When I was in elementary school Valentine’s Day was all about friends. I considered it a great “holiday”. But sometime in my teens it became only about romantic love, and transformed into one of my least favorite holidays. If I wasn’t in a relationship then I would feel even more lonely. If I was in a relationship, then there was always pressure to find something cool to do. But even if the date turned out great, my girlfriends still treated it as no more than an expectation. Once married it became a husbandly duty to pay the exorbitant price of flowers, which triple on Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day felt a lot like mowing the lawn or taking out the trash. What’s the fun in that?
However, yesterday was a great day because I did what I loved. I cooked a nice meal (Shrimp Scampi) and made some Heart-Shaped Valentine’s Day Pretzels. I hope everyone else had a Happy Valentine’s Day too.
Cost: $1.90 for 12 Pretzels.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Low.
Started: 4:00 PM. Ready: 7:00 PM.
Chris Kimball’s original recipe for Soft Pretzels is here. The descriptions of how I cooked them today are given below:
1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups (16 1/2 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
3 tablespoons baking soda
2 tablespoons coarse salt
- Stir the water and honey together in a Pyrex measuring cup, microwave for 40 seconds. Add yeast, whisk together and allow to hydrate for 10 minutes. You should see bubbling.
- Place the salt and flour and in bowl of standing mixer equipped with dough hook. With the mixer on 2 running, slow add the honey/water mixture.
- Increase the mixer speed to 6 and mix the dough for another 2 minutes; a ball of dough will form.
- Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rest for 2 minutes.
- Knead the dough by hand for 30 seconds on a lightly floured counter. Form into a smooth ball.
- Spray a large mixing bowl with non-stick cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl and turn the dough to coat in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at warm room temperature until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Gently deflate the dough. Re- cover and let rise again until nearly doubled in size, 30 to 40 minutes depending upon room temperature.
- Meanwhile, adjust the oven rack to the middle position and pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. BEWARE: If you were using your oven to let the dough rise, don’t forget to remove before preheating.
- Add 6 cups water into a 12-inch skillet. Stir in the baking soda, and bring to a boil over high heat. It will heat faster if covered.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (roughly 2 ounces each). Roll each piece into a 20″-long by 1/2″-wide rope. Roll them first to about 12 inches, let them rest while you roll the remaining. This extra relaxation time will make them easier to finish rolling. Shape each rope into a pretzel and place on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Today I shaped them into hearts for Valentine’s Day.
- Using a spatula (with slots), gently place the 3 to 4 pretzels into the boiling water, top-side down for 30 seconds. Using tongs and spatula, carefully flip over and boil the second side for another 30 seconds. Remove the pretzels, drain briefly on wire rack, then place back onto the prepared baking sheet. The pretzels won’t rise much to you can place them pretty close.
- Sprinkle with coarse salt and bake for 14 minutes, until the pretzels are well-browned, turning the baking sheet around halfway through baking.
- Let the pretzels from cool on a wire rack for 8 minutes (no longer to serve warm) or at room temperature.
- Makes 12 Pretzels. Preparation time is 3 hours.