Yeah, well you all know how I feel about Valentine's Day. I basically wait patiently for February 15th and then spend the next week and a half hoarding deeply-discounted heart-shaped chocolates and laughing at all of the suckers who paid full price. I'm Sad Shibow, and I'm cheap and wild. Hear me roar [about this nothing "holiday"].
Yes, yes, I am happily taken now, and indeed we did have a mini-celebration last year. Honestly, though, we do random mini-celebrations all the time, and that particular day just gave us an excuse to eat extremely unhealthy treats for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all of the hours in between these meals, since we were doing it all "out of luhrveeee." But even when I was single I basically just ignored the whole day. Not in a "I'm a bitter old fool and you and your betrothed can go suck an unripe blood orange" kind of way, though. One year, it was more of a "I have the flu and very much feel like I am going to expire at any moment, and this feels like both the longest day and shortest year of my life, and also I currently have no concept of time." That's really the only V-Day I remember, and I can really only recall that one because my Dad had bought me a plush polar bear carrying a heart, which momentarily had me wondering if I was, in fact, about to croak. So, you know, it's just a day.
That said, if you have people that you want to make lovey-dovey edible items for on this day, please do so. To be honest, I like the idea of these soft pretzels as an "I love you" treat because they're subtly heart-shaped, if they're shaped correctly. If you know me, you know that's always a mission for me. Truly, there isn't a stencil, cookie cutter, or one-on-one tutorial that could help me.
Oh, also, set aside a few hours for this. These babies take some real time to perfect.
Soft Pretzels (makes 8)
1 1/2 cups of warm water
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast
1 stick of butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups of all-purpose flour
Canola oil, to grease bowl
3 quarts of water
2/3 cup of baking soda
1 egg, beaten
Coarse sea salt
Cinnamon sugar, optional
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine water, sugar, yeast and melted butter. Let sit for 5 minutes, then add the salt and 4 1/2 cups of the flour. You can use a dough hook for this if you're stand mixer has an attachment, but I was able to just get down n' dirty with clean hands and knead this into a dough. However you do it, make sure to knead until the dough is smooth. If the dough appears too wet, add in a little more flour until you have what you need. Knead into a ball, and place into a large bowl that has been generously coated with canola oil. Cover bowl with a clean towel until the dough doubles in side, about 1 hour.
Bring your 3 quarts of water to a boil, and preheat your oven to 425ºF. Remove your now-ginormous dough from the bowl and separate into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope, then take one end and attach to the middle of the rope.
Do the same with the other end, and you should get a pretzel-y shape.
Now, slowly add baking soda to your water. Be very careful with this, as when added too quickly, the baking soda will foam, bubble over, and uglify your stovetop.
Oh, you could also burn yourself. So, again, cuidado. Slowly drop pretzels, two at a time, into the baking soda solution, for 30 seconds. Remove using a slotted spatula. Place 4 pretzels on each baking sheet.
Brush the tops of each pretzel with beaten egg, and sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt. (You can also add any other powder-y toppings you'd like, such as powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.) Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the tops of the pretzels are golden brown. Let cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes.
Ok, before these were done I was. Meaning, the whole baking soda boil-over kind of really pissed me off, and I took it out on the pretzels by neglecting them for a few minutes after they cooled. Isn't that sad? I took my anger out on an inanimate object that I had just spent hours making. I really only came around when I saw my boyfriend picking at one and making strange noises. Since I'd kept things simple and stuck with salt as the only topping, we decided to sit down with a couple, pile on the mustard, and make strange noises together. Wait. No. Wait. We just really liked them. Even I was impressed at how well and professional-tasting these ended up being. Yum.
My only real suggestion is to make these when you're expecting guests. Specifically, exactly 8 guests. One is very filling, and these start to go stale after a couple of days, so it's wise to either give a few away or find a friend with a bottomless pit for a stomach. Or, you know, just gorge yourself on these with the person you most like to make strange noises with.
Ugh. Sorry. Happy Whatevs Day!