Rainy days make me want to bake. I think this is probably because when I was a kid, on every snow day (or at least the first snow day of every snow day vacation), my dad would make homemade doughnuts. Here, we don't get snow days nearly often enough (hardly ever, in fact) and so those days the cool fronts roll substitute for snow days. Rainy days, work too, as long as it involves cooler temperatures and the gray clouds that roll and hang out for awhile.
Having kids changes the whole love of rainy days. After a while, when my kids on our their 4th pair of clothes for the day, I need something for them to do inside. Pulling them into my baking schemes makes the most sense and pretzels are the perfect way to do that. (M shaping a pretzel is pictured) Using the dough blade for an electric mixer makes this dough come together quickly (a little too quickly--I like to get my hands dirty when baking!). You could also do this by hand, it will just take a little elbow grease. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Needless to say, everyone loved these pretzels. We ended up baking them on the Big Green Egg and they were wonderful. (Pictured is the last pretzel, which was the only one I had a chance to take a picture of--the rest disappeared too fast).
from the Food Network, courtesy of Alton Brown
1 1/2 c warm water
1 T sugar
2 t salt
1 pkg (1 T) active dry yeast
4 1/2 c flour
1/4 c butter, melted
10 c water
2/3 c baking soda
1 lg egg yolk beaten with 1 T water
pretzel salt (or coarse sea salt or kosher salt)
Combine the water, sugar, and 2 t salt in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top and allow to sit for 5 minutes or until mixture starts to foam. Add the flour and butter, and using a dough hook attachment on your mixer, mix on low speed until well combined. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 - 5 minutes. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 50 - 55 minutes or until the dough is doubled in size.
Bring the 10 c of water and baking soda to a boil in a large pot (I used my large soup pot---the pot should be wide, not tall and skinny). Meanwhile, turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface and divide into 16 pieces (8 if you want enormous pretzels). Roll out each piece into a 12" 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 make the pretzel shape. Place on a parchment lined baking pan. Place the pretzels in the boiling water (one at a time) for 30 seconds. Remove from the water and put on a cooling rack. Brush the top of each pretzel with beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the coarse salt. Transfer back to baking pan and bake in a preheated 450 degrees oven for 12 - 14 minutes, or until dark golden brown in color. Cool for 5 minutes until serving.