election night.

Today’s the day. Have you voted? If you live in NYC you have until 9PM. And you can find your polling spot here. GO!

We snuck a taste of our Obama Brew last week, to make sure it wasn’t going to poison any of our guests tonight and…it’s amazing.  It’s amazing because it worked, and doesn’t have that ever-so-slightly-musky homebrew after taste. And it’s amazing because it tastes like a real craft brew porter. Woo! Go White House!

We’re having folks to drink a toast to Obama tonight, and figured we’d need some snacks to go with our Honey Porter. So we made pretzels. It was an easy choice. Dan is obsessed with pretzels, and with our recent jaunt through the land of laugenbrezel, where even highway gas stations have perfect, perfect pretzels, we were missing them.

The trick to good pretzels, dark brown and fragrant, is lye. Yes, (food grade) lye, like so. Word on the street is you just won’t manage a good German pretzel without it. Unfortunately, we weren’t sure our chemistry was up to the challenge of home use without risking poisoning our guests and ourselves, and weren’t totally thrilled by the prospect of donning gloves and goggles to bake. So we took the American short cut – baking soda. (If someone out there’s an expert in lye-browned pretzels, please share!)

Turns out, with enough baking soda, and a little sugar, you can get pretty close to a beautiful dark brown pretzel! Sprinkle on some coarse sea salt (or coarser “pretzel salt” if you can find it) and voila! A perfect pair to our Honey Porter.

Also on tonight’s celebratory menu:
> That classic party snack: pigs-in-blankets. They’re super easy and super tasty to make at home (and anyways, we were on a dough kick!)
> A big batch of olive oil & paprika popcorn.
> The cheeze-its from the Orange Dinner.
> Classic rolled sugar cookies with royal icing and blue sprinkles. Obviously. (Note: we make our icing with confectioners sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice, and enough water to reach the consistency we want. No egg whites or meringue powder, and it dries to a beautiful matte finish all the same!)

Now, we wait.

soft pretzels.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 16 full-sized or 32 miniature

(We 1.5x’ed the recipe — it’s going to be a long night.)

2 cups warm water (100°F to 110°F)
1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons canola or other neutral oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt

Vegetable-oil cooking spray

1. Pour warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar into large bowl and stir to combine. Sprinkle with yeast and let sit 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy. (If you’re making your bread in a stand mixer, do this in the stand mixer bowl. We make our bread by hand, so we just used a big bowl.)

2. Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and mix until combined. Add salt and 4 cups more flour, and mix until combined. Continue to mix until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. Add another 1/2 cup flour, and knead for about three minutes. If dough is still wet and sticky, add 1/2 cup more flour and knead until combined. Transfer to a lightly floured board, and knead about twelve times, or until smooth.

3. Pour oil into a large, clean bowl; swirl to coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

4. Heat oven to 450°F. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray (parchment paper, ungreased, also works). Set aside. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, divide into 16 pieces or 32 if making minis.

5. Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip (or there abouts, ours were not as long, hence our very chubby pretzels). Twist into pretzel shape and transfer to prepared baking sheet.

Here’s the three step pretzel roll:

6. Cover formed pretzels with a kitchen towel. Let them rest until they rise slightly, about 15 minutes.

7. Once the pretzels are formed, fill a large, shallow pot with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, and then the baking soda (and step back, it foams up quickly!). Reduce to a simmer. Transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute on each side. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to back baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached. (If you’re doubling the recipe, make a new batch of sugar-soda-water half way through.)

7. Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, or eat warm.

Pretzels are best when eaten the same day, but will keep at room temperature, uncovered, for two days. Do not store in covered container or they will become soggy.


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