Photos by Samantha Levy, Words by Fred Chang
During the summer, I randomly found myself immersed in three culinary hobbies: butchering, wagashi (Japanese confections), and baking bread. While experimenting with different kinds of flours, doughs, and flavors, I sought after flavor combinations that would make one salivate just at the mention of them. The one concept that really captured that effect was a fluffy, dark pretzel dough. Studded with bits of crispy, smoky bacon and sweet, rich caramelized onions. A perfect addition to any Thanksgiving table, here is my brain-child: a caramelized onion and bacon pretzel dough.
2 cups milk (I prefer using goat’s milk for it’s tanginess, but any milk will do!)
2 packets active dry yeast
8 strips bacon
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup bacon fat
1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup baking soda
3 cups warm water
coarse salt, to taste
- Heat milk until it reaches 110º F. Pour milk into a bowl and add yeast and brown sugar. Give it a gentle stir and let sit for 10 minutes (preferably in a warm environment or in an oven preheated to 110º F).
- While the milk and yeast are sitting, heat bacon in a pan until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy. Set crispy bacon aside and reserve the majority of the rendered fat. Finely dice an onion. Alternatively, you can finely julienne the onion. Sauté the onion in the pan that the bacon was rendered in until it becomes a light brown. Set onions aside.
- Whisk in 1/4 cup bacon fat and salt into the milk and yeast mixture and stir until combined. Make a well out of the flour and pour the milk-fat-yeast mixture into the center. Slowly mix with a fork, dragging a little bit of the flour into the liquid at a time, until a dough starts to form. Add in almost all of the rendered bacon (finely chopped) and caramelized onions, reserving at most 1/8 of each. Continuously knead the dough until it is smooth, and when pressed, rises back up.
- Cover dough with a clean kitchen towel and let proof in a warm place for 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 450º F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Punch dough down and divide into 12 equal portions. Cover remaining dough pieces with a kitchen towel (to keep the dough from drying out) while you start working on your first pretzel. Roll out dough into a long, thin tube, roughly 1/4 inch in diameter, and pinch the tips of the dough tube. Twist the dough into the desired shape, whether it is a classic looped pretzel or an intricately knotted roll.
- Dissolve baking soda in 3 cups warm water. Fully immerse each pretzel in the baking soda-water and let excess liquid drip off. Place onto prepared baking sheet, reshape (if needed) and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, the remaining rendered bacon and caramelized onion. Roughly 6 pretzels should fit into a single baking sheet.
- Bake pretzels in the oven for 13 minutes (25 if baking rolls!)
- Enjoy while still warm!