Saturday, May 5, 2007

Witches’ Fingers (Halloween Pretzels), from Gael

These awesomely spooky pretzels are great for Halloween. I thought they'd be too gross to eat, but they're not! Warning: Sogged badly the second day, eat them the day you make them. The recipe is long, but easy.

48 sliced blanched almonds
red food coloring, optional
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast, scant
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 large egg
rosemary, optional
sea salt, optional

Place a small amount of food coloring in a shallow bowl, and, using a paintbrush, color the rounded side of each split almond; set aside to dry. (I used spray-on red food coloring.)

Pour 2 cups warm water (110°) into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough-hook attachment. Add sugar; stir to dissolve. Sprinkle with yeast, and let stand until yeast begins to bubble, about 5 minutes. Beat 1 cup flour into yeast on low speed until combined. Beat in salt; add 3 1/2 cups flour until combined. Beat until dough pulls away from bowl, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low; add 1/2 cup flour. Knead 1 minute more. If dough is sticky, add up to 1 cup more flour. Transfer to a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth, 1 minute.

Coat a large bowl with cooking spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap; let rest in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Heat oven to 450°. Heat 3 quarts water to boil in a 6-quart straightsided saucepan over high heat; reduce to a simmer. Add baking soda. Lightly coat two baking sheets with cooking spray. Divide dough into quarters. Work with one quarter at a time, and cover remaining dough with plastic wrap. Divide the first quarter into twelve pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll each piece back and forth with your palm into a long finger shape, about 3 to 4 inches. Pinch dough in two places to form knuckles. When all twelve fingers are formed, transfer to simmering water. Poach for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fingers to baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, blanching each set of 12 fingers before making more. (NOTE: You will be tempted to make fewer than 12 per quadrant of dough. Don't do it...they puff up when put into the water. If you make bigger ones, they will look like fingers that have gout.)

Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzel fingers with egg wash. Using a sharp knife, lightly score each knuckle about three times. Sprinkle with salt and rosemary, if using. Position almond nails; push into dough to attach. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack. Fingers are best eaten the same day; or store, covered, up to 2 days at room temperature.

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