Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Soft Pretzels

I'll be perfectly honest with you--I struggle with eating healthy foods.  Oh I know that there are some aspects to healthy eating that I have whole-heartedly embraced and do well.  For example, the majority of the food my family eats for breakfast, lunch and dinner is homemade.  I buy, prepare, and cook wholesome and organic food that contains a wide variety of nutrients from fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and meats, and I am positive that my family eats healthier meals than most.  However, that does not translate into having healthy eating down.  I don't....and unfortunately, I don't think I'm even close.

Let me explain.  Just this week I posted a recipe for Whole Wheat Bagels, and I altered the original recipe so the flour and sugar were healthier ingredients.  I substituted whole-wheat and spelt flours for the white all-purpose flour as well as substituted evaporated palm sugar for the white sugar.  These additions were much healthier ingredients, and while I enjoyed the outcome of the bagels, every time I took a bite I couldn't help but think how much better it could have been if I would have used all-purpose flour instead.  Even when I posted the recipe, I struggled with what to say because although it past the taste test to be included on my blog, all I wanted to share was how magnificent they could have been if I had just followed the recipe instead of altered it. 

And there it of my main struggles with healthy eating.

When it comes to cooking, I embrace healthy eating, but when it comes to baking, my attitude changes to why bother?  I mean what does it matter what kind of flour and/or sugar you use when you are making cookies, cakes, doughnuts (dare I add bagels?) when the point to eating them in general has nothing to do with healthy eating.  Dessert is for enjoyment right?   Who eats a chocolate chip cookie because he/she is concerned about his/her health?  My biggest question right now is when to use whole-wheat flour and healthier sugar alternatives.

I honestly don't know where the balance is.  I want to eat healthy, but I also want to eat junk.  Sweet, sugary, not-good-for-you, gooey, junk.  I like dessert.  For that matter, it's not limited just to sweets.  I like potato chips and I want to go to McDonald's and have a large french fries.  Oh the journey to being healthy...
This recipe for Soft Pretzels is not the answer to my struggle.  In fact, this recipe for soft pretzels may be one place where using "healthy" flour may actually taste good to me.  Let me ask you you think if you dunk a "healthy" pretzel into a gigantic helping of gooey, warm, sinful nacho cheese that you won't taste the "healthy" ingredients any longer? 

Sorry.  That idea didn't come from me.

Notice there is no evidence of any nacho cheese--only pictures of healthy soft pretzels here.

However, if you ask really, really nice, I just might post something about a nacho cheese delight that could deliciously accompany these healthy and tasty soft pretzels....

...and I am legitimately interested in your health struggles.  What aspects of healthy eating do you struggle with the most?  Do tell and make me feel better;-)


1 1/2 cups warm water (110-115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt plus extra for sprinkling
1 package active dry yeast
2 cups whole-wheat flour*
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

*Whole-wheat flour can be substituted for all-purpose flour, requiring 4 1/2 cups total

1.  Combine warm water, sugar, and kosher salt in the bowl of the stand mixer and sprinkle yeast on top.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes, or until mixture begins to foam.  For more detailed information on the process of using yeast, see "Let's Talk About Yeast".

2.  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 side of the bowl, approximately 4-5 minutes.  Alternatively, knead dough on flat surface for 5 minutes.

3.  Place oil in large bowl and swirl to coat.  Place dough in bowl, turning to coat in oil, cover with clean cloth, and place in draft-free spot for 1 hour allowing dough to double in size.

4.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Line baking sheet with silpat or brush with oil.  Set aside.  Punch dough down and divide into 16 equal pieces.  Roll out each piece of dough into a 18-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 prepared baking sheet.

5. Place 10 cups of water and baking soda in large saucepan and bring to boil.  Place the pretzels into boiling water, in small batches of 3-4 pretzels, for 30 seconds.  Remove from water using a large flat spatula or flat slotted ladle.  Return to baking pan.  Brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with kosher salt.

6.  Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 18-25 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe adapted from Alton Brown on
Print this Recipe.

This recipe is linked to Whats on the Menu,  Real Food Wednesday, and Living Well Wednesdays.


Miz Helen said...

Hi Holli,
Thank you so much for stopping by to have tea with me.Of course I just followed you right back here to take a look at your wonderful soft pretzels. Your recipe looks very good. I hope to see you at my Full Plate Thursday tomorrow. Thank you for sharing and have a great day!

Kimberly said...

Holli, I totally know what you mean about healthy eating. I find it difficult a lot of the time too. But I applaud your efforts, and these pretzels look delicious!

Collette said...

Hi, Holli! Well, I am glad you found my that I in turn could visit you here - I am excited to see all your recipes! They look healthful *and* delicious! :)

I have picky eaters at my house, too - I was laughing a little to read about your pretzels, because mine would totally have detected the changed recipe, too. I'd say baking healthfully is where I struggle the just can't beat a good old-fashioned choc.chip cookie, lol! :)

Have a blessed day!