Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Little Reward at Harvest Festival

During the Harvest Festival each year there are tons of traditional arts and crafts and trades that are demonstrated. We also have all sorts of traditional foods many of which we make in the old fashioned way. I worked at the pretzel booth for the duration of the festival.

My job was to make the dough. Over the course of 2 days I turned somewhere between 50-60 pounds of flour into roughly a dozen huge batches of pretzel dough. Each batch took a lot of kneading to turn it into smooth dough that could rise and then be rolled into pretzels. In between batches I helped roll the dough. It was a lot of work and I came home sore and exhausted each night. A year and a half ago I was told I might not regain full use of my left hand after shattering the radius, dislocating the wrist and elbow, and tearing ligaments at both joints. A year ago I was recovering from surgery to remove the hardware that stabilized the bone. I am beyond amazed and deeply grateful that Janita (that's my left hand) held up through the hard work she was asked to do. That picture right there is both my HNT and Da Count for this week.

After the dough spends time rising, the girls with me rolled out small chunks into lengths that could be twisted into pretzel shapes. The girls worked hard to keep up with demand while doing this tedious job. They told me in addition to tiring of the rolling they got tired of hearing me give the story of how pretzels were invented. You all haven't been tormented with it yet so I'll repeat it one more time.

According to the story, a monk wanted to have a little treat to give his students after they recited their prayers and catechism lessons well. He took dough and twisted it into the traditional shape to remind the children of hands folded in prayer. He called the baked treats pretiola, which means little rewards. They became quite a popular treat and were brought to the USA when Germans migrated to Pennsylvania and other states as far as the Midwest.

After the dough is hand shaped it is given a quick bath in simmering water with baking soda dissolved into it. It's not actually cooked in the water, only dunked until it floats to the top and can be fished out. This allows the coarse salt to stick to the surface and causes a chemical reaction during baking that gives the pretzel crust its nice brown color and the texture we like so much. Originally, lye water was used to achieve the same result but since we didn't' really want to poison our customers or give them cancer we used baking soda.

At the festival we baked our pretzels in the old wood burning stove, which a lot of people found rather fascinating. Given that I was kneading crazy amounts of dough with the sun beating on me from the front while the wood stove blasted me from the back, I just found it incredibly hot. A kindly Civil War reenactor started the fire in our stove about an hour and a half before we wanted to use it in the morning so it could get up to the temperature we needed. We fed it wood through one of the top burners that lifted off with a special handle. We kept the baking soda water hot on top as well as a pot of soapy wash water. You can see from the picture it turned out some pretty nice pretzels. So now for the recipe...

I'll warn you to cut the recipe in half though or you may have pretzels coming out the ears.

10 cups flour
2 Tbsp salt

5 cups lukewarm water
3 Tbsp yeast, dissolved completely into the water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

4-6 cups of additional flour

-Mix the flour and salt and add yeast water, stirring together until well incorporated.

-Add oil and stir 200 strokes. (That's what the recipe said, but I just mixed it in with my hand until very well blended...much easier than trying to stir that mess.)

-Knead in as much flour as the dough will take to no longer be sticky. Knead well for about 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth. (Lots of times I mindlessly continued kneading while I was giving my pretzel spiel or visitors were asking questions. It doesn't really matter. It's a forgiving recipe.)

-Oil the surface of the dough and set in covered bowl in warm place to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size. (On a 87F day it sure didn't take an hour for it to rise properly but if it sits around longer it's no big deal. Like I said, it's a very forgiving recipe)

-Roll chunks of dough into lengths for twisting. (Our were about a half inch thick and about 12-15 inches long)

-Twist into pretzel shape or braid or whatever, the Pretzel Police aren't going to come haul you away if you make weird shapes.

-Place pretzels in simmering water with baking soda dissolved in it (4 Tbsp of soda to 1 gallon of water). Remove when the float to the top.

-Bake for 10-15 minutes at 400F on well greased sheet or until golden brown.
Now fress (eat) up!


G-Man said...

I love food Posts!
Especially Limey's food posts!!
Interesting story about the pretzel...I tend to believe your version..
I was always told that the shape represented the trinity..But I think you have it down...
I hope you are getting packed!!

Charles said...

Maybe that's something you could do for some extra income, pretzel therapy.

Seriously though, this is cool. I'd be tempted to try making pretzels. I do like soft pretzels, are these like those in the malls?

You may want to check out my new post.

S said...

Ok as soon as I saw the recipe, I ran screaming from the room

10 cups of flour? Then later 4-6 cups of additional flour....

OK Lime, where does one get a bowl large enough for 16 cups of flour?

I dont think im gonna try this one....but youre making me think of that happy chocolate pie cake thing......might be time to make that again....

Thanks for the dance compliment....I supposed I do have some command of my corpse....just dont throw in any balls, raquets, bats or nets into my dance and I'll be ok....

