My new bread machine (an Oster Expressbake) inspired me to make soft pretzels. The recipe in the manual called for eggs so I found a vegan recipe online. I cut out the oil due to the high baking temp of 450º (my highest rated oil is only safe to 425º, plus we try to avoid cooked oil). I also used whole wheat bread flour plus vital wheat gluten instead of regular bread flour. These are so scrumptious; if you add a bit of Earth Balance Buttery Spread, they taste like the really-bad-for-you soft pretzels that you get at the mall.
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Pretzel Dough:
8-9 ounces of hot water (one cup + 1-2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup vegan sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups whole wheat bread flour
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast

Directions
1. Follow the directions for your bread maker’s dough cycle (it should take about 1 hr 30 mins). When the cycle is finished, take the dough out and form into a large ball.
2. Rip off golf ball sized chunks of dough. Here is the tricky part; roll long thin snakes of dough (about 16 inches long) without ripping them. I press really hard as I roll the dough. Twist the snake into the shape of a pretzel and let it sit on the counter.

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3. Once I have 6 pretzels, I preheat the oven to 450º.
4. One at a time, dip pretzels in a baking soda bath (1/2 cup hot water and 1 ½ tablespoon of baking soda). Drip dry a bit and stretch the shape as it drips.
5. Place on a very slightly greased cookie sheet (I use Spectrum Canola Spray Oil and wipe it off) and sprinkle with salt (regular or kosher).
6. Bake at 450º for 8-9 minutes (third rack from the top in my oven).
7. Take off and cool on a rack (eat one right away because they are best fresh out of the oven).
8. While the first batch is baking, roll and shape the rest of the pretzels.
9. Once cool, store in an airtight container. Pop in the toaster oven to reheat.

Makes 13 pretzels. One pretzel has 124 calories, .5 grams of fat, 0 saturated fat, 0 cholesterol, and 5.5 grams of protein.

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Since committing to a vegan lifestyle and adding a bunch of other healthy rules to our diet, I can honestly say the one and only thing that I miss from my old standard American Diet is crusty French bread dipped in olive oil or soup. In Lancaster, we can’t buy crusty French bread that is organic and whole wheat so I set out to make it myself. I searched the web for a recipe and found a blog recipe for Authentic French Bread from Boo’s a veg-a-nut. I made 4 batches before I created the masterpiece that I wanted. I added sugar and made small baguette loaves to increase the crust-factor. Here is my spin on Sheree’s recipe – thanks Sheree.

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1 cup of water
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups of organic whole wheat bread flour
1 cup of organic whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 tsp of yeast (this is more than one packet of yeast)
1 teaspoon organic sugar
about 1/3 cup corn meal on baking sheet

Add all ingredients (except cornmeal) to a bread maker and set it on the dough cycle. After the dough cycle concludes (about 1 hour and 20 minutes), remove the dough and divide into two balls. Roll each ball in a “worm” (like play dough) about 12 inches long. Make sure the “worm” is consistently the same width. Pour corn meal in two strips on a cookie sheet. I was surprised at the amount of cornmeal needed to prevent sticking, better to use too much than not enough. Cut slits in the baguettes with a sharp knife. Brush the tops of each baguette with water to keep the dough from drying out. Cover with a towel and place somewhere warm for about 45 minutes. (Our house is very cold in the winter so I turn the oven on for literally 1 minute and then turn it off. I place the dough in the oven to keep it warm.) After 45 minutes, (remove from oven if using it for rising) preheat the oven to 450º. Brush the baguettes with more water and place in the oven (in my oven the second rack level from the bottom out of 5 levels worked best). Bake for 20 minutes. Cool on a rack. Bread will be very crisp on the outside, but still soft inside.

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