Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Surfas and Soft Pretzels

I took a very spontaneous trip to Surfas at Culver City today. The weather was nice and class was over early, so why not? I've always wanted to go to Surfas, but never let myself go. I know I would walk out broke if I ever make the pilgrimage to culinary mecah. I heard that you can get any spices, any delicates, any tools--whatever you need in a kitchen.

I did not take any photos because I was intimidated by the STRICTLY NO PHOTOGRAPHY sign. Sure enough, when I took my first step into the store, I know I can't possible just get Valrhona's cocoa powder. On display is Whitelily flour; there was corn meal, unbleached bread flour, and unbleached all purpose. So first item that landed in my basket was bread flour. Then I walked to Aisle 10 and saw an entire five tier rack full of cupcake liners--paper, aluminum, and some with patterns, some plain. There goes 500 white cupcake liners in the basket. As I continued my journey, a sales greeted me and asked me if I need assistance. Well...I do want some matcha powder. He was very efficient and guided me to the tea section. Unfortunately, a small 3 oz box cost $40. I guess I can save my matcha adventure when I go to Kyoto.

Anyways at the end I bought more than the cocoa powder I intended to buy, which was not surprising at all. Anyone who loves their kitchen would worship Surfas. If you're ever in Los Angeles or strolling around Culver City, go to Washington Blvd and take a look at Surfas yourself!

Surfas got me so excited to bake! I've been wanting to make soft pretzels for the longest time! And they are soft temptations when I go to Disneyland. One of the many things I bought from Surfas was coarse sea salt. That with the bread flour will certainly gimme the best pretzels, I hope.

Golden pretzel with coarse sea salt
It's such a long recipe, so I'm just going to post the ingredients list and explain the process in words.

First off, take a large bowl and pour warm water and yeast. Wait about 5 minutes for the yeast to wake up.  Then add in the melted butter, follow by whole wheat flour and sea salt. You can use any salt you like for the dough.

If you want to make sweet cinnamon pretzels, then I would add a tablespoon of sugar. I brushed some cinnamon butter mixture after baking and found the pretzel a bit too salty. But the sodium level is just right for a savory pretzel.

After adding whole wheat flour, add a third of the bread flours. Since I like to knead my own bread, I use a wooden spoon and incorporate everything until a dough forms. If you like the no-fuss stand mixer way, then just attach the dough hook and slowly pour the bread flour into the bowl until the dough cleans away from the bowl.

If you are kneading your dough then add enough bread flour until a rough dough forms. On a lightly floured surface, use the ball of your palm to push the top of the dough out, then fold it back and rotate the dough 90 degrees. Push the dough out again with the ball of your palm and fold back. Keep on rotating and pushing and kneading until a smooth surface forms. By this time the dough should barely kiss your hand. Press a finger 1/2 inch into the dough, if the finger impression does not disappear then you're ready to let the dough rest for 40 minutes. I like to keep my dough loosely covered in the oven or the microwave.

After 40 minutes, the dough should have doubled in size. Weigh the dough and divide into 14 balls. With parchment paper ready on the side, roll each ball out into thin strips. It should be longer than your forearm, about the length of a baking sheet. When you first start rolling, roll with the ball of your palm too so you can distribute equal weight on the strip. As the strip gets longer, roll with both palms in the middle and exert a small force to push the dough out. ***Give the sides enough dough to stretch out but keep the dough fat in the middle. Make the tips skinnier than your pinky.

To shape into pretzels, hold the strip from the tip and criss-cross them to make a large loop. Then twist the loop and fold the tips back. Repeat until you get 14 pretzels.

Notice how the tips are skinny and the middle of the loop is fat. The knot is from criss-crossing the tips, twisting the loop, and folding the tips back.
At this stage, preheat oven to 450F.

Now add baking soda to water and boil them together. When the water is ready carefully drop a pretzel into the water. Wait 30 seconds before flipping it and cook for another 30 seconds. Take the cooked pretzel out and let rest on a wire rack. When you get enough to fit on your baking sheet (about 6), brush some egg wash on the pretzels and sprinkle with some coarse sea salt. Then bake for 15 minutes.

Bubbles are coming from the baking soda. Baking soda gives pretzel a tan before baking.

This is a cooked pretzel after boiling.
While the first batch it baking, continue to cook the rest of the pretzels.

If you want sweet pretzels, simply brush the pretzel with egg wash, bake it then brush another layer of cinnamon sugar glaze after you take it out from the oven.

For the sugar glaze I mixed nutmeg, cinnamon, sugar and butter together then brush them on after baking
Wait for the pretzels to cool down a little before you dig in! It's a great idea to have a cheese fondue on the side to dip your salty pretzels in!

Steaming hot pretzels from the oven


  1. love the detail notes and great tips on baking!

    1. Thanks ashley! You and michelle can try the recipe at home and ask me any questions.