I'll always remember the summer of 2008 as a dream come true, full of rock concerts and soft pretzels.
Like many other families across the country, we were perfecting the art of the "staycation." People were rediscovering the glory of their own cities, neighboring towns, and even their backyards.
But perhaps the greatest gift of that season was our summer tour of concerts. For two music lovers like my mom and me, concerts were manna from heaven.
Not wanting to indulge in a heavy meal before we danced around and sang along with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Keith Urban, Foreigner, Bryan Adams or the Steve Miller Band, one snack emerged as our concert-day favorite.
But we ignored the chemical-laden, overpriced food at the snack bar and tailgated beforehand with homemade salty soft pretzels.Because said chemicals tend to wreak havoc on my allergies, I've long been a part of the organic movement. After waiting for years to be able to buy beet-colored jelly beans at the grocery store, making my own soft pretzels didn't seem out of the box.
Every concert day was highlighted by the smell of freshly baked and lightly buttered soft pretzels. You've never had a pretzel so fresh in your life as one that is warm, buttery and sprinkled with just the right amount of salt - or however you take your pretzel. They're chewy on the outside, but also perfectly melt-in-your-mouth soft on the inside.
Should you decide to bring your own pretzels to an event, here's a tip. Just beware of the folks who might come sniffing around to discover the origins of your blissfully aromatic snack.
Shaping them the first time may seem intimidating, but there's really no wrong way to twist a pretzel. Here's to another warm season full of good food, incredible memories and running down your dreams.
Salty Soft Pretzels
Recipe provided courtesy of King Arthur Flour
For the dough
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
7/8 to 1 cup warm water
**Use the greater amount in the winter, the lesser amount in the summer, and somewhere in between in the spring and fall. Your goal is a soft dough.
For the topping
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons baking soda
coarse, kosher or pretzel salt, optional (use a meat pounder on coarse salt for finer granules)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1) To make dough by hand, or with a mixer: Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat until well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, until it's soft, smooth, and quite slack. Flour the dough and place it in a bag, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
2) To make dough with a bread machine: Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine, program the machine for dough or manual, and press START. Allow the dough to proceed through its kneading cycle (no need to let it rise), then cancel the machine, flour the dough, and give it a rest in a plastic bag, as instructed above.