So I am not sure how long it has been that I have overhauled my diet. I once read that I would no longer want bread when I wasn’t eating bread. While the desire from my body- actual hunger for bread- is surely not there, I really do like bread. I love the warm buttery goodness. I love the freshly baked smell. It’s a whole sensory experience for me I guess. That being said, every once in a while I really do want a bread type product but truthfully, the hockey puck texture of most gluten free products is passable but that’s not what I want. It’s that soft chewy texture that I am looking for. Oh, I could add xanthan gum to my recipe to get some bounce back but you know where I stand on that. No way! I had it hidden in something the other day while not careful… migraine for two days. Seriously. I know that it is natural and been around for a while but man, that bacteria and the natural bacteria in my body hate each other!
But I digress. Recently I have been baking a bunch with mochi flour (sweet rice flour/ glutinous flour- don’t let the name fool you… no gluten!) It is a specific rice grain that has more starch. They pound the bejeebers (that’s a word, right?!) out of it to make a seriously nice, fine flour. Unlike other rice flours, the texture is more silky and not as gritty.
I have made all sorts of mochi flour things, inspired by the interwebs… brownies, traditional mochi stuffed with yumminess and even some mochi donuts. They all have a super chew that is not really something we experience in baked goods here in the United States traditionally. Think undercooked brownies times a bajillion meets a flan…
See where I am going here?!
So, why not try substituting some sweet rice flour in for gluten free flour in bread like products to get some of the chew back without adding nasty xanthan gum. (Someone tried “teaching” me all about the merits of xantan gum recently on Facebook when I didn’t portray it in a favorable light on a friend’s feed. Yeah, that’s a whole different post. People also said I was nuts for taking my child off all dyes too as a child (12+ years ago) when she showed symptoms of hyperactivity- seriously, like she was on speed! If you haven’t, check out what those suckers do to your poor body! Again, I digress.)
First up on the try adding mochi flour docket was soft pretzels. Keep in mind, prior to this, I had never actually made pretzels. I love to try something new!
The recipes floating out there seem pretty much similar to each other using flour, a bit of sugar, yeast, water or milk, some with eggs, some without. What actually surprised me was this whole idea of a “baking soda bath.” Say what?
Conjure up the memory of your favorite soft pretzel… maybe from the mall, maybe from the ball game… you know that slight little “twang” you get on your tongue? That slight little alkaline taste? Yup, that comes from a baking soda bath. Who knew?
Some quick thoughts and tips…
If you have a stand alone mixer with attachments, use it. Totally works awesome. If not, no biggie. You will need to get your hands into the dough to really combine it however. Makes for great kid helping out. (Seriously, this OT says… play with dough!!! Great for fine motor skills, hand strength, arm strength, core stability. Not to mention the nice tactile/touch piece. Get those hands in there!) This is a seriously fun recipe to make with the kids- from the dipping of the pretzels, to the rolling of the dough, to the assembly process for baking, not to mention easy assembling of the dough itself for measuring etc. Plus, who doesn’t love pretzels?!
This recipe can be made with either milk or water (both warmed to about 110 degrees F.) I am honestly on the fence about which I like better. I would say the water way is more traditional in flavor so that is what I presented here.
When using the water bath, be sure to allow the initial baking soda foam explosion to subside before proceeding. Yup, you read that right. Super awesome chemical reaction in the boiling water. So fun. Be sure to let one of your kiddos do that part! If you don’t get a “Whoa! Awesome!” from it, I’ll… well… eat another pretzel!
If you do not like the “twang” alkaline taste of some soft pretzels, you can simply “dip” your pretzels into the water bath or slightly reduce the baking soda amount. I have tried between 1/2 and 1/4 cup in the water. Yeah, 1/2 is tooooooooooo much. 1/4 cup to nearly 1/3 cup is about right. The bath really helps to get that great pretzel outer coating/browning. I did notice that when I simply dipped the pretzels (using a slotted spoon) I did not get the same chewy inside. The chew was slightly less, which some people might like too!
So beginner tip… if the idea of making a full on pretzel is over whelming or if you do have little hands helping, try making pretzel bites instead! This was WAY more user friendly in the beginning and falls under “duh” moments for me. I lost a lot of pretzels to the bath- as in they fell apart anyway- the first batch I made. Not that it’s not fun to yell “pretzel down!” when they fall apart but yeah, bites. If you do decide to give the whole pretzel twist a go, keep them smaller and bring them out of the water using a slotted spatula. Learned that the hard way too! Gravity and this dough are not friends.
