Hot dogs. Don’t even get me started on them.
I have an intense love for down and dirty street foods and when I moved to the United States, hot dogs fast became one of my favorites. On outings, I’d make a beeline for carts selling hot dogs to get one or even two. Friends would tell me where to find”gourmet” hot dogs and I’d rush to buy some and grill ’em up. And all the while, Desi, his nose up in the air, would refuse to take a single bite, saying: “I can’t imagine how you can stand those things.”
Well, as much as I hate to admit it, Desi was right.
Hot dogs are one of the worst foods you can put into your tummy, being highly processed and filled with chemical preservatives. Later, a firm vegan and working for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit that advocates vegan nutrition, I learned more about the terrible effects that processed meats, like hot dogs, can have on your health, from colorectal cancer to hypertension (not to mention the suffering of the poor animals who die for them). When grilled, these little wieners get even more dangerous and carcinogenic.
My job at PCRM was in media relations, and one of the projects I headed up was pitching the evils of processed meats to the media. I worked on so many hot-dog stories (my most exciting moment was when I got a call from Jon Stewart’s producer for a segment on our hot-dog billboards) that when I left PCRM for another job, my coworkers gave me a send-off with a hot-dog theme, veggie dogs and all.
I still haven’t lost my love of hot dogs, and to date I will pick up a packet of veggie dogs on most supermarket trips. Veggie dogs are delicious, and although processed too, the fact that they are not made of meat means they are much better for you. Now, we have another veggie-hot-dog fan in the house: Jay.
The recipe I have for you today is these nifty little pretzel hot-dog buns that are just the perfect vehicle for that grilled veggie dog.
I adore pretzels– another great American street food — and a pretzel bun wrapped around a veggie dog is my idea of bliss. These are part whole-wheat, which even makes them rather virtuous.
The process for making these is a little long, but it’s by no means complicated and you’re sure to get results if you follow the steps carefully.
In fact, I’m running to the kitchen right now to get myself a veggie dog. Join me!
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp vital wheