Sesame and Sea Salt Pretzels with Hot Cider Mustard / by Chelsea Zwieg

Being that my family knows me so well, I came away from Christmas with a new camera bag, The Brady Bunch on DVD (!!!) and cookbooks times three. I love getting new cookbooks, especially when it's one I've been paging through at Barnes and Noble hoping that the people at Customer Service (which, of course, is right next to the cookbooks) don't eventually come over and tell me to buy the book or get out because maybe bookstores weren't invented for me to read the entire book while standing in front of the shelf making notes in my phone about things that I want to make. It hasn't happened yet, but I just have a feeling. When I do finally bring a cookbook home, I like to sit and read it like a book. Cover to cover, reading each word of each recipe. Even if I don't intend to make it, reading about the process and the ingredients and seeing photo after stunning photo makes me all giddy and inspired and ready to cook for days and days and days. 

One such inspired-to-the-point-of-giddy cookbook is Sunday Suppers. The photos, the recipes, the words....it's all beautiful. The inner battle that went down in deciding which recipe to make first will not even be discussed but eventually soft pretzels and homemade mustard won out. And there could not have been a better choice.

Back in my after-school-snack days I used to be a big fan of microwaveable soft pretzels and the smell of these pretzels, fresh out of the oven, brought me right back to watching abc family, procrastinating on homework and updating Xanga. 

But instead of coming out of the freezer, these pretzels are soft and chewy and although doughy is not necessarily a flavor, that's all that comes to mind when you taste them. I topped them with Maldon salt and sesame seeds (my new favorite topping for everything) but the best part about these is their versatility. You could go the sweet route and do cinnamon and sugar, top them with shredded cheese, sprinkle on spices like garlic salt or red pepper flakes or even roll them in chopped nuts. 

Lastly, the mustard. I'm a big ol' mustard fan. I dip pizza in honey mustard. And french fries. And my fingers and face. But in all of my mustard loving days, I have never made it from scratch. I really had no idea how it was made, but leave it to Sunday Suppers to show me the way. Lo and behold, it's super easy. And way more fun than store bought mustard. All you do is let mustard seeds sit in vinegar (and hard cider in this case) overnight and then the next day you blend them up with whatever spices you want and viola! You made mustard! Now that I make my own condiments, I feel like the possibilities are endless. Well, at least as far as mustard goes. I have yet to venture into homemade ketchup land, which I can only assume is done by crushing tomatoes with your feet in a large tub à la the grape lady. So I'll leave that for another day. 

Sesame and Sea Salt Pretzels

Adapted from Sunday Suppers: Recipes + Gatherings

Make 8 Pretzels

| Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp. whole milk
  • 1 tbsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Sesame seeds, for sprinkling
  • Sea salt, for sprinkling
  • 2 tbsp. cornmeal

| Instructions

  • Heat 1 1/2 cups milk in a saucepan or microwave until it is warm (about 110 degrees, no higher). Add yeast and honey, giving a quick stir to combine and break up any yeast clumps. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. 
  • In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Add half of the flour mixture to the yeast mixture, beat until incorporated. Add the remaining flour and mix on low for 5 minutes. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook and knead on medium-low speed for 10 minutes. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl. (Just drizzle a little olive oil into a bowl and spread it around evenly with a paper towel). Cover the bowl with a towel and let it rest in a warm, draft-free area for 1 1/2 hours (it should double in size). 
  • Position a baking stone in the oven and preheat to 450. If you don't have a baking stone, this can be skipped but it does help to cook the pretzels evenly and make sure the bottoms get browned. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal. Set aside. 
  • After dough rises, divide into 8 equal portions. On a floured surface, roll each portion into a long strand a little thicker than your finger, about 20 inches long. Take each end of a strand, twist together once or twice, flip the joined ends down, and attach them to the rounded portion. 
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add baking soda and salt, and lower the heat to a simmer. (Be sure to add the baking soda very slowly because it will bubble up like a volcano, boil over the pan and cause your stove to turn chalk white. Not that I know from experience. I just heard a rumor). Gently place pretzels, one at a time, into the water. Cook for 20 seconds. Flip and cook for another 20 seconds. Place them on a wire rack to dry. 
  • In a small bowl, whisk egg yolk and remaining 2 tbsp. milk together. Brush the top of each pretzel with the mixture. Sprinkle each pretzel with the sea salt and sesame seeds. Transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheets and bake, on top of the hot stone, 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. These will keep uncovered, at room temperature for a 1-2 days. Be sure not to store them in a sealed container, as the moisture from the salt will make them very soggy. 

Hot Cider Mustard 

Adapted (heavily) from Sunday Suppers: Recipes + Gatherings

Makes 1 cup

| Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup hard cider (I used crisp apple Angry Orchard)
  • 3 tbsp. yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 tbsp. brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon

| Instructions

  • In a small container, combine vinegar, brown sugar, cider and mustard seeds. Cover and refrigerate overnight. 
  • The next day, place mixture in a food processor. Add salt, pepper, mustard powder, cayenne and cinnamon. Pulse until the desired consistency is reached (depending on how grainy you like your mustard).