Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pretzel Dogs!

Since they first appeared on the scene (longer ago than you'd think) I've been a fan of pretzel dogs, food that is greater than the sum of its parts. At shopping mall pretzel stands, however, they have often been sitting out for hours, the poor hot dog shriveled and dry. So why not make them at home? Lye, that's why. Real pretzels are dipping in lye, which I was wasn't quite ready to tackle. But then I saw Harold McGee's article on getting the lye effect (which both adds flavor and gives you that great mahogany sheen) from plain baking soda, so I no longer had an excuse. I can't say that baking soda aspect quite worked out, but more about that later. Making pretzel dough is easy (I even made some with my beloved sourdough, but they didn't prove to be any better, so I'll give the basic recipe here, with a nod to the New York Times, from which it's adapted. The result? Absolutely fantastic! And I can attest to the fact that they reheat well.

Pretzel Dogs

6 hot dogs (preferably natural casing dogs such as Nathan's or Boar's Head
425 grams (about 3 cups) bread flour
236 grams (about 1 cup) tepid water
1 Tbl instant yeast
1 Tbl lard or unsalted butter (of course, I used lard)
1 1/2 teas kosher salt
1-1/2 teas brown sugar

1 cup baking soda (for dipping)
1 egg, mixed with 1 Tbl water (optional)
Coarse sea salt

  1. Prepare the baking soda dip: sprinkle about 1 cup of baking soda onto a small pan and bake at 300 deg. F for one hour.
  2. Mix flour, yeast, kosher salt, sugar, lard and water and let sit for 20-25 minutes, covered with a dish towel. If mixture is too stiff add up to another 10g water.
  3. Knead on a countertop for about 8 minutes. Dough will be very stiff and tight, but should become glossy as you knead.
  4. Cut dough into six equal pieces of about 115 g each
  5. Cover and allow to rest 5-10 minutes
  6. Roll out pieces into long ropes about 20-22 inches long
  7. Spiral each rope around a hot dog. Cut off any excess.
  8. Cover with dishtowel; allow to rest 30 minutes
  9. Place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour, and up to overnight.
  10. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  11. Prepare you "lye" dip. Now here's where it get's interesting. McGee says to dissolve 3/4 cup of the baked baking soda with 2 cups water. I couldn't get that much soda to dissolve in only 2 cups water, and most other recipes that use baking soda use that much in 2 quarts of water. I think Mr. McGee may have a typo, and it should be 2 quarts. Whichever way you go, dip the pretzel dogs in the baking soda mixture, then rinse in clean water; pat dry and place on baking sheet.
  12. Optionally paint with egg mixture (this shouldn't be necessary, but my first batch had no sheen at all) and sprinkle coarse sea salt onto top of each.
  13. Bake for 15 minutes or so, until pretzels are deep golden brown. Let cool a few minutes before eating. Great with Dijon mustard and a cold beer

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