I’m out of things to say my friends, and I yet I sit here and write because it makes me feel better. It’s been a hard weekend. I stood with my mother at the bedside of one of my uncles today during the last hour of his life. I don’t have answers as to why some lives are so much more difficult than others. His life has always been difficult and yet honestly, he was mostly a really cheerful guy. How? I have no idea. I would not have endured with as much vigor and zest for life.
How do we rationalize our own good fortune? How can we ever be grateful enough and yet try to understand why others are suffering or have suffered their whole existence? Why me? Why have I been so lucky, and why have others not? The only explanation I have is that life is rather twisted and inexplicable and mostly unpredictable.
Pretzels seem a good fit for this post. I had made pretzel dough this morning to celebrate the Super Bowl. I had not twisted nor shaped them before I left for the hospital. And yet when I came back, sad and a little lost, being able to run the dough through my hands and twist was exactly right for me.
Although really, I only twisted one myself, and instead snapped pictures and barked orders to my husband and daughter about salting this or basting that (had to keep my hands flour free, egg free and salt free to touch my precious camera). It felt right, to make a mess, to not care that flour was here and there, and my counters were cluttered and the sink was full. It just seemed apropos and cathartic.
So, I am sorry this post is rather depressing, but it wouldn’t be right to pretend that things are rosy today and that my post really means anything at all.
In fairness to those of you who come solely for the food, the pretzels were marvelous (I can’t say that word, nor type it without thinking of Billy Crystal’s impersonation from SNL) and the spicy Dijon and honey dip was the perfect accompaniment. They are an Alton Brown recipe, and they are pure pretzel heaven; soft on the inside with a touch of crunch on the outside and that yeasty taste that goes smashingly with salt and mustard and an ice cold beer. I’ve made pretzels before but no recipe quite captured exactly what a pretzel should be until now, until this one so I highly recommend making them when you need to do a little dough work or feel like some twisting…
Soft and Chewy Pretzels with Spicy Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
Pretzel Recipe taken directly from
Alton Brown on Food Network.
Makes 8-9 Large Pretzels
1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Honey Mustard Dip
1/4 c. yellow mustard
2 T. Dijon mustard
1 T. honey
Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top.
Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in 8-quart pan or stockpot.
In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
Place the pretzels into the boiling water, one at a time, for 30 seconds, flip it over with a slotted spatula at 15 seconds. Remove from the water with the slotted spatula.
Place the pretzel on a cooling rack with a paper towel underneath the rack to catch the drips, and brush the top with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt.
Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool for about 5 minutes.
To make the dipping sauce: Simply stir together both mustards and honey until well combined. That’s it. Dip those bad boys in the mustard and take a bite of pretzel heaven.