Hamburgers are awesome. They're awesome for tailgating, they're an excellent barfood companion, they're complicated enough that you can put your own spin on them if you want, but simple enough that any college student with a George Foreman could create an edible one without any trouble. If you're looking for something to make for you and some friends to watch the Buckeyes this fall, it's hard to go wrong with a burger.
Unless you screw one thing up. How many times have you gone to a cookout or a buddy's house, loaded up your burger will all sorts of rad condiments, only to have the whole thing disintegrate on you once you take a bite because they used the cheapass .89 cent burger buns from Kroger? If you're going to make a burger, or any real sandwich really, you need a bread that is strong enough to soak up that mustard, that mayo, those little bits of burger grill juices, without falling part.
What you need, my friend, is a pretzel roll. And I'm going to teach you how to make one.
(Well actually, my wife and I are going to teach you, since this is her recipe, but whatever.)
The good news is that making your own pretzel rolls doesn't require a ton of fancy pants kitchen gadgetry, You'll need (equipment wise):
A large mixing bowl, a spatula, a large measuring cup, teaspoon/tablespoon etc, a cutting board, saran wrap, a baking pan, a serrated knife, parchment paper and a pastry brush. If you don't have a pastry brush, you can actually just use a paintbrush, assuming, you know, you weren't just painting with it or anything.
Found all that stuff? Good. Those are the absolute basics. I don't know about you guys, but when I got married, I ended up getting a ton of fancy pants kitchen stuff that I barely ever use. If you're the kind of guy who owns more than four knives and wants to make this operation a little easier, you'll also be able to use a Food Processor and/or KitchenAid Mixer. If you don't have those, keep reading. You can still cook this, I promise.
Ingredient wise, you're going to need:
2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 envelope quick-rising yeast*
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (about) hot water (125°F to 130°F)
8 cups water
1/4 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg white, beaten to blend (glaze)
Got all of that? Good.
The first thing you want to do is combine your bread flour, your yeast, your salt and your one teaspoon of sugar. If you have a food processor, use that, but if you're a poor, you can just throw 'em all in the mixing bowl. Stir all your dry ingredients together, (using the spatula, your hand, an Xbox controller, whatever) then add the warm water (think bathwater level) and continue to stir. You may need to add a teensy bit more water to make sure everything pulls together. Ideally, you're going to end up with something looking like this:
Gotta let it show...I love the dough, hey I love the dough, more than you know....
So you'll notice that this dough looks pretty shaggy, right? This is what your dough will look like once you've dumped all your ingredients in there, but that's not the final product. We gotta knead it to get some of those ugly lumps out. You're going to want to take a little time to knead everything to get that gluten going. You can do this inside the bowl, or you can flour your counter and do it there if somebody else is cleaning up your mess.
If you've never done this before and want a video demo, you can go here. If you're doing this in a food processor or a fancy pants KitchenAid, go ahead and do that. However you want to kneed it, once you're done, your dough ought to look something like this:
Still with me? Great. We can do this.
If you haven't already, go ahead and pull that dough out of the bowl. Next, you're going to want to grease the bowl a little, using a little bit of cooking or vegetable oil. If you don't have vegetable oil, any kind of oil will do; grape-seed, olive, basically anything short of automotive. You're going to want to coat the bowl, which you can do by dabbing some oil on a paper towel and giving the whole thing a rub down.
Once you've greased the bowl, throw the dough back in, and lightly roll it in some of that sweet, sweet oil. Once it has a light coat, leave the dough in the bowl and cover the whole thing with some saran wrap.
We need to get this dough to rise. We can either throw this bad boy in a warm oven (200 degrees or under, you don't want to cook the thing yet), or you can leave it by a warm, sunny window. If you do this, you need to make sure your bowl is covered by a dishtowel, because just like sports bloggers, if they get exposed to direct sunlight, they'll burn and retreat to their mom's basement.
Let the dough rise for an hour or so. Go play Skyrim or something, or better yet, spend that hour retweeting lots of Land-Grant Holy Land articles. Once the dough is ready, it'll look something like this:
If you're unsure if the dough is ready, poke it with your fingers. If the dough keeps that indentation, it's ready. Take that dough out of the bowl, and put it on the counter, or cutting board.
You're going to want to break up the dough into eight pieces. You can use a knife, or your bare hands, or your jaw, if you're totally disgusting. We recommend having the pieces be about the same size, but if you want one giant-ass pretzel roll and 7 tiny ones that orbit around it, it's your kitchen.
Looks good, no? Don't eat it yet, though.
You're going to want to mold these into more roll-looking shapes. You can still mold the dough like you might a hamburger patty. Once you have everything in a roll-shape, take a serrated knife and cut a cross into the top. Don't try this with a butter knife, it'll take forever and look sloppy. The slit in the top of the roll will help everything expand, plus it helps you tell the top from the bottom. Once you're done, it'll look this like this:
Next, cover these bad boys in a dish towel, and let them rise for another 20 minutes. Take those 20 minutes to like all of our articles on facebook. That's a good use of your time.
Next, you'll need to get a pot of water boiling. Sorry I didn't get a picture of a pot at the beginning, but I figured all of you cretins like us reading this would at least own a single pot. Once that water is boiling, throw in your 2 tablespoons of sugar and your quarter cup of baking soda. Warning, this is going to bubble and froth like a rabid dog. Don't worry. That means you're doing it right.
Next, throw in your rolls. You're going to want to let each roll cook for 30 seconds on each side. These things actually float.
While those are a bubblin', grab a baking sheet or baking pan. Lay a sheet of parchment paper down if you have it, then dust it with flour. If you don't have any parchment paper, just use a ton more flour. Once your rolls have properly boiled, lay them the baking sheet, cross side up.
Then, whisk just the egg white (no yolk). Use your brush (pastry, paint...or tooth, I guess) to brush the egg white on top of the rolls. This is what's going to give everything their nice, brown color. Sprinkle some chunky salt to give your rolls a little extra crunch if you'd like. Your soon-to-be-masterpiece will look like this:
Once everything is properly painted, get your oven going to 375 degrees, then bake these bad boys for 25 minutes. Keep an eye on them for the last five minutes or so, because some ovens are way more powerful than others, and we'd hate to accidentally have you burn your pretzel rolls because we did just that on our crappy oven. On that note. we actually recommend taking the pretzels out 12 minutes in, rotating the tray, and putting them back, just in case your oven has some weird hotspots, to ensure an even bake. Once they're finished, take your pretzel rolls out, and behold your glorious creation!
The great thing about these is how versatile they are. My wife Taylor will eat these plain, like an apple (perhaps accompanied by a brat and some mustard). They also make great sandwich rolls, if you need a bread that has a little bit of muscle. They're surprisingly good with Nutella, or some sort of sweet spread, but when we made these, I used them to hold a burger. Provolone cheese, chipotle mustard, lettuce, tomato.You put it all together, and then you win.
Special thanks to Taylor, the true chef in our household, for taking the pictures. If you're interested in Eastern Europe at all, you can follow her on twitter at @whysored, and give your timeline a little bit of culture.
Favorite burger condiments? Ideas for variations on the pretzel roll theme? Other ideas for In the Kitchen with Brutus recipes that you'd want to see? Let us know in the comments.