Do you know what I miss most about growing up in the Northeast? I miss the bread. The bagels, the hard rolls, the pretzels! It's just not the same anywhere else. Actually, I take that back - at least partially. I did encounter the same kind of bread outside of the tri-state (CT, NY, NJ) area once. It was during my trip to Italy - where I often turned a corner to discover a scene that could have been mistaken for my childhood in Yonkers. I'm not Italian by blood, but I am fairly certain my heart was adopted by way of my stomach long ago.
Anyway, bread. Oh bread! It's a wonder how the simple combination of flour and water can be transformed into so many amazing variations. It seems like the tiniest variance in recipe or technique results in a completely different product. Take pretzels and bagels for example. They are both simple yeasted breads that are boiled before being baked - yet they are each utterly unique foods.
The following recipe uses a soft pretzel to pay homage to its marvelous cousin, the Everything Bagel. (Don't get me started waxing poetic over Everything Bagels. I could go on and on.) The pretzels are rolled tightly into buns and then topped with an aromatic mixture of seeds, salt, and spices. After baking they are sliced open and stuffed with savory combinations of protein and cheese. These delectable little beauties are pretty much guaranteed to have you winning at brunch. I mean really. Who can compete? Marsha with her played out florentine quiche? Please.
Get out of here with that quiche, Marsha.
I didn't want to go overboard by trying to develop my own base pretzel recipe. I have used two different recipes with great success and encourage you to pick either one to use to make your dough, and to boil and bake your pretzels. The first is this Soft Pretzel Recipe From Alton Brown. It uses baking soda to boil the pretzels and is the easier of the two recipes to make. The second recipe comes from my good friend, Hilah, and is better suited to the more ambitious bakers out there. Hilah's taste better, look more amazing, and are enhanced by the magic of her proximity, but do take a little more doing. Check out Hilah's German Soft Pretzel Recipe to compare. (By the way, the recipe used in these photos was Alton Brown's)
These directions include fixings to make two different kinds of stuffed pretzels but you can certainly stick to just one type or the other if you have a strong preference. I would also encourage you to experiment with other types of fillings. Bacon, egg and cheese would be fun! Or you could get really adventurous and pull out some olives or pickled fishes. Vegetarians could opt for a roasted veggie and goat cheese combination. Basically anything you might find on a pretzel or a bagel would be great.
Stuffed Everything Pretzels
Makes twelve servings
- 1 batch of soft pretzel dough (Use Hilah Cooking's Recipe or Alton Brown's Recipe)
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- Breakfast Sausage, cooked
- Beer Cheese (Recipe) or Pimento Cheese (Recipe)
- Smoked Salmon
- Goat Cheese or Cream Cheese
- Fresh Dill (optional)
- Mix the spices, seeds, and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Preheat the oven and make the pretzel dough according to the recipe instructions. After the dough has finished rising, cut it into 12 even parts and roll each of these parts into a tube.
- Tie the tubes into knots, tucking the tails of each knot under the bottom. This should make the pretzel look like a little roll or bun.
- Boil the bagels according to your recipe. After they have been boiled and placed on a lined baking sheet, brush each pretzel with the egg wash mixture. Sprinkle the spice mixture over each pretzel coating them liberally. (You may have some leftover.)
- Bake the pretzels according to your recipe, then let them cool for about thirty minutes.
- Slice each bagel in half as if it were a hamburger bun. Smear the beer or pimento cheese onto half of the pretzels, then stuff them with sausage. Smear cream cheese on the remaining pretzels and stuff with smoked salmon. A touch of dill would be nice too - if you have it handy.