Have you ever met a celebrity? If so, did you totally flip out? When I was 17, I met Nick Carter (yes, from the Backstreet Boys). There was a line of girls waiting to meet him, and every single one of them was borderline hysterical. Some of them were even in tears. I was with my friend, who, by the time we made it to the front of the line, was basically trembling. When it was our turn, I stepped up, introduced myself and shook his hand. He seemed a little surprised but shook back. My friend, meanwhile, couldn’t even spell her name for him to sign her shirt. As we got ready to leave, he hugged each of us and whispered to me, “Thank you for introducing yourself to me like I’m just any other person. I’m not sure anyone has ever done that.” What he didn’t know was that, internally, I was just like all those other girls, but with my friend freaking out, I figured one of us needed to be able to talk to him.
I’ve met a few famous (to me, and likely to all of you) people since then, and I always try to reserve my squealing and excitement until after it’s over. It’s not so hard to do when it’s just one person. Imagine how I felt, though, when I saw the list of attendees for Big Summer Potluck last year. I was going to be surrounded by famous people! I told myself it would be fine. After all, they all had blogs before writing cookbooks. No big deal, right? While waiting on the bus the first morning, I was in a lobby full of people. Most of us were chatting and introducing ourselves to people we hadn’t met the night before and everything was going well. I was insanely nervous, probably more than I let on, but I was starting to feel more comfortable. Someone walked up and noticed that we all had our food (for the potluck) with us. She asked me if we were supposed to bring it, and I told her yes because the bus wouldn’t be coming back to the hotel until that night. She went to grab her dish, and I walked out to the bus. A couple minutes later, when it was time to take off, I heard someone say something like “We’re waiting on Deb. She had to go grab the food from her room.” It was at that moment that I realized I had been talking to Deb from Smitten Kitchen. I’m not going to lie, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t recognize her because, as nervous as I was, I’m quite certain I would’ve gone all fangirl and freaked her out. I texted Eric from the bus “OMG I talked to Deb from Smitten Kitchen and didn’t even know it.” So apparently I’m cool around boy band members but not around big-time bloggers/cookbook authors. Go figure. After tasting a couple recipes from her book, I’m not sure I could meet her now and refrain from hugging her right away and telling her how awesome she is.
I saw a picture of the title of this recipe before I even got the book, and I pretty much thought about them continuously after that. I finally got the chance to make them with my friend Amanda while she and her husband were visiting last week. These pretzels are made using a genius method that only requires the brioche to rise once. Brioche is my favorite bread (it’s so rich and buttery!), and of course adding chocolate to it makes it even better. These are in the breakfast section of the book, and I kind of love Deb for putting them there. That means it’s perfectly acceptable for me to make these on a lazy weekend morning and call it breakfast. I mean, if doughnuts are a breakfast food, why not pretzels? The process may seem complicated, but I assure you it’s far from it. I only wish I had pearl sugar to sprinkle on at the end. I’m ordering some so that I can use it next time I make these (which will be as soon as that sugar gets here).
To make the brioche, whisk the milk and yeast together in a small dish until the yeast has dissolved. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar and salt. With the mixer running on low speed, add the eggs and yeast mixture, mixing until the dough comes together in a shaggy pile. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 10 minutes. (My mixer had a really hard time with this part, but I think it was just a fluke.) Add the butter, a third at a time, mixing well between each addition. Swap to the dough hook and let the mixer knead the dough on low speed until it's silky and smooth, about 5 minutes. Add the chocolate and continue mixing until it's spread evenly throughout the dough.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm spot for about 2 hours, until almost doubled. If you'd like, you can rest the dough in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before proceeding. Just make sure to bring it back to room temperature and let it rise before moving on.
To make the pretzels, line two baking sheets with parchment or a nonstick baking mat and heat oven to 350º. Gently deflate the dough and divide it into 8 equal pieces (about 93 grams each, if you're weighing). Working with one piece at a time, roll each ball into an 18-inch long rope about ½-inch thick. This dough is very buttery and you likely won't need a floured surface. However, if you notice your dough sticking to your work area, simply dust it with a little flour. Draw the ends of the rope together to make a circle. Grab each side of the rope about 2 inches from the ends and twist the ends together - a full twist, so that the right side of the rope ends up back on the right side - to close the circle. Fold the twist down into the circle, pressing the loose ends of the rope on each side of the center (five and seven o'clock) of the rope. Repeat with the remaining dough. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, water and salt. Transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheets and brush with glaze. Let them rest for about 15 minutes. They'll rise slightly during this time.
To finish, brush the pretzels once more with the glaze. Sprinkle with coarse sugar and bake for about 12 minutes, until puffed and lightly bronzed. Cool slightly (yeah right) on a cooling rack before serving.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbookby Deb Perelman