I'm trying to come up with some new 'gourmet' snack ideas for a local theatre, and one of the ideas is hard pretzels dipped in chocolate (and/or various other things). I'm not sure if I can source the pretzels, so I've tried baking them . . .and I'm having problems. They taste great in soft pretzel form, but I can't get them to bake long enough to turn into hard pretzels without them getting way too brown.
I'm using an old recipe and haven't worked out the weights yet, but in volume, here it is:
3 cups AP flour
1 tsp. instant dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 (+) cup warm water
Mix everything up, knead and leave to double, about 1 hour. Then I cut and form sticks (about 1/2 inch thick) and let them rise again while I get the water solution ready:
8 cups water
1/2 cup baking soda
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
Dip the pretzels in the water solution and leave for 15-20 seconds. Back onto a baking sheet and I've been sprinkling them when salt.
The original recipe calls for baking at 375 for about 30-35 minutes. I use commercial convection ovens, so the first batch went into 350 oven and were too brown within 10 minutes. I tried another batch at 325 -- too brown. Today I preheat to 300, put the pretzels in and reduced the temperature to 275. These baked for about 20 minutes before they were too brown and still soft. Tried turning the oven oven off and letting them stay in while it cooled (like meringues) but they were still too brown.
Any suggestions? Might it be the sugar in the water-bath? How do you get crunchy (thick) pretzels that aren't too dark?