Monday, March 19, 2012

Pretzel Dogs

Ever since I can remember, the two things I get most often when watching a sporting event - baseball...football...basketball...what-have-you... are warm, soft pretzels and/or a good dog or sausage.  Sure.  Sometimes nachos sneak their way in, but there's just something that screams EAT ME! from the pretzel and dog stalls and sellers.

So it should be no surprise that the little people sprung from my loins feel the same way, should it?  Huhn-uh.  No surprise at all.  We're very lucky to have a minor league baseball team that calls our city home.  I've been a baseball fan ever since I can remember.  There's a fabulous cart in the stadium selling dogs and brats you can smell before you've even pushed through the turnstiles.  And we can always count on a soft pretzel pebbled with fat grains of salt and wrapped in wax paper to shield our hands from the heat.  Dripping mustard and cheese.  Nothing like a sunny day, baseball with pretzels, dogs, and beer.
Or perhaps the crisp days of autumn.  Football games.  Fortunately we live in a college town with plenty of football madness.  And driving distance from "my" school.  And two to three hours drive from three pro stadiums.  Be it the walk to the stadium or tailgating outside - you can smell the fat and spices in the air and hear the sizzle as they turn brown over the fire.  Slather on the goodies and warm up with a sausage.  Walk into the stadium and grab run to the snack bar at halftime for a pretzel as big as your head.  And each child wants their own.  Nothing like a crisp autumn day with pretzels, dogs, and beer.

Or maybe winter is ending and a premature dose of spring is in the air.  March Madness.  College hoops (the only kind of hoops if you ask me - not a fan of pro-basketball).  While I love going to a game, I've always watched the Madness from my own (or somebody else's) living room.  But this doesn't mean we don't still crave our pretzels and dogs!  Oh no.  And perhaps...just perhaps...we crave them even more.  Since we can close our eyes and feel the rush of crowd, the squeak of the sneakers, the thumping of the ball; it's only natural that we should also crave those familiar foods.
So that is why it was the perfect time to head into the kitchen and combine our two favorites. Fat and chewy soft pretzels wrapped around tasty dogs, smoked sausage, and/or cooked brats. The kids and I made the dough in advance. They helped me roll out the dough, wrap the dogs, and fend off determined hotdog thieves. We all reaped the rewards as we chose our favorite items for dipping (mustard all the way, baby!), poured cold bevvies, and joined the hubs in the living room for what we realized was becoming a family tradition - sports, pretzels, dogs, and beer (or another age-appropriate liquid).

Pretzel Dogs

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Cook Time: 12-14 minutes
Keywords: bake boil entree snack appetizer bread hotdogs sausage Super Bowl birthday American
Ingredients (8 full-size or 16 mini)
  • 8 hotdogs or sausages (of the pre-cooked variety)
dough:
  • 1½ c. warm water (110-115°F)
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 2¼ tsp. (1 package) active dry yeast
  • 22 oz. (~4½ c.) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 oz. butter, melted and cooled
water:
  • ~3½ quarts of water
  • 1 c. baking soda
  • 1 large egg, beaten, with a splash of water
topping:
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
make dough:
Combine warm water and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and set aside for 5 minutes, until mixture is foamy.

Add the flour, salt, and melted butter. Using the dough hook, mix on low speed until well combined. Increase speed to medium and knead dough until it is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, creating a ball of dough around the dough hook, ~5 minutes or so.

The dough will be soft, pliable, and just a bit sticky. Remove from bowl, form into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Dust the top with flour, then cover with plastic and let sit in a warm place and allow to rise until doubled in size, ~1 hour.

Place baking racks in the center and upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to 425° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and lightly brush the paper with oil. (Don't skip the oiling - it’s important to brush the paper or the pretzels will stick!)

making the pretzel dogs:
Combine water and baking soda in a large pot and bring to a boil.

While the water comes to a boil, turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly oiled work surface.
If you are using whole dogs, divide dough into 8 pieces. If you are cutting the dogs in half, divide dough into 16 pieces.

You want to make a rope with each piece of dough. Start with the fingers of both hands in the center of the dough, and roll, moving your hands outward as you go. Roll the dough along the oiled surface until you have about a 24" (for whole dogs) or 12" (for half dogs) piece of rope.

Starting at one end, roll the dough around a hot dog gently (without stretching too much), pinching and sealing each end well.

When water has come to a boil, gently lower a few of the dough-wrapped dogs into the boiling water and allow to boil for 30 seconds. Using a skimmer (flat, slotted spatula), carefully remove them and place on the oiled parchment.

Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle each with some coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Slide into the oven and bake until they are a deep, golden brown, ~12-14 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool a bit...but serve them warm!

notes:
When in doubt, use 2 trays - these need space around them to help the air circulate and brown them better.
If possible, I recommend weighing (as opposed to measuring) the ingredients. I found the weights to be EXACT. This dough is a dream to work with.

These are best enjoyed the same day that they are made. HOWEVER, if you don't eat them all right away, then double-wrap them in plastic wrap and store in the freezer. When ready to serve, remove them from the plastic. Wrap each one well in a piece of foil and bake in an oven preheated to 350°F for ~12 minutes, or until heated through.

adapted from Alton Brown and Joy the Baker
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