Monday, August 31, 2009

Pretzel Bread

There are few things I love in this world more than a good sandwich. Except maybe cereal. Honestly, if you broke down my diet, it would be 80% sandwiches and cereal. The other 20% would be Spanish wine with an $8 price point. Anyway, when we were planning our honeymoon to Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula, I read about this joint called the Village Cheese Shanty, located in a historic fishing village in the town of Leland. The menu looked tasty and affordable, and I try to patronize shanties whenever possible, so we decided to hit it our first day in town.

My chicken and brie on a baguette was excellent and easily big enough for two, but when I took a bit of My Dude's turkey club on pretzel bread, I knew that I had chosen...poorly. First of all, bacon on anything is kind of a gimme, but the bread. The bread! Soft and sweet inside with a thin, faintly bitter crust speckled with salt crystals. Imagine all these flavors combining with cool, creamy mayo and the watery crunch of cucumber -- it just really ties the fuckin' sandwich together, you know?

We looked around at the local bakeries, hoping to bring a couple loves of our new favorite bread with us, but we came up empty. That left me no choice but to scour the interwebs for a recipe and attempt to recreate these warlocks for myself. The closest thing I found was a recipe for something called "bretzels" on the always-lovely Smitten Kitchen. These were more the size of dinner rolls, but it's the same basic concept -- a slightly sweet dough boiled in a sugar-soda bath, then baked. I made my rolls twice as large and they turned out about the size of bagels, just perfect for sandwiches. Cheese Shanty, you just got owned.

Pretzel Rolls
Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 1994, via Smitten Kitchen. Makes 4 sandwich rolls.
  • 2 3/4 cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose
  • 1 envelope active-dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (about) hot water (125°F to 130°F)
  • Cornmeal
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 egg white, beaten to blend (glaze)
  • Coarse salt
1. Combine bread flour, one envelope yeast, one teaspoon salt and one teaspoon sugar in food processor and blend. With machine running, gradually pour hot water through feed tube, adding enough water to form smooth elastic dough. Process one minute to knead. Grease medium bowl. Add dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

2. Flour baking sheet, or clear area of counter. Punch dough down and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 4 pieces. Form each dough piece into ball. Place dough balls on prepared surface, flattening each slightly. Using serrated knife, cut X in top center of each dough ball. Cover with towel and let dough balls rise until almost doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line another baking sheet with parchment and sprinkle with cornmeal. Bring 8 cups water to boil in large saucepan. Add baking soda and 2 tablespoons sugar (water will foam up). Add rolls one or two at a time and cook 30 seconds per side. Using slotted spoon, transfer rolls to prepared sheet, arranging X side up. Repeat with remaining rolls.

4. Brush rolls with egg white glaze. Sprinkle rolls generously with coarse salt. Bake rolls until brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Serve rolls warm or room temperature.


Anonymous said...

I'm going to try this recipe, it looks great.

Adam Rex said...

Yep, this is it–the first of your recipes I'm gonna try to myself.

Anonymous said...

I live in Leelanau County...and eat cheese shop twice per week in the summer....i'm trying it thanks!

Road Trip Foodie said...

I am seriously going to make these JUST so I can make that sandwich the Dude had.