Before we even left on our American adventure we had a sizeable list of foods we had to try. Armed with tips from friends, blogs and iconic films we had a pretty good idea of what we absolutely must try at least once during our month in the USA. The list included turkey legs at the theme parks, cheese steaks in Philadelphia and New York City hot dogs.
One thing you might notice about this list? Everything’s packed with meat – not the most ideal eating for a vegetarian such as myself! I left these food experiences to Kevin (who as always happily obliged) while I worked my way through a smaller, sweeter list of American treats.
One of the very first things I ticked off the list were giant New York City pretzels. On the afternoon of our first day in the city we headed into Central Park, spotted a street vendor and bought a couple of warm, salted pretzels to munch on as we ambled around the park. I fell in love with them. Their doughyness, saltiness and warmth totally appealed and I ended up eating one at least once a day.
But the pretzel munching didn’t end when we left New York – it turns out you can buy them everywhere! We ate them in Florida, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Los Angeles… every single place we visited. And as it turns out, the best weren’t even in New York – I’d definitely give that honour to Philadelphia!
Eating pretzels coast-to-coast!
After eating so many pretzels in America, I found myself missing them once we made it home. No more salty midday treats for me – back to the usual (and much healthier) fare. I’ve racked my brains and I can’t even think of anywhere in New Zealand you can buy pretzels similar to those you get in the US – if you know of somewhere, please let me know!
So this weekend I decided to bite the bullet and try making my own. After hunting around for a decent – and simple – recipe, I got to work. Having made mini doughnuts last week I was feeling rather accustomed to working with dough (not that it’s difficult!) and managed to pull together the dough in no time. After leaving it to prove for an hour, it came time for the tricky part – pulling the dough and shaping it into something vaguely resembling a pretzel.
The recipe made twelve decent sized pretzels (unfortunately none as large as those first ones we had in New York!), that I think look pretty pretzely – not perfect, but heading in the right direction at least!
But how they look isn’t really important; it’s all about how they taste. As it turns out, they taste pretty darn good! They smell doughy and buttery just like their American counterparts, but as they’re homemade are a lot softer and fresher. I’ve just downed the one so far, but can see the other eleven disappearing in a flash if I don’t get beaten to them!
It’s good to know that pretzels are one thing we can still enjoy now we’re back home.
Recipe adapted from Cooking Classy
- 2 cups milk
- 1 ½ Tbsp yeast
- 6 Tbsp brown sugar, packed
- 4 Tbsp butter, softened
- 4 ½ cups plain flour + extra ½ cup as needed
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup baking soda
- 3 cups warm water
- Coarse rock salt, to taste
- 6 Tbsp butter, melted
- Warm milk in saucepan or microwave. Place in bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle with yeast. Whisk together until yeast has dissolved, then rest for 5 minutes.
- Add sugar, softened butter, 1 cup flour and salt to milk mixture and whisk until combined.
- Change to dough hook and add remaining 3 ½ cups flour. Knead mixture on medium-low until dough is elastic.
- Gradually add addition flour (up to ½ cup) until dough pulls away from the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in warm spot until doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 230 degrees Celsius and line two trays with baking paper.
- Remove dough from bowl and punch down to release air pockets. Divide into 12 equal pieces and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
- Roll each piece out into a thin rope approx. 80cm long and form into a pretzel shape.
- In a shallow bowl whisk together baking soda and warm water. Fully submerge each pretzel into water mixture, allowing excess water to drip off.
- Place on prepared baking tray, reshaping as needed. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt to taste. Repeat until all dough has been shaped and dipped.
- Bake pretzels for 7-10 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and brush pretzels with melted butter. Best served warm. Can reheat in microwave or warm oven once cooled if desired.