanks, Eb! I made these on Wednesday night and they were delish. I forgot to put the baking soda in the water for the first three pretzels that I poached, and was wondering what difference it would make. I even went so far as to mark the bloopers so I'd be able to tell which was which. No need! When they came out of the oven, the first three were pasty pale, and the baking soda ones were a nice deep brown. They all tasted great, but it was a good chemistry lesson - I'd love to know what exactly the baking soda does to cause that color change.

Elspeth said...

Interesting, Em. I have absolutely no idea what sort of reaction the baking soda causes, but it is definitely important. As far as I can tell they add to the "blowing up" phenomenon that happens in the water, but other than that I'm not sure what goes on. We need some scientists around here!

All the best,

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