Last fall I had the privilege and pleasure of taking a four-day baking class at the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center in Norwich, Vermont. Up until that class, for many years, I've done all of my bread making in my Kitchen Aid mixer, and it's done a fine job.
What I rediscovered in class, though, is that kneading dough by hand is not only easy, but it's a very satisfying sensory experience. You can actually feel the dough changing texture and becoming smoother and bouncier as you knead it.
The instructors also taught us about a couple of things that can go wrong in regards to flour. First, have you ever learned the proper way of scooping and measuring flour? At KAF, they do it all by weight and recommend that method for complete accuracy, but if you're like me, and can only take on so many kitchen appliances, you need to know that when people measure flour by the cup, the weight can vary from person to person and cup to cup. They even had us conduct a comparison of our measuring. Our weights for one cup of flour ranged from 4.5 ounces to 6.25 ounces. Recipes are written with the 4 ounces per cup rule. Apparently most of us were ending up with way too much flour the way we were measuring.
So, if you're not using a scale, this is the way you should scoop and measure flour: stir the flour to lighten it up. Gently scoop and sprinkle the flour into the measuring cup, and then level it off with the back of a knife. This will get you as close to the intended 4 ounces per cup that the recipe writer intended. (KAF actually knows people measure with heavy hands and their recipes, when given in cups, are written with a 4.5 ounce per cup ratio.)
So now you know that.
Second, when kneading dough, you only need the slightest film of flour on your work surface to begin. Then you want to knead your dough with a gentle touch--it is both unnecessary and counter productive to knead dough so hard that you break the dough open, exposing the sticky insides. You sort of just fold the dough over on itself and gently push it away. This is enough to develop the gluten and strengthen the dough, which is the goal of kneading. When you do need to add a little flour because of stickiness, you only smear another thin layer of it onto the work surface, and then use a bench knife to scrape the dough up onto the floured surface and continue kneading.
And there apparently is no such thing as over kneading your dough. The only risk there, I suppose, is that the more you knead the dough, the stickier it may seem and the more flour you'll probably add to counteract the stickiness. You can stop kneading when the dough is smooth and springy/elastic.
The recipe as written below calls for all sorts of King Arthur Flour ingredients and one mixing tool. You can probably fudge with substitutions, but if you want to go more straightforward, you can try the first Pretzel Roll recipe I have here on this blog. I prefer the results from this version, but I also am a King Arthur Flour fan with lots of their products.
So, the rolls. I should tell you about these rolls. On the outside they are every bit as pretzely as they look--salty, chewy, and crunchy on the bottom right out of the oven. Mmm. Then on the inside they are so soft and tender with the most fabulous crumb. I think the bread flour in combination with the magic Baker's Special Dry Milk is what makes the insides so, so wonderful.
The rolls are good straight up, or with a little butter. My son has been enjoying them as sandwich buns, and my friend Christie enjoyed hers with some yummy Vegetable Beef Soup. I try not to enjoy too many of them, because I could very easily overdo it with these things.
So there you go, yummy pretzel rolls. Very much worth the mess and the time.
Pretzel Rolls II
-- Adapted from Two Bites in Suburbia
- 5-6 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
- 4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon Baker's Special Dry Milk (or 1/4 cup dry milk)
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 cups water (110-120 degrees)
- 4 quarts water (for boiling)
- ½ cup baking soda
- additional butter (optional)
- Kosher or pretzel salt to taste
- In a large mixing bowl, mix 5 cups of flour, yeast, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and dry milk. Once the dry ingredients are mixed, cut in the softened butter (preferably using a King Arthur bowl scraper--otherwise using a sturdy plastic/silicone spatula).
- Add the water and mix until dough forms a cohesive, somewhat sticky mass. If the dough is much too sticky to work with, mix in more flour, 1-2 tablespoons at a time.
- Turn dough out onto a very lightly floured surface, rub palms of hands in flour, and gently knead dough until smooth, only adding a small amount of flour to the work surface as needed to keep dough from sticking (about 5 minutes).
- Place inverted mixing bowl over the ball of dough and allow to rest for about 30 minutes, and then knead again for another 5 minutes or so, until dough is smooth and springy.
- Place dough back in the mixing bowl (no need for a clean greased bowl), cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for one hour (or 45-50 minutes on a warm day).
- While dough rises, prepare two baking sheets by covering with a sheet of parchment paper. Place a large stock pot on the stove and fill with the 4 quarts of water--don't try to use a short Dutch oven--you'll need the head space for when you add the baking soda later. Turn water on low to get it heating.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- When dough has risen, turn up the heat on the water to medium high to bring it to a simmer/boil. Turn dough out onto a clean work surface. Divide dough in half and pull in the edges of each half to form two separate dough "pouches."
- Gently flatten each pouch into a puffy disk. Cut each disc into 12 equal pieces. Take each piece and pull it together into a little pouch and set aside.
- When all of the dough has been preformed, gently roll each one into a nice, tight ball (see video below).
- Get an old clean dish towel ready by folding it and placing it next to the pans.
- Place dough balls onto prepared baking sheets. Once all of the dough balls have been formed, place one of the baking sheets of dough balls in the refrigerator for now.
- At this point you can gradually add the baking soda to the simmering/boiling water. Then drop about four dough balls into the water and allow to simmer for about 30-60 seconds, turning over a few times with a slotted spatula. Remove boiled dough balls one at a time, wipe the bottom of the spatula off on the towel, and the place the dough ball back on its spot on the baking sheet.
- Repeat with remaining dough balls for the first pan. Sprinkle boiled rolls with pretzel or kosher salt and slash each top with a very sharp razor blade.
- Bake at 400 degrees for about 14-18 minutes, or until deep dark pretzel brown. You can turn the pan haflway through baking if you want uniform color on all rolls.
- Also, halfway through the baking of the first pan of rolls, you can start boiling the second pan of rolls that were waiting in the refrigerator.
- When rolls are done, remove from the oven and cool on a wire cooling rack.
- Makes 24 rolls
- Freeze uneaten rolls on a pan or cooling rack until frozen, and then place in plastic zip-top bags and keep frozen until ready to use. (Freezing before placing in the bags prevents some moisture condensation from the rolls messing up the salt on top.)
- I heat frozen rolls in the microwave for about 30 seconds on 50% power, or thaw at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes and then pop in a 350 degree oven for about 5-8 minutes to crisp up the outside.
|Just cut the butter into the dry ingredients.|
|Dough is mixed and ready to knead.|
|Dough after first knead--smooth side|
|Dough after the second knead|
|Risen dough cut in half. The right portion has been formed into a pouch.|
|Each disk gets cut into 12 equal pieces. Or at least as equal as you can get them.|
|Dough formed into little pouches and ready for final rolling--see rolling below:|
|Rolls boiled and salted|
|Rolls slashed and ready for the oven|
|24 glorious little pretzel rolls|