Baking bread, whether as an occupation or as a hobby, is extremely satisfying. Bakers have almost complete control over their bread, requiring little more than some very simple ingredients, time and the willingness to get his or her hands a little messy.
Pretzel bread is not quite a simple as flat bread or dinner rolls, but the loaves come out of the oven with a deep, brown pretzel crust and a slightly sweet, tender center. This particular recipe should be treated as a base to which other ingredients may be added. Cinnamon and extra brown sugar can create a sweet pretzel, or garlic and other spices can create a more savory pretzel. The loaves can be baked into mini-loaves, sandwich loaves or just cut into chunks and served as a snack. If you come up with something good, leave it in the comments.
But now for the bread.
Makes : 2 small loaves.
Prep time : 3-4 hours (including rise time).
1 packet dry active yeast, or 2 tsp.
2 cups warm (110F) water.
1 tbsp dark brown sugar.
1 tbsp honey.
2 tbsp half-and-half.
3 tbsp unsalted butter.
1.5 tsp salt.
3-3.5 cups bread flour.
3 tbsp baking soda.
Step 1: Preparing the dough
Combine the warm water, dark brown sugar and honey in a mixing bowl and stir. Add the yeast carefully to avoid clumps. Stir again and let the mixture stand until the surface of the water starts to turn a light brown as the yeast begins to foam. It should take no longer than a few minutes. If your water is too hot, too cold or the yeast is bad it will not foam. It's a lot easier to deal with bad yeast or water early on.
Also, note that this recipe uses dry active yeast. fresh yeast or fast/self rising yeast can be used, but be sure to read the instructions on the packet to adapt the recipe.
The yeast, when added to the warm, sugary water, starts to consume the sugar and multiply like crazy. They are what gives the bread its ability to rise and expand later on. While the yeast is started to get going, melt the 3 tbsp of unsalted butter, then add the half-and-half. By adding the half and half to the melted butter, the half and half warms up a bit if it is straight out of the fridge. Add the tsp of salt to the yeast mixture with the butter and half and half then stir well.