Keep in mind: carbohydrates produce sugars within the body and you need these sugars. Bread is a basic commodity made up of starch and basic sugars that are quite easily digested by the body and used to create the multiple forms of glucose that support our metabolism.
Let me say that more simply: carbohydrates produce the glucose that motivates our metabolism; metabolism is the energy that powers our body.
So stop hating on bread. Or rather, hate on the highly processed and manufactured bread from the store. The excessive processing of the starches that are used to make bread combined with the additives and preservatives manufacturing companies use to make their bread taste good and keep for an extended period of time are the culprits of bread being deemed bad for us. This version of bread should be consumed in moderation - as in, not five times a day. Don’t even get me started on enriched any-kind-of-flour…
When bread is not processed beyond recognition, it is a simple list of ingredients: milk, butter, water and yeast, little bit of sugar, pinch of salt, flour. You can use whole wheat flour instead of all purpose or bread flour. You can also substitute brown sugar for granulated sugar (the reason you want to do this is because brown sugar is less processed so a little healthier choice). Another idea, if you want to go so far, is to get either whole oats or steel cut oats and grind them in a food processor. Add your oat flour to your wheat or white flour and you now have a grain bread. Do not forget that wheat flour is a thirsty ingredient so add more liquids if you are substituting white with wheat.
Now, all that being said, let's circle back: I've decided to make my own bread.
Before you continue rolling your eyes to the point that you pull a muscle, let me also say that I have made bread before. I know what I am getting into and honestly yeast does not scare me. Also, my family doesn't eat much bread so a very small loaf will easily last us a week without having the straggler pieces that end up moldy and tossed out.
Given that I had decided this about a week before Super Bowl Sunday, I decided my first round of bread making would be Pretzel Rolls. For some reason, these sounded like a football snack and I thought they would be great for all beef hot dogs. By the way, I am fully aware of the irony in the intent to make my own bread to avoid processed crap yet I fill it with a hot dog. Leave it alone.
So, rolls are pretty standard bread fare in that you put the ingredients together, let it rise, knead, split off into rolls and let rise again. Be forewarned: the part where you “put the ingredients together” includes kneading a wet, sloppy mess. The wets and drys all get mixed as much as possible but eventually you have to add the last cup or so of flour by kneading. The dough resists this procedure with methods learned from Jamie Lee’s alien - yes, I know I just compared a baked good to alien drool.
After the dough-drool has stuck to everything in sight then gone through its mature phases of rise and knead, you’ll pinch off chunks and roll them into airy little dough balls. Make them just smaller than you want the final roll to be. Finally, it is time for the science portion of our excursion: to make it a "pretzel" you need to poach the dough balls in a baking soda bath. This was a new process for me and I have to say it did not disappoint!
While you are heating up the baking soda and water bath, the baking soda sizzles long before the water is really even hot. Before you know it, the pot sounds like it is full of seltzer!
When the bath reaches a full boil, you are ready to poach dough. You'll leave the heat up so that you do not lose your full boil but I did drop mine back just a touch so it would maintain without boiling over.
Science: The effect of the chemical reaction the baking soda brings to the dough is a change in the pH balance on the surface. The exterior of the dough changes and is more gelatinous in nature. This is how pretzels get their brown coloration. The chemical change also is the cause of the pretzel flavor and smell. (Thank you, Alton Brown.)
It is important to focus on this poaching process actually being a chemical reaction. Why? Because you need to be prepared for what is about to happen in your pot and be darn sure you have a large enough pot!
I will admit, I walked a fine line with this one! Thank goodness the foam is rather stiff so it continued to grow up and not flow over the pot! This is a 5 quart pot with 1 3/4 quarts of water in it, in case you are curious.
It was difficult not to lose sight of my little dough balls under the bio-dome of foam. In between batches of dough balls (you do three at a time) I used my slotted spoon to scoop out some of the foam and transfer it to the sink.
The poaching process exudes a less than fantastic fragrance. Think of it as no different than scrubbing your sink with baking soda. If you have an over the range fan, I strongly suggest you have it set to high. The sharp bitter, slightly chemical scent of the evaporating baking soda permeated the house. So if nothing else, your house will smell like you have scrubbed every nook and cranny clean.
After the dough balls are poached for about 30 to 60 seconds, you put them on a baking sheet and gash them each a couple times with a serrated knife. This allows for the rolls to expand as they bake. The poached surface, being gelatinous in nature, is no longer very inclined to expand.
Sprinkle with sea salt and away we go!
There were too many pictures of this process and I packed too much into this post (sorry). A project gallery page has been created. Please check it out and see the exciting results in a compressed format!
The amount of baking soda, the length of time poached and the length of time baked all affect the color of the pretzel. More is darker, less is lighter.
Keep in mind, more baking soda or a longer poach will also affect the flavor.
These are best eaten the same day they are made. I mean that seriously! The second day they were very dense and the crust was tough. Our leftovers were hard packed balls wrapped in leather.
After poaching, you can let the dough ball cool fully then set in the freezer on a parchment sheet. Once the dough is at least partially frozen, you can store however you want in the freezer. Take a couple out, thaw for about an hour before baking and enjoy!
All [creativity] is not lost...
Corissa has been an artist her entire life and attended the Art Institute for design after completing a Bachelor’s in Accounting from National American University. She validates the contradicting combination with “I love my art but I don’t have to starve for it.”
Keep up with us!