Seamus said...

WOW! What a lot of work demand on Juanita and she cooperated!!!! :)

Your festival sounds like a lot of fun!

Logophile said...

looks yummy, but I am soooo never trying it

lecram said...

Really glad Janita was up to the task and yes, a very worthy HNT and count! I have done kneading myself in the past and it is tough work... and thanks also for the story on pretzels... I'm suddenly hungry for some.

tsduff said...

That is one huge mess of pretzels! I have always loved making bread, kneading and all. the end product is the reward. I've never made pretzels before - thanks for the lesson.

jillie said...

Those look great!! Now I want some. How did your hand feel afterwards? Or did I miss that...hmmm. I'm going to have to go back and read.

Janita? What a creative name. I'm ready to name my foot pain in the arse! lol


MONA said...

Wow Lime. You never cease to amaze me. You are so multi talented!!!

& you are such a hard worker too!

I Never can guess what I am going to hear about you doing in your coming posts! You are a Wonder!

Jeni said...

As one who bakes bread from time to time (normally my bread baking is Swedish limpa rye) I think probably the largest bowl that tupperware makes -don't remember what it is called as I've had mine for well over 25 years now but it would hold that much flour in a dough form, prior to rising. Then you'd most likely have to let it rise in two separate bowls.

Thanks though to Lime for posting this recipe and explaining the pretzel making process. Having also injured my right wrist 7 years ago in a fall at work (bad break, etc.) I know how difficult the recovery from that can be and how hard it is to start trying to use that limb fully again. My arms and shoulders ache after mixing a batch of rye bread with a yield of only 4 loaves and I can't imagine working with that much dough all day. My legs and lower back would also be killing me! LOL -Maybe working with one's behind to the stove though would generate enough moist heat to help keep the joints flexing ok? I dunno - just a thought there!

Anonymous said...

umm we had a warm soft pretzel at the Genesis concert..yummy of course it was commercially made and not nearly as good as these look.
Cool post.:)

Anonymous said...

yes i know i'm a total blog slacker...!!! ty so much for the comment my dearest Lime...!!!

congrats to you and Janita for making it through the slog...!!!

pretzels...i dunno...so american....hahaha...!!! i'd like to try the soft ones sometime though thats for sure...!!!

take care darlin...speak sooner rather than later i hope...!!! (^_^)

RennyBA said...

What lovely harvest feast tradition and those looks so yummy. To me it looks a bit like Norwegian Kringle my grandmother made.

Boysenberry said...

Very nice, and well timed. I need something to go with the Dusseldorfer Alt I'm making :)

kimber the wolfgrrrl said...

Great post! I just learnt more about pretzals in your single post than in all my years of eating them! You've left me hungry for more... pretzals, that is. :)

SignGurl said...

Soft pretzels are my favorite snack. I've never had a homemade one. Your's look so delicious. I just may try this recipe some time but think I would quarter it.

Thanks for posting this.

BTExpress said...

I love a good pretzel. Best with a little mustard on top.

You like a sexy Amish hotty in that outfit. At least that how I picture aa Amish hotty.

Moosekahl said...

Look at Janita go! Go girl, go! i've never been much for soft pretzels but I love to eat the thick whole wheat ones. With lots of salt!

Nothing new on this front.

Sheri said...

What an amazing amount of work for such a great treat! I think it's wonderful that you participate so whole heartedly in the yearly festival. I love the outfit and I bet it was strange seeing you at an ATM dressed like that!

Beach Bum said...

Absolutely cool post. I love pretzels dipped in honey mustard.

Cheesy said...

Oh baby I have a project for this weekend!! I think I better quarter the recipe too lol... Where did I store all the mustard???

Jocelyn said...

You just get more and more impressive. Sure, the pretzel stuff is good (my Groom makes kick-ass pretzels, too),


I'm talking about the Civil War re-enactor.

Love his presence here.

You could use more Civil War re-enactors in your posts.

ttfootball said...

Lime Lime Lime, I'm back on the prowl. Interesting post as per usual. Good to hear your hand/arm has been doing so well.
That festival must've been fun for you, things like that with food usually are, but its better when u are solely the eater haha, too bad i'm not much of a pretzel person tho...

gab said...

wow thats a lot of work but well worth it. I had heard about the monk story before. Thanks for sharing. And so glad your hand was able to do its share.

TorAa said...

Excellent storytelling. I can feel it in my hands and arms, the smell of the baking and the heat from the old stove. What an effort you did at the Harvest Festival - and on top of that you share it with bloggers around the world. Great post.

Cosima said...

Mmmm... looks and sounds wonderful, too bad computers don't let you transport smells yet. I haven't had a good bretzel in some months. I love the taste of laugen dough. When I am in Germany, I try to have one every day... no kidding!

Joeprah said...

Yumm, but did they have pit beef at the Harvest Festival?