Bakers and pastry chefs crave two things: Salt and vinegar. When I worked in the restaurant business and got home way after midnight, too-often I’d park myself in front of the television, put my dogs up, and dig into a bag of tortilla chips along with a big jar of spicy salsa. Of course, I was half the age I am now and a bag of chips is no longer something I can, or should, polish off by myself – or call a meal . Someone I knew worked for one of those national diet centers and on day #1, he would put a bag of potato chips into a food processor, run it for a few minutes, then show everyone the oily sludge.
Even so, I still eat potato chips on occasion and run into trouble stopping myself from picking my way through a basket of tortilla chips, especially when there’s guacamole alongside. And I will buy those slender pretzel sticks, called sticks d’Alsace in France, to go along with other apéritif hour snacks in Paris .
Pretzels have always been a favorite and I was a great fan of those giant pretzels you can get on the streets in New York in my past. However I stopped eating those years ago when the taste and texture suffered for whatever reason. I assume nowadays they’re bought from a large-scale vendor in bulk, and rewarmed on the carts until they become petrified. It’s a shame, but I still buy soft pretzels when I go to a German bakery and see them hanging on a peg hk company set up
. I can’t resist that combination of chewy dough with a dense crust and a flurry of crackly salt on top.
I’m not sure what got into me one day last week, but I thought I would try my hand at making my own at home. I didn’t need to make the twisted kind, and figured the “bites” offered more salty surface area, which is the best part of the pretzel. The dough is quite easy to make and within a few hours of starting the project, I can find myself snacking on warm pretzel bites in front of the tv, or wherever you want to enjoy them. To be perfectly honest, I started eating them right off the baking sheet the minute they were cool enough to handle.
I used flaky sea salt, which is less-aggressive than the traditional coarse pretzel salt. I had a box of Maldon smoked salt flakes that worked beautifully, but any flaky sea salt should be fine. Traditional pretzels take a dip in a lye bath before going into the oven, which requires careful handling (plus I have no idea where to buy that in Paris), but perhaps that’s something you can graduate to when you’re ready. (I’ve included some links at the end of the post that discuss that.)
I don’t mean to be a spoil sport but I’m not necessarily a huge fan of dips with chips or pretzels, since I like the salty crispness of them without any distractions. Guacamole with chips, however, doesn’t count. However I’ve included a spicy mustard dip for those who like that kind of thing. But recently I was at Prime Meats having dinner with some friends and they served housemade pretzel with a spicy brown mustard, not Dijon, but one similar to this mustard, made with dark mustard seeds. The authenticity police will probably come out in full-force since it’s not traditional. But even a grump like me thought it was a good combination, so you have my permission to chow down on the pretzel bites any way you like them, with sauce, mustard, or just on their own.