Pretzel logic

After our huge croissant-making success, Alyssa and I were inspired to take on another doughy task – soft pretzels! In comparison to the buttery eight-hour marathon we ran last weekend, this Saturday’s activities were a breeze, thanks in no small part to Alyssa’s standing mixer.  We let the dough rise for just under an hour, doubling in size and making it elastic enough to roll out into the classic pretzel knot!

Once our pretzels were all lined in a row, we dropped them into a pot of boiling water (with baking soda disolved in) to give them a hard outer layer.  Then, we gave them the appropriate accoutrements (sea salt, parmesan, garlic or a combination of all three!) and into the oven they went!

Twelve minutes later and the kitchen was filled with the scent of freshly-baked pretzels and we were scrambling to find the mustard!  Best served hot!  Prost, meine Freunde!

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A buttery endeavor

Recounting tales of my year abroad from over a year ago really had me longing for the sites and sounds and tastes of France.  Particularly the tastes.  So after a delicious morning spent at Tartine Bakery in the Mission, my good friend, Alyssa, and I decided to roll up our sleeves, get elbow-deep in dough and cover ourselves in flour.  We knew that making croissants would be a difficult task, but we were really pleased that our results were so fruitful (or rather, full of butter and chocolate).

Alyssa made the dough on Friday, giving it plenty of time to rise by the time we gave it a ceremonious smack with the rolling pin on Saturday morning.  We rolled it out, trying to get it to look like a square, before we gently laid down the critical 9″ x 9″ pad of butter, rotated at 45 degrees.

Then our butter was folded up into it’s lovely, doughy envelope, and put aside to chill.  After that came the process of rolling out the dough, folding it in thirds and allowing it to cool in the refrigerator.  This step was to give the croissants their famed delicate layers.  After doing this three times, back into the fridge it went, for a much longer time so that it really got cold.  We took a pause for a quick lunch, which in itself turned into the day’s second and third cooking adventures.  But that’s for another time.  Back to the butter…

We rolled the dough out for the last time, until it measured 8″ x 40″ – the entire length of my kitchen counter!  Then we had a lapse in judgment and accidentally cut the dough in half lengthwise, which meant that we’d be making a ton of tiny croissants instead of fifteen normal-sized ones.  To give them their signature crescent shape, we took triangles of the dough and rolled it up (sometimes slipping in a couple of pieces of dark chocolate), curling the ends together.  Then a quick egg wash bath, some more time for rising, and finally, we put the croissants into the oven and sat on the ground watching them bake.

And they turned out…wonderfully!  Flaky and crispy and chewy and wonderful.  We were so thrilled to see them puffed up and golden brown, and when we took our first bites, we nearly collapsed on the floor.  Delicious does not even begin to describe…

Here’s Alyssa, the brains of the operation.  She’s an expert baker who spends her free time making the most tempting and adorable treats.  I was lucky to have so good a foodie friend on my team.

And there I am, the brawn, I guess, but only because brains and brawn tend to go together.  I can roll a pin just fine, but not for more than about five minutes and I am intimidated by exceptionally large balls of dough.  And only sometimes do I bother to read the recipe.  I might not be the most skilled baking partner, but for all the fun we had making croissants, I’d definitely slip back into the over mitts again!