Plain soft pretzel rods and doughnuts, parmesan cheese rods and cinnamon-sugar rods
Soft pretzels have a definite following, and people are passionate about them. Somewhere along the line, I never seemed to try the tang of hot soft pretzels dipped in mustard. So, I was basically curious - what are soft pretzels, and can good ones be made gluten-free?
A number of gluten free soft pretzel recipes are available on the internet. To find out what the mainstream thought about soft pretzels, I consulted the opinions of passionate bakers - http://www.thefreshloaf.com/recipes/pretzels - bunches of them. An interesting gluten-free recipe is from the makers of Expandex, a proprietary modified form of tapioca flour. I use small amounts of Expandex in a number of my breads, and I believe it improves the stretch and overall quality. Another interesting soft pretzel can be found at Celiac.com - http://www.celiac.com/articles/878/1/Soft-Pretzels-Gluten-Free/Page1.html. This one was quite different in as much as the pretzels were not boiled - the unbaked pretzels are just dipped in water to which baking soda has been added. While I was doing internet research another soft pretzel recipe was posted, one from a Food Network chef, Alton Brown http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10736/soft-pretzels-alton-brown-style. Here would be a new taste to try.
OK, lots of recipes. Which one or ones to try? First of all, soft pretzels are boiled. Nix the Celiac.Com recipe. I was out for authenticity. Boiled in lye? Nope, not that much authenticity! Alton Brown's recipe? Yes, but not to the exclusion of what mainstream recipes appear to be. Alton Brown's looked kind of like a hybrid bread-pretzel.
The Expandex recipe would be my starting point for the basic authentic pretzel - http://expandexglutenfree.com/downloads/recipes/pretzel-recipe.pdf. I chose this recipe because it seemed that use of corn syrup would overcome the inherent dryness and inflexibility of a rice and tapioca flour mix. Based on my experience with Expandex and its high cost, the proportion of Expandex in the original recipe seemed too high. I cut way back. That was a good idea because the pretzels were plenty chewy. I'm no fan of white rice, or even brown rice so much. So, I made two versions - one with brown rice and one substituting sorghum for the brown rice.
The result of my first venture into soft pretzels was a chewy product that my wife and daughter said tasted similar to the wheat-based soft pretzels. Both the brown rice pretzels and the sorghum pretzels are quite good. They are different. Both types of pretzels re-heat well. I store the finished pretzels in the refrigerator, individually wrapped, and heat them at 450° F for a few minutes. They become warm and aromatic.
Following the last comment in the http://www.thefreshloaf.com/recipes/pretzels recipe, I boiled the pretzel dough in 1 quart of water to which 4 tablespoons of baking soda had been added. The Alton Brown recipe uses the same proportion of baking soda to water - 1 Tablespoon per cup, but with 2-1/2 X the amount of boiling water and 2-1/2 X the amount of baking soda.
Using the recommended amount of water, the rice flour dough was pretty inflexible and could not be formed into the traditional twisted shape of wheat flour-based pretzels. To make a twisted pretzel in the future I might add a few additional drops of water and roll the pretzels out thinner than the 3/4" diameter recommended by the Expandex recipe. There was nothing wrong with the rod or doughnut-shaped pretzels, however.
|3/4||Cup||Tapioca flour (In a future experiment I might try equal amounts of tapioca flour and either brown rice or sorghum.)|
|1||Tablespoon||Expandex (or Tapioca flour if you do not have Expandex)|
|1||Tablespoon||Sweet rice flour|
|1/4||Cup||Brown rice flour or sorghum flour (In a future experiment I might try equal amounts of tapioca flour and either brown rice or sorghum.)|
|2 tablespoons||+ 2 teaspoons||Potato starch|
|2 tablespoons||+ 1 teaspoon||Potato flour (If you don't have potato flour, grind up instant mashed potato flakes. It will not be as smooth as potato flour.)|
|1/3||Cup||Water - 110° F - 120° F|
|1||Tablespoon||Light corn syrup|
|1||Egg, plus an additional egg yolk if you are using the egg wash.|
I made the Alton Brown version using a modification of a millet-sorghum flour blend developed by Annalise Roberts. The Alton-Brown pretzel is more bread-like and not as chewy as the version above. I've successfully used this flour blend in a really nice, crusty dinner roll (click here). The pretzel dough, using the proportion of melted butter and water to flour, was very soft and hard to work with because it had no body whatsoever. But it was easy to shape. As you can see, the dough "broke" while it was rising in the oven. This dough has a nice oven spring. In the future I would start with 1 cup of water and then add water by the tablespoon until the texture of the dough was just right consistency for rolling and shaping into a pretzel. This pretzel has an egg yolk wash. Remember to add 2-1/2 teaspoons of xanthan gum to your favorite flour if you are using a different flour blend. Here is the flour blend (in blue) and recipe I used (makes about 4-1/2 cups of flour).
|Weight measure or..........||Amount and measure||Ingredient|
|6.7 oz||1-1/2 cups||Millet flour|
|3.5 oz||3/4 cup||Sorghm flour|
|3.6 oz||2/3 cup||Potato starch|
|3.6 oz||2/3 cup||Corn starch|
|1.0 oz||5 tablespoons||Expandex or tapioca flour if you do not have Expandex|
|1.75 oz||6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon||Tapioca flour|
|.85 oz||3 tablespoons||Sweet rice flour|
|.20 oz||2-1/4 teaspoons||Xanthan gum|
|.15 oz||1 teaspoon||Baking powder (You might want to omit this for the pretzels to limit the oven spring.)|
|1 1/2 cups||Warm water (110° - 115° F)|
|1 - 2 teaspoons||Kosher salt|
|1 package or scant tablespoon||Instant dry yeast (Prefer SAF)|
|2 ounces||Unsalted butter or Canola Harvest margarine, melted|
|1 large||Egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water for the egg wash. (You can use the egg white in place of some of the water.)|
|Vegetable oil, for pan|
The Alton Brown recipe recommends 10 cups water with 2/3 cup baking soda. You can use less of both water and baking soda. You will want at least 1 quart of boiling water with 4 tablespoons of baking soda added when the water boils.
Follow the instructions here for the Alton Brown recipe.