Speaking of the dough… Because of the lack of gluten, this dough is a bit tender. It dries out a bit easily so be sure your rising bowl is nicely greased and make sure to cover while rising. Having the dough be a bit sticky/wet going into the bowl is an OK thing for this dough. It will dry out as it rises. When you roll it out, spray a piece of parchment with some Original pam. Heck, I even sprayed my hands one time! Form a ball first (about a good 2 tablespoons- or like a hunk you could take off with a soup spoon) and then roll out into about 10″ ropes. You can then dice off 1 inch pieces for bites or take ends pull up to form a U shape, cross and place back down onto the bottom of the U for traditional pretzel shapes. When rolling- especially for pretzel shapes, keep cracks to a minimum. These and the water bath make for pretzels down! For the bites, no biggie. The cracks give the nice hard pretzel look.
So here goes…
Gluten Free Soft Pretzels (no xanthan gum)
2 Cups King Authur Gluten Free Flour (you can use your own combo of rice flour, potato starch and tapioca flour like this one at minimalistbaker.com )
1 Cup Sweet Rice Flour (I used Mochiko by Koda Farms)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 packet instant yeast- (approximately 2 1/4 teaspoons) (like Fleishmann’s RapidRise Instant Yeast)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 Cup warm water
1 large egg, room temperature, mixed well until foamy
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon flaxseed plus 2 teaspoons water (combine and set aside)
Coarse salt for sprinkling on top
Directions for dough:
First up, combine flaxseed and water in small bowl and set aside to form slurry. In a large bowl, sift together flours, salt and baking soda. Add sugar and yeast. Add butter, flaxseed mixture and egg and combine. Dough should start to be crumbly. Add warm water, 1/4 cup at a time, kneading until smooth. Final dough will feel wetter and stickier than expected. Place dough in greased bowl- making sure to fully grease up the sides. Cover with a clean dish towel and allow to rise fully (will just about double), at least an hour.
After dough has risen, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets (can use one, but having 2 keeps the work flow going nicely.) Set out some parchment paper and lightly grease. (Traditional Pam works great here.)
Next, prepare your water bath.
In a large pot, bring about 4 quarts of water to a full boil. Once boiling, add 1/4 cup baking soda and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Ohhh and ahhh at the explosion. Allow foam to subside.
To assemble pretzels:
Grab about 2 tablespoons of dough and knead together in your hands until smooth again. Gently roll out on greased surface. If too sticky to roll, dust a tiny amount of flour on your hands and give that a try. Pressure required to roll is minimum, in fact, if you hold the dough against gravity, it will stretch itself to the point of breaking. Roll into logs about 10 inches long. If desired, cut into about 1 inch pieces for bites. For pretzel shape, take ends and form a U shape. Cross ends and then attach them to the bottom of the U shape.
Using a flat, slotted spatula, place pretzel or pretzel pieces into the water bath and boil for about 5-10 seconds. The dough may sink which is fine as it will pop back up to the surface. Remove pretzels with slotted spatula, gently tapping off excess water. The dough will seem a bit bouncy and slightly yellow. Transfer immediately to greased cookie sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt if desired. They do not really spread, so you can leave about 3/4 inch between. (*water bath water will slowly turn yellow over time due to the flours used.)
Once your cookie sheet is full, bake pretzels in 425 degree F oven for 18 to 20 minutes. They should be a lovely deep golden brown.
Allow to cool at least 10 minutes and serve. They are best warm!
By the end of the day, place leftover pretzels in a freezer bag and freeze. They lose a lot of moisture over night and aren’t really awesome the next day otherwise.
To reheat frozen pretzels allow to come to room temperature naturally or microwave on high about 20 seconds depending on power of microwave for an awesome immediate gluten free indulgence. Again, best served warm!
So there you have it!
I am so happy to have a bit of bounce back in my breads. When I first saw these come out of the oven, I was like… DANG! These look like pretzels! Then I tried one and was like… DANG! These taste like pretzels! The process was fun to try and pretty forgiving in all regards, especially making the bites. Then again, as I fail and fail again and again making something worth presenting, my tastebuds may have slipped. When my children and husband actually partake in my gluten free creations willingly however, I know the recipe is a keeper.
If you try these, be sure to comment!
Thanks for stopping by!