Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pretzels: Parmesan & Rosemary

Parmesan and rosemary pretzels, fresh from the oven and ready to party.

Basic pretzels are made with all same things as baguettes (flour, salt, yeast, and water) plus brown sugar. Toppings or roll-ins can take you in any direction, sweet or savory, simple or complex.

Rosemary pretzels, covered with chopped fresh rosemary and coarse salt, just before baking.

As some of you recall, the runner-up for the readers' choice poll was parmesan pretzels. I still had some fresh rosemary when I made these, and like all good little cooks, I decided not to let precious fresh herbs go to waste.

Parmesan pretzel, with as much parmesan sticking to it as possible.

The pretzel recipe I followed is from The Kitchen Project, a sweet, how-to website (specializing in German cuisine) that could use some layout updates. Check them out and don't giggle too much at the visual presentation, they have some good things going on in the kitchen.

Inside view of the baked rosemary pretzel.

Parmesan and Rosemary Pretzels
Adapted from The Kitchen Project

Yields 12 medium pretzels

1 C (99 g)  all-purpose flour
3/4 C (98 g)  whole wheat flour
2 T  brown sugar
1 tsp  salt
1/2 T  yeast
1/2 C + 1 T  lukewarm water
2 T  baking soda
4 C  water
coarse salt
parmesan, grated (optional)
rosemary, chopped (optional)

  1. Mix the lukewarm water and yeast, then combine with the flours, sugar, and salt, mixing thoroughly.
  2. Knead the dough for 2 minutes, place in a bowl, and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap.
  3. Refrigerate the dough overnight.
  4. Remove from the fridge and punch down the dough.
  5. Divide into 12 (or 6 for large pretzels) even pieces.
  6. Roll one piece into a rope about two feet (61 cm) long, leaving the middle third slightly thicker.
  7. Form the pretzel shape (see the original recipe for visuals), pressing ends into the pretzel to secure.
  8. Place on a lined baking sheet (I use silicone mats), cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled (about an hour).
  9. Preheat the oven to 440 F (225 C) and bring the 4 cups water and baking soda to a simmer in a pot.
  10. Drop pretzels into the water (do not crowd) to a count of 10, basting with a ladle or turning for another count of 10.
  11. Cover the tops of the pretzels with toppings of your choice (the rosemary is very nice with coarse salt, the parmesan is lovely solo).
  12. Bake 12-15 minutes, until the pretzels are nicely brown (not golden, but brown).
  13. Remove to a rack to cool (they're yummy warm and fresh, just, you know, don't burn your mouth).
  14. Enjoy!
Pretzel Reflections

The extra parmesan hanging off the pretzel is crisp and wonderful to eat.

I don't think I'd ever had a rosemary pretzel before I made them and by golly, they're delicious. Don't get me wrong, parmesan pretzels are scrumptious too, they're just not novel to me. They have this amazing butter flavor when fresh from the oven; mysterious, but completely welcome. Pretzels are great with sweet mustard, butter, cold cuts, and cheese. Feel free to get crazy with toppings and use whatever appeals to you.

I think they could be chewier; I've read bagel recipes that suggest leaving dough in the pot of water for 1-2 minutes on both sides. Still, the texture is quite nice as written.

I feel like I should be trying more savory recipes. I love sweets, but I think there are flavors and textures to be explored and there is so much to gain practicing different breads. Plus, breads add to meals, making home feel really nice (especially when it's timed just right so bread is coming out of the oven when the Resident Taste Tester walks in the door). We had these with brinner, a spread which included cheese, cold cuts, grapes, strawberries, baked beans, scrambled and sunny side up eggs, bacon, toast with butter and kaya jam, extra pulpy orange juice, canned coffee (trashy and just right), and a crepe cake to top it all off. Yum.

Note to self: keep baking.


  1. Food blogs: David Lebovitz has a great blog about French baking (and he's funny too), and 101 Cookbooks has some really interesting vegetarian-healthy-hippie food.
    Also, I think you should try making your own bagels, since they're not that different from pretzels.

  2. I love David Lebovitz; I'm currently reading his book The Sweet Life in Paris and using every opportunity to speak in a really terrible French accent with the Resident Taste Tester.

    Bagels are next on the to-do list. I've got sesame seeds that need a good home and bagels seem like just the right fit.