Thursday, October 4, 2012


Scrolling through Netflix at 4AM this morning (not that I wanted to be up, just couldn't sleep), I noticed a film called Happy.  Its description read:

Happy takes viewers on a journey from the swamps of Louisiana to the slums of Kolkata in search of what really makes people happy. Combining real-life stories and scientific interviews, the film explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion.

It sounded fascinating. Then I skipped it so I could catch up on Doc Martin. But the idea of the movie has stayed with me all day. What makes my family happy?

Knowing how hungry my boys are when they get home from school, I made some pretzels this afternoon. As soon as they found out, my little one started a happy dance. Even the older, "cooler" one threw his image aside, jumped into my arms, and plastered me with kisses. He exclaimed, "My day was horrible until I came home!"

So this was the answer to the question I'd been pondering all day. In our house, happiness is a little bit of flour, yeast, and water.

Assistant baker hard at work

To share our happiness with you, here is the recipe I used.

Soft Pretzels (makes 18 pretzels)

  •  1 Tbsp yeast 
  •  1 1/2 c Warm water 
  •  2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  •  1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour 
  •  3 Tbsp canola oil 
  •  1 1/2 Tbsp Honey 
  •  6 Tbsp baking soda; in 6 cups water 
  •  pretzel salt; optional 

In a stand mixer, combine yeast, warm water, flours, oil, and honey. Using a dough hook, mix for about 5 minutes until you have a soft, smooth dough.

Place dough in a greased bowl; turn over to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double (about 1 hour).

When the dough is almost done rising, line two baking trays with parchment paper. Lightly oil/grease the paper. Set trays aside.

When the dough has doubled, punch down dough, turn out onto a floured board,and divide into 18 pieces. Then roll each piece into a smooth rope about 12-18 inches long (depending on how thick you like them), and twist into a pretzel shape. Place pretzels slightly apart on baking sheets. Let rise, uncovered,until puffy (about 25 minutes).

Meanwhile, in a 3-quart stainless steel or enameled pan (not aluminum), bring soda water to a boil; adjust water to keep water boiling gently. With a slotted spatula, lower 1 pretzel at a time into pan. Let simmer for 10 seconds on each side, then lift from water, drain briefly on spatula, and return to baking sheet. Let dry briefly, then sprinkle with coarse salt if desired. Let stand uncovered until all have simmered.

Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to racks; serve warm with butter or mustard.

We always seem to run out of pretzels immediately, but if you can't eat all of yours right away, you can cool them completely, wrap airtight, and freeze. To reheat, place frozen pretzel on ungreased baking sheets and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until hot.


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