We are in the last days of August and she is going out with a bang by throwing her most impressive/oppressive heat wave at us.
It's hot. It's so very, very humid. And it takes approximately 1.5 seconds to go from fresh-as-a-daisy to haggard, soaked, and unfavorably fragrant.
I have survived exactly 23 of these southern summers and can boast six bouts of sun-poisoning, an uncountable number of monumental frizzy hair days, and a whole lot of trips to the mall for air-conditioned solice to show for it.
For about six of those twenty-three years I knew the privilege of being the only child, niece, and granddaughter on my mom's side of the family.
During that time, my mother, grandmother, and I took many survival trips to the mall. We browsed, we shopped, and, most importantly, we avoided the heat.
The mall was always a favorite escape of mine, and I learned to appreciate the art of shopping at a startlingly young age. However, the greatest appeal, by far, lay in the blue and white kiosks and their fragrant, margarine-coated offerings.
Yes, I am talking about soft pretzels. Specifically, cinnamon sugar soft pretzels.
My younger self never batted an eye at the salted pretzels, but those magical, sugar-crusted knots sent my heart aflutter. And thanks to my very indulgent Gaga, my cravings rarely went unsatisfied.
Recently, I was remembering those long-past ventures, when malls were still indoor institutions and I had no idea that pretzels could be made at home.
It was in that nostalgic state that it donned on me to marry two of my favorite baked goods and create the most wonderful of edible babies.
Um, that analogy got weird real fast. My apologies.
Without further ado, meet pretzel cinnamon rolls.
All the best parts of both favorites are here. The swirled, cinnamon-filled layers that can be carefully pulled apart to reveal that coveted inner bite. The chewy, deep brown, salted exterior so iconic to soft pretzels. And, of course, a heavy swipe of butter - vanilla butter, that is, and a drizzle of cream cheese icing.
The best breakfast, mall treat, or summer afternoon snack around.
Dreams really do come true.
PRETZEL CINNAMON ROLLS
makes 12 / recipe loosely adapted from Alton Brown
FOR THE PRETZEL DOUGH
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 22 ounces all-purpose flour
- 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- nonstick spray
- 2/3 cup baking soda (later use)
In the bowl of your stand mixer combine 1 1/2 cups warm water, sugar, and kosher salt. Sprinkle yeast on top and allow to sit for 5 minutes; until foamy.
Add the flour, melted butter, and vanilla to the yeast mixture and fit your mixer with the dough hook attachment. Mix on low speed until the flour and butter are well incorporated. Then, increase the speed to medium and knead for five minutes. At this point, the dough should be smooth and will have pulled away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is still a little shaggy, knead for 2-3 minutes more.
Remove the dough from the mixer, and transfer to a large bowl that you have greased with nonstick spray. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise for 55 minutes, until doubled in size.
Cook's Note: While the dough rises, prepare your filling.
FOR THE FILLING
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Cook's Note: It is important that the butter be melted, but room temperature when you add the sugar and cinnamon, otherwise the hot butter will melt the sugar and you will be left with a syrup rather than a paste.
In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and cinnamon. Pour the melted butter over the cinnamon sugar and stir to form a paste. Set aside.
At this point, fill a 4-quart saucepan with 2/3 cup baking soda and 10 cups of water and bring to a rolling boil. Line two large baking sheets with nonstick parchment paper.
BAKING & ASSEMBLY
- egg wash (1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon of water)
- kosher salt
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Once your pretzel dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a floured surface and roll into a 8x18-inch rectangle.
Spread the prepared filling in an even layer over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border around the edges. This border will prevent things from getting overly messy when you roll.
Carefully shape the dough into a log by tucking and rolling the rectangle lengthwise.
Cut the roll in half, and then cut each half into six rolls.
At this point, your water bath should be boiling steadily. Use a frying spider to drop each of the rolls into the water bath and boil for thirty seconds.
Lay them on the prepared baking sheets and brush with egg wash. Sprinkle each roll with a pinch of kosher salt.
Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the rolls are deep brown in color.
While the rolls bake, prepare the vanilla butter and icing.
FOR THE VANILLA BUTTER
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Combine butter and vanilla in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
FOR THE CREAM CHEESE ICING
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature
- 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
Use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese until light and fluffy; about one minute. Reduce the speed to low, and slowly sift in the confectioner's sugar.
With the mixer still running, drizzle in heavy cream. Then, increase speed to medium and mix until smooth.
Allow the hot pretzels to cool just slightly (roughly 5 minutes) before brushing with a generous layer of vanilla butter and drizzling with the cream cheese icing.
Cook's Note: These pretzels are still pretty wonderful the next day. However, I recommend holding off on the icing until just before you serve. Simply store the icing in the refrigerator and give it a quick stir just before pouring. Reheat the pretzels in the microwave for about thirty seconds before pouring the icing.