Pretzel

Homemade pretzels can be topped with your favorite salts. 

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Since I set up housekeeping many decades ago, I've only bought maybe 10 containers of salt. I'm not a big salt user — cooking potatoes, salting homemade popcorn and using it in baking is pretty much it. 

I recently used the last of the salt in the house for a batch of cookies, literally emptying a couple of salt shakers to get the required teaspoon.

I don’t quite know when things changed, but in the past, if you wanted salt, there were two options — granulated table salt, typically sold in a round canister, or kosher salt, which comes in a big box and is a bit coarser. And then I hit the spice aisle at the market ... 

There was my old friend, table salt — plain or iodized, meaning iodine has been added to prevent iodine deficiency. There was kosher salt and sea salt, which is harvested from evaporated seawater. Both familiar friends.

But what the heck is Himalayan pink salt? A Google search told me it is the purest form of salt in the world, harvested by hand from Khewra Salt Mine in the Himalayan Mountains of Pakistan. Its color ranges from off-white to deep pink — and it contains the 84 natural minerals and elements found in the human body. Alrighty then ...

Celtic sea salt? Hold on, let me do another quick Google search. Being harvested from the bottom of tidal ponds off the coast of France, it has moist, chunky grains, a gray hue and briny taste. I thought of the foul-smelling tidal ponds I had encountered over the years and cringed. It has a French cousin, fleur de sel, harvested from tidal pools off the coast of Brittany, France. Again, no.

Black salt? What the heck?! Kala namak is Himalayan salt that's been packed in a jar with charcoal, herbs, seeds and bark, then fired in a furnace for 24 hours. Google said it has a faint, sulfurous aroma of eggs. Ugh!

Another, black lava salt or black Hawaiian salt, is a sea salt that gets its color from the addition of activated charcoal. There is also a red Hawaiian salt, alaea salt, which gets its name and color from the reddish, iron-rich volcanic clay alaea.

At that point, I took the coward's way out and picked up a nice, familiar round container of plain table salt. I also picked up some kosher salt, because I wanted to make some soft pretzels. My mom swore by this recipe from Fleischmann's Yeast.

SOFT PRETZELS

(Courtesy of Fleischmann's Yeast)

Yield: 14 pretzels

Prep time: 40 minutes

Bake time: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

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4 to 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 (2 1/4 tsp.) envelope Fleischmann's RapidRise Yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup milk

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons corn oil

2 eggs lightly beaten

Toppings: Coarse salt, grated Parmesan cheese, poppy seeds or sesame seeds

DIRECTIONS:

Combine 2 cups flour, sugar, undissolved yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Heat milk, water and oil until very warm (120 to 130 F); stir into flour mixture. Stir in enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead on floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 4 to 6 minutes. Cover; let rest on floured surface 10 minutes.

Divide into 14 equal pieces. Roll each piece to 20-inch rope. Cover; let rest 5 to 10 minutes until risen slightly. To shape into pretzels: Curve ends of each rope to make a circle; cross ends at top. Twist ends once and lay over bottom of circle. Place on two greased baking sheets.

Brush with beaten eggs. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven; brush again with eggs. Sprinkle with salt, cheese, poppy seed or sesame seed.

Return to oven and bake for 15 minutes or until done. Remove pretzels from baking sheets; let cool on wire racks.

Margaret Button can be reached at mbutton@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6298.