Every year, on the Sunday before Halloween, my neighborhood hosts a Halloween parade, costume contest and trick-or-treating. What makes this event extra spooktacular and fun is, nearly every neighbor participates and decorates.
Houses are decked out with tombstones, cobwebs, ghosts, witches and spiders. Hundreds of pumpkins decorate porches and front stoops. Bales of hay and corn stalks brighten up street signs. Neighbors hang out and have beers and snacks in-between refueling the crowds of candy-crazed ghouls, goblins and superheros. Topping off this idyllic scene is the foliage… The neighborhood is full of oak, elm and maple trees, leaving beautiful, vibrant colors of red, yellow and orange painted throughout the streets. It’s the perfect backdrop for a super scary Halloween creepshow-freakshow.
This parade reminds me of my small town Halloween days as a kid. Every Halloween at nightfall, we’d venture up and down our neighborhood streets, trick-or-treating for hours. We’d end up receiving all kinds of delicious treats from beloved neighbors, like homemade popcorn balls, handmade chocolates, fudge and caramels from a local candy maker or special treat bags from relatives that lived nearby. There were kids everywhere, all dressed up and running from house to house, laughing the whole time. Those are some of my favorite memories – I’m so happy to be able to relive that in my own neighborhood today!
My best friend never gets any halloweeners and every year she is bummed out and left with a full bowl of candy. This year, she came over to help me with my trick-or-treaters. As a treat to ourselves, we decided to have Oktoberfest in celebration! She came supplied with pumpkin beer and fresh apple cider doughnuts. I made a homemade batch of extra large, super uber, soft pretzels. I paired the pretzels with a simple cheese dipping sauce and a few pieces of Emmentaler and we were set! It was a fun way to celebrate Halloween, October and Fall. I love this time of the year!
Give these extra-large Oktoberfest pretzels a try, your stomach will surely thank you. To be as Oktoberfest-y as possible, get yourself an extra-large German beer stein, some bratwurst and spicy mustard and enjoy. This is a really fun way to have dinner or as a party tray!
Adapted from Pretzel Making at Home
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (100-115 F)
1 tablespoon barley malt syrup or dark brown sugar, firmly packed
3 1/4 cups unbleached bread flour
1/2 cup cold pilsner-style beer
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, room temperature
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 tablespoons food-grade lye or 1/4 cup baked baking soda*
salt for topping
Makes 4 Uber pretzels
Add water to bowl of stand mixer, add yeast and barley salt or brown sugar until dissolved. After 5 minutes, yeast should have bloomed and will be foamy and bubbly. Stir in flour, beer, butter and salt and mix until shaggy dough begins to form. Attach bread hook and knead on medium-low speed. The dough will form a ball shape and pull away from walls of mixer after 1 minute. The dough will be slightly tacky. If it is sticky, add flour, 1 teaspoon at a time until smooth. If dough is too dry, add water 1 tablespoon at a time until dough comes together. Mix on medium-low for 5-7 minutes until dough is elastic.
The dough will double in size, so choose a bowl that will hold it. Grease the bowl with butter, transfer dough to bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for at least 8 hours and for as long as 24.
Turn dough out on an unfloured work surface and press down on dough to deflate, cut into 4 equal portions. Keep dough covered under a damp cloth while working with each piece.
Pat your dough piece into a small rectangle.
Roll the edges of the rectangle towards you, making a cylinder. Pinch the seam together and shape the dough into a rope, rolling it against the work surface with your palms working from the center towards the ends. When the dough is between 24-36 inches long, set aside to rest. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
Return to first dough rope and roll out to 46-48 inches long, tapering the ends slightly by applying a little more pressure as your work your way out.
Hold dough by tips making a U shape. Cross ends and turn crossing a second time making the pretzel shape. Press the ends into the bottom of the pretzel to adhere together. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough putting finished pretzels on 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Cover the pretzels with a damp cloth as you go.
Let pretzels rise 20-30 minutes until size has increased by half. Your pretzels are ready to be dipped in the lye solution now. Alternatively, you can refrigerate the pretzels for up to 8 hours before dipping.
Preheat oven to 500 F 20 minutes before baking.
To make the lye solution add 2 tablespoons lye to 6 cups of water. Turn on hood vent and heat water until steam appears. Remove pot from heat and let steam subside, about 5 minutes.
Using a large skimmer, dip pretzels one at a time in lye solution. Leave in solution for about 20 seconds, flipping after 10. Remove from solution, drain and place on parchment paper. If the ends come loose, reattach. Repeat with remaining pretzels
Cut a slit in the deepest part of the pretzels. Top with salt or preferred seasoning and put in oven.
Bake pretzels for 12-15 minutes until they are a deep mahogany color. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back 8 minutes into baking. When finished, transfer pretzels to a wire rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Serve with bratwurst, kielbasa, sauerkraut, mustard, cheese sauce, meats or cheeses.
*Baking soda solution
Preheat your oven to 250 F. Spread 1/4 cup baking soda onto a quarter sheet pan or small rimmed baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Allow baking soda to cool completely and keep in an airtight container at room temperature until you are ready to make your pretzels.
Fill a pot with 8 cups of water and add 1/4 cup of baked baking soda. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Once baking soda dissolves, reduce heat to medium to maintain a simmer. Brush pretzels with egg wash right before baking to help give them a glossy finish and some color.