It’s hard to improve on the classic goodness of a good American barbecue (or cookout, depending on what part of the United States you might reside). Hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken drumsticks and corn all cooked on a grill are the height of summer perfection.
But I am always thinking about carbs, specifically how to add delicious, homemade carbs to any meal. So on a recent Sunday when my kids were out of the house, I decided it was time to whip up some homemade pretzel challah rolls to go with some burgers.
Spoiler alert: They were delicious. And while it may sound like a complicated or fancy thing to make, the truth is if you’re already making challah, you are just one step away from making these buns. What makes a pretzel have its distinct flavor, texture and gorgeous deep hue is actually a baking soda “bath,” so right before baking the rolls, you are going to dip each bun into a simmering pot of water with baking soda. The authentic pretzel-y smell is seriously a joy.
In a small bowl, place the yeast, ½ teaspoon sugar and lukewarm water. Stir gently to mix. Allow to sit 5 to 10 minutes until it becomes foamy on top.
In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, salt and sugar. Add the water-yeast mixture and oil to flour. Mix thoroughly.
Add another 1 cup of the flour and 2 eggs and mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.
Add the remaining flour and mix until dough comes together. It should feel slightly dense and just a tad sticky.
Remove from bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Hand knead for 30 seconds, or just until dough is smooth and no longer sticky.
Place in a large greased bowl. Drape a warm, wet dish towel over the top and allow to rise 3 hours.
Using a food scale, portion out rolls into 2 1/2- to 3-ounce pieces. Roll into balls and place on a baking sheet or large plate. Drape towel over them and allow them to rise another 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 F. while the dough rises.
While rolls are doing their second rise, bring a large pot of water to boil. Reduce heat to medium and add 2 heaping tablespoons baking soda to the pot.
Using a slotted spoon or spider, dunk each roll into the baking soda bath for 30 seconds, turn and keep immersed on the other side for another 30 seconds. Remove each roll, letting the excess water drip off before placing on a silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet.
Brush each roll with egg wash using a pastry brush. Score the top using a sharp knife or bread lame (see above) into an X.
Serve fresh with burgers of your choice.
If you have a challah recipe you already love using, just skip ahead to direction No. 7 below — you can use any recipe you like. But fresh is best; I wouldn’t try making these pretzel buns any more than one day ahead of serving. (And yes, you can freeze them — I know that was your next question anyway.) You can easily double or triple this recipe to make rolls for a crowd.
Join Jmore and The Associated every Tuesday at noon as we bring together some of Maryland’s most respected experts in their fields to answer your questions about the things that matter most in your life.[...]
Join veteran food writer Dara Bunjon every Thursday at 12:30 p.m. at facebook.com/jmoreliving for an engaging and interactive conversation with local chefs, cookbook authors and others from the culinary world.