Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pretty Perfect Pretzels

With the overabundance of sugar and butter that seems to accompany the holiday season, sometimes I crave a simpler snack. Now, I still love my sweets - I have yet to meet a woman who doesn't - but at the same time, when you spend a good portion of your day up to your elbows (sometimes literally!) in different sugars and cookie doughs the opposite end of the spectrum starts calling your name.

To give our hard-working digestive tracts a little bit of a break before the whole 15-person shenanigan fest of Christmas Eve's dinner and Christmas Morning's brunch (yeah, my Mom cooks for both of those - she's a bit of a glutton for punishment that way!), I wanted to come up with a nice, basic complex-carb snack that people could grab on the go or munch while wrapping gifts. For me personally, I wanted to make something that would give my skin a break from constantly being abused by the whole wheat-flour-flying antigen factor that seems to constantly arise when I bake - which meant making something gluten free.

Somewhere along my line of thought, I developed the urge to make some good old-fashioned salty pretzel sticks. But I had never seen a recipe for hard pretzels done gluten-free. Was it even possible?

Well, I figured I might as well give it a shot, so I busted out good old Alton Brown's recipe for crunchy pretzels (which I have made several times and love) and messed around with the flour portion, finally settling on (an admittedly complex) mixture of millet, brown rice, corn, chickpea, potato and tapioca flours, with cornstarch and guar gum to help bind and a tiny dash of sesame oil for flavour and texture. The result was unlike anything I could have dreamed of - the dough came together better than the original recipe, rolled out into perfect sticks and held together even while I boiled it. After all was said and done, I gilded the (already delicious) rods with a robe of bittersweet chocolate and coloured sprinkles so that I could share the Christmas joy with a few other sweet and salty fans I knew. Who said the joy of Christmas giving was always a sweet event?

I'm submitting these tasty, crunchy snacks to Susan's YeastSpotting event.

Gluten Free Pretzel Rods
Makes 12
1/4 cup millet flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup yellow cornflour (not cornstarch)
1/4 cup chickpea flour
2 tbsp potato flour
3 tbsp tapioca flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tbsp guar gum
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp instant yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp baking soda + a pot of water
coarse salt
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the dough hook, whisk together flours, cornstarch, guar gum, salt, sugar and yeast.
  2. Add water and oil and mix until well combined.
  3. Knead with the mixer until the dough is fairly smooth and stiff, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  4. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and let rest 40 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 F and generously grease 2-3 cookie sheets.
  6. Bring the baking soda and water to a boil.
  7. Turn out the dough onto an oiled work surface and divide into 12 pieces.
  8. Roll out each piece into a thin stick.
  9. Gently place 3-4 sticks at a time into the water and boil for 30-40 seconds.
  10. Move the sticks onto the sheet pan and generously crust with coarse salt.
  11. Place in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 350F.
  12. Bake 55-60 minutes, until hard and browned.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 61.6
Total Fat: 0.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 3.3 mg
Total Carbs: 12.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.8 g
Protein: 1.3 g