If you’re reading this story, it means I’ve mustered up enough courage to hit the “publish” button. It also means that if you’ve ever suspected I’m a big awkward dork, you’re about to learn you’re an excellent judge of character.
OK, here’s the first odd thing: I have a culinary bucket list. Some people want to travel the world or skydive before they die, I want to learn how to make chocolate croissants and roast a whole fish.
This bucket list is why I found myself in the kitchen on a sunny afternoon, attempting to make pretzels and subsequently cross one more item off my list. Things were going smoothly — the dough had risen and it was time to twist the pretzels.
Shaping pretzel after pretzel is kind of Zen but there’s only so much quiet reflection a girl can handle. To help quell the monotony, I pulled up my favorite Pandora channel, hit play and settled back into my groove, quietly humming along with Michael Hutchence.
After a few more minutes, I did what any emotionally healthy, totally sane person would do: I picked a fight with myself.
Oh my God, could you be any more uptight? You’re home alone. Humming. Nobody hums when they’re alone. And nobody hums INXS. Ever. Live a little.
Damn, I sure told me. Shamed into action, I start to sing along.
The next song brought about some toe tapping and head bobbing, followed by hip swaying and even louder singing.
By the fifth song, I was feeling it — music cranked as loud as it would go, I belted out Roxanne as if I was the one painfully in love with the beguiling streetwalker. Sting tried to sing along with me but I told him to sit down and relax with the rest of The Police, ‘cuz I totally got this:
Roxanne (Put on the red light)
Roxanne (Put on the red light)
I was going for the awesome finish with an air drum solo when a flash of movement caught my eye. I look up, expecting to see a squirrel on my deck. Sadly, it was not a squirrel. It was so not a squirrel.
It was a man I’d never seen before standing in my backyard, looking horrified.
I had forgotten that I made an appointment to get an estimate for a few home repairs. I quickly weighed my options and realized that I couldn’t drop to the floor and crawl away, so I dusted the flour off my hands, turned down the music and stepped outside for what will go down as one of the most awkward conversations of my life.
“I, uh, rang the doorbell several times but I think your music was too loud.”
“Oh, ha ha. Yeah. I’m making pretzels.”
As if that explained everything.
Somehow Baby can get away with, “I carried a watermelon,” but “I’m making pretzels” just doesn’t cut it.
We stumbled through a conversation, he gave me a price quote and I sent him on his way, probably scarred for life. Neither of us spoke of Roxanne.
I may have been crushed, but the pretzels were pretty awesome. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to make them. It’s not hard to do and it’s even kind of fun — just be sure to keep the music at a respectable volume.
Roxanne’s Soft Pretzels
A modified recipe from the King Arthur Flour web site.
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
7/8 to 1 cup warm water*
6 cups boiling water mixed with
2 tablespoons baking soda
Place all of the dough ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat until well-combined. Knead the dough (by hand or with a dough hook) for about 5 minutes, until it’s soft and smooth.
Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly coated with olive oil, cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow it to rest for 30 minutes
Preheat oven to 475°F. Line a baking sheet with a silpat mat.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces.
Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Bring 6 cups of water to boil and add 2 tablespoons baking soda. Stand back, the mix will bubble big time. Leave the mix simmering on the stove.
Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 28″ to 30″ long), and twist each rope into a pretzel shape.
Working with 4 pretzels at a time, place them in the pan with the simmering baking soda/water mix, spooning the water over their tops. Cook for 1 minute, then place pretzels on the baking sheet. Sprinkle pretzels with coarse kosher salt.
Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they’re a deep golden brown color.