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This recipe is listed in the "Central & Northern European" (German) and "Breads" (yeast) sections of the YaleCooks recipe collection.

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OISS Oktoberfest 2012 Pretzel Bagels:

First added: 2012-10-13; Last edited: 2012-11-20

Hot homemade salted "pretzel bagels" served at the OISS Oktoberfest celebration (before they were retoasted).

Author: Stephen Chin-Bow (Yale College).  This recipe is dedicated to my nieces and nephews, Silas, Esther, Hannah, and Isaak, who shared with me their love of baking (and of course, eating) homemade pretzels.

Background: I will convert this recipe to also use weights, when I buy an accurate digital balance.

This recipe was first developed when YaleCooks offered to bring forty pretzels as their contribution to the "Oktoberfest 2012" celebration hosted by Yale OISS.  Folding the pretzel dough into the standard twisted shape would have required more time, more effort, more space on the cookie sheets, more care during the boiling step, more time in the oven, and more energy to heat the oven.  We decided to shape them like simple bagels.

If you plan ahead, this recipe becomes a "minimal knead" recipe (not quite "no knead", but as close as you can get).  This is a helpful characteristic if you are planning to double or triple the recipe.  Many kitchen mixers will not knead more than 4 1/2 cups of flour, but you can easily scale up this recipe.  No mixer needed.

To simplify the procedure (and for safety reasons) we use just a pot of boiling water instead of a boiling "alkaline-base" bath.  If you are seeking to achieve a more authentic German pretzel crust adult bakers can add "food-grade" sodium hydroxide or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) suggested by many recipes.  Many children should be able to make these pretzel bagels, but never use the dangerous "alkaline-base" with children.  Younger children can help shaping the pretzels, but the boiling step and using the oven should be left to older children.

The rest of the pretzel bagel story is described on the YaleCooks "Past Event Summaries" page (2012-10-04).

Please let me know if you have suggestions for improving this recipe!

Essential Supplies & Ingredients:

• oven (capable of 425°F)
• one cookie sheet (having two is better)
• a 6 quart pot with a cover (for keeping the dough moist during the rise and for boiling the bagel-pretzels)

• between 4 cups and 4 1/2 cups bread flour (brands tested: Pillsbury)

• 1 1/2 C water, filtered (source tested: New Haven)
• 2 teaspoons sugar
• 1/2 package "active dried yeast" or ??? teaspoon "bulk" yeast (brand tested: Red Star)

• 2 teaspoons salt, Kosher or sea salt

• one whole head garlic, finely crushed (optional)

• optional toppings-coating for pretzel bagels

• fresh garlic, minced
• sesame seeds
• Kosher salt


Safety First: Understand your equipment.  Read the manuals.  My KitchenAid brand stand mixer recommends using a speed setting of 2 for bread dough.  Do not exceed your mixer's operating recommendations, because you will burn out your mixer's motor (an expensive lesson).  If your mixer is not rated for mixing bread doughs made using 4 1/2 cups of flour just use the "minimal knead" approach.

Preparing the Dough: The recipe makes enough dough for 16 pretzel bagels (three to four inches in diameter).

Some bread recipes recommend preheating the water used to make the dough.  If you are a first-time bread maker do not preheat the water, because there is a risk that you will kill the yeast if the water is too hot (note that a thermometer is not on the list of equipment).  Be on the safe side and preheat the water (a microwave words well) only if your water is very cold or if your kitchen is cool (less than 70°F).  "Room temperature" water is fine.  You do not want to shock the dormant yeast.  You want to be gentle.

If you have access to "filtered water" this may work better if your local tap water has a lot of minerals.  Filtered New Haven water was used to develop this recipe, but it may not be necessary.  The YaleCooks pizza recipe was developed using unfiltered New York City water.

In a non-metalic container (eg. a ceramic coffee mug or a glass measuring cup) add the sugar to the water.  Stir until dissolved.  Add the yeast, but do not mix.  If your oven is warm (because it has a pilot light) place the container inside for a 5 - 10 minutes incubation.  I realize the Yale residential college student kitchens probably have electric ovens, so simply leave the yeast plus sugar water on the counter if your oven lacks a pilot light.

While the yeast is slowly dissolving (you will see yeast "granules" drop down through the water) add 4 cups of flour to the large pot.  Include the optional crushed garlic if you want your pretzle bagels to resemble "garlic knots".

Add the salt to the dissolving yeast.  Stir until the yeast and salt are dissolved.  Add to the flour mixture.

Using a large spoon combine the wet and dry ingredients.  First simply stir slowly until you no longer see any free liquid.  Then use a slow and controlled chopping motion to cut and fold the dough.  When done correctly, you will end up with a pot of dough pieces the thickness of a pencil.  This should take at most a minute or two.  Was that difficult?  The hard work is done!

