Sunday, November 23, 2008

Learned in Amish Country

I did some research a while back on how to make hard pretzels and couldn't really find any real recipe online. All I found were recipes for soft pretzels, but my visit to Amish Country this weekend proved very profitable because the Julius Sturgis pretzel bakery explained the whole process. This place is the oldest pretzel bakery in America and they have some pretty gourmet pretzel varieties such as spicy jalapeno and cinnamon sugar baked into the dough. Most pretzels these days are just dipped in some synthetic junk to give them overpowering flavor, but these pretzels had just enough flavor to not overpower the pretzel itself. So the process of making a soft pretzel is something you can look up anywhere online. You basically make a bread dough, let it rise a little, roll it out and shape it anyway you like, dip it in some sort of caustic solution, which these days usually means a boiling water and baking soda mix, and baking it in the oven at 550 degrees until golden brown. Then, you decrease the temperature in the oven to 200 degrees until the pretzels are hard. Super easy, right! I'll have to put it to the test.

The really fun thing about making hard pretzels over the holidays is that you can shape them anyway you like and even decorate your tree with them. You can make gigantic candy cane pretzels or pretzels that look like snowmen or snowflakes or make the manger scene all out of pretzel people! Well, maybe next year I'll attempt that one:)

I also have to mention that we visited the Wilber Chocolate Company before we found the pretzel place and as soon as we opened the car doors, our senses were flooded by the aroma of chocolate and I almost died! Even though we were in Hershey, that chocolate smell was nothing like this gourmet chocolate factory. Totally delish. I bought some chocolate molds, including a two sided cornucopia that I hope to use to make a chocolate centerpiece for Thanksgiving. We'll see if it works!

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