The Edible Bracket 2011

Last year's winners of the MNCAAPG Best Bracket contest are back. This March Madness season, we will be documenting foods associated with the competing schools. Consider it March Madness, Top Chef Edition.

Temple University Owls (Philadelphia, PA): Soft Pretzels

many pretzels

Any thought we had that we absolutely had to make cheese steaks to represent a Philly team was dispelled by a recent episode of Top Chef, when Dale stated “when you think of Philly, you think of cheese steaks and pretzels,” proving that pretzels are a completely legitimate symbol of Philadelphia cuisine.  According to Wikipedia, pretzels were not actually invented in Philadelphia, but date back to the 7th century (way before Philadelphia’s founding in 1682), and were brought to the United States by the Pennsylvania Dutch.  Who knew? 

We brought these pretzels, along with Election Cake, to a party, and they were gobbled up almost immediately.  While making pretzels is labor-intensive, it is also an incredibly fun process, which involves dunking the adorable uncooked pretzels in a baking soda bath prior to cooking.  And when we had an unexpected visit from the FDNY during pretzel-making (due to some scarily low-hanging wires in our backyard), one of the firefighters remarked “smells good in here” as he traipsed through the kitchen, before quickly declaring the wires to be no risk (“don’t even bother coming to look at them,” he told the rest of the firefighters dismissively).  

 pretzel bath


Miniature Soft Pretzelsfrom Smitten Kitchen  

2 cups warm (not hot) water

3 tbsps. sugar, divided

1 packet active dry yeast

5 cups flour

1 tbsp. salt

vegetable oil (for lining bowl)

1/4 cup baking soda

1 egg

coarse salt  

1. Mix warm water with 1 tbsp. sugar.  Add yeast without stirring, and let yeast sit about 10-15 minutes, until yeast foams up. 

2. Add 1 cup of flour to yeast mixture, and mix until well combined.  Add salt and mix.  Add remaining 4 cups of flour bit by bit and mix until well combined.  Continuing adding flour by the 1/2 cup until mixture is no longer sticky and can be kneaded.  Knead dough a few times until fully combined, and place in large oiled bowl.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot for about an hour, until doubled in size. 

3. Punch down risen dough to remove bubbles and divide into around 30 balls (for miniature pretzels; if you want your pretzels really small you could probably divide the dough into around 40 balls). 

4.  Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.  Roll out each ball into a strip about 18 inches long, and twist into pretzel shape (google “how to make pretzels” for helpful diagrams).  Place each pretzel on the baking sheets and allow to rise slightly. 

5. Fill a large pot with about 2 inches of water and bring to a boil.  When water is boiling add 1/4 cup baking soda (careful, it will foam up) and 2 tbsps. sugar.  Place 5-6 pretzels in the boiling water and boil on each side for about a minute.  Remove pretzels and place back on the baking sheet. 

6. Beat together egg and 1 tbsps. water, and brush pretzels with egg mixture and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Bake about 15 minutes, until golden.  (I flipped the two baking sheets halfway through cooking since the pretzels toward the top of the oven were browning much more quickly.)  

*For a delicious (albeit less authentically Philadelphian) alternative, omit the salt in step 6, melt butter over the pretzels when they come out of the oven and dip in cinnamon sugar.


  1. ediblebracket2011 posted this