Now, cover the pot.  If your kitchen is cool (less than 65°F) and you do not have a gas oven with a pilot light use the following trick.  Fill a second pot (whose diameter is one or two inches less than the pot with the dough) with hot tap water and rest the dough pot above the hot water pot.  Allow the wet dough to sit for at least 30 - 60 minutes without being disturbed.  The dough will begin to "autolyze" and soften during this period, making the next step very easy.

If you observe condensed water on the inside of the lid, great (yeast are happiest in a moist environment)!  Now knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until it is uniform in texture.  Depending on how your flour has been stored you may need to add some of the remaining one-half cup flour.  Using a heavy-duty kitchen mixer will save you time if you are making several batches, but for one, two, or even three batches a mixer is not necessary.

The dough should be moist and stretchy easily (and when two pieces of dough are squeezed together they combine easily), but the dough should not stick to your hands.  Knowing when to stop adding flour will become obvious after you make bread dough several times.  Here is one trick.  If you store the dough in a plastic bag the entire piece of dough should come out of the bag with a little gentle coaxing.  If you need to scrape dough out the the bag or off your hands the dough is too wet.  Add more flour.  Be careful, because it is easy to add a little flour to moist dough, but it is a lot more work to add a little water to a dough which is too dry.

Cover the pot (to keep the dough moist).

At this point the dough can rest overnight.  If your kitchen is warm (say over 80°F) it may be better to refrigerate the dough (to reduce the metabolism of the yeast).

At room temperature let the dough raise again until it had doubled in volume.  If your kitchen is cool you can use the "hot water in the second pot" trick.

Cut the dough (I use a serrated bread knife) into two pieces, then four pieces, then eight pieces, and finally sixteen pieces.  Gently (as if each piece of dough were an egg) roll each piece into a roughly round shape.  Place the dough on a clean surface such as a plastic cutting board or a second baking sheet (adding a very small coating of flour may prevent the dough from sticking).  Cover the dough with a piece of plastic (a plastic bag from your supermarket's produce section, when cut open, works very well).

Allow the dough to rise for another 30 - 60 minutes, possibly longer (the length of time is not magical).

Boiling & Baking the Pretzel Bagels:

Fill a large pot with about 3 inches of water.  Heat on high.

Turn on the oven (set it to 425°F).

If you want to coat your bagels with salt, sesame seeds, or minced garlic add a little bit to a small plate.

When the water is boiling take the largest piece of dough and gently make a hole in the middle.  You can stretch the bagel slightly, but keep the size to 3 to 4 inches across.

Gently slide (I did not say drop) the bagel into the boiling water.  Using a spoon, "slosh" water over the bagel ten times (10X).  Turn the bagel over and repeat the sloshing.  Remove from the water (using a slotted spoon or fork) and place on a plate.  This step should require at most 20 - 30 seconds per bagel.  Repeat until eight bagels have been boiled.

If you are using coatings-toppings (salt, sesame seeds, or minced garlic) pick up one boiled pretzel bagel and place gently on the plate with the optional coatings-toppings.  Lift the pretzel bagel and place it on a cookie sheet.  Repeat with seven more bagels.  Placing eight bagels on a sheet using a staggered 3:2:3 pattern (similar to the stars on the US flag) works well on most rectangular cookie sheets.

Place the pretzel bagels in the oven (which by now should be 425°F; every oven takes a different amount of time to preheat).  Use the middle to top oven rack.

After ten minutes turn the cookie sheet (so the bagels which were originally in the front of the oven are now in the back).  If you want a more even browning also flip the bagels at this time.

Bake for an additional ten minutes until nicely brown.  If you want a crunchier or darker crust bake longer.

Take your first batch out after ten minutes (and a total of 20 minutes baking), taste, and make any adjustments to the second batch.

Remove the bagels from the cookie sheet (a spatula may be useful) and place them on a wire rack to cool.

Repeat boiling, coatings, and baking with the the remaining dough. After making pretzel bagels once or twice you will know when to start boiling the next batch of pretzel bagels so the oven is never empty for more than a few minutes.

If you coat your bagels with salt it is important to place the cool pretzel bagels in a tightly sealed plastic bag.  If you do not the pretzel bagels will absorb moisture from the air.  The pretzel bagels will still be good, but they will be more like soft bialys than crunchy pretzels.  If your pretzel bagels get soft during storage simply use your toaster (overn) to dry out your pretzel bagel before eating or heat all the bagels in a 300°F oven for 15 - 20 minutes (or until the crust reaches the desired chewiness-crunchiness).

Annotated Internet Links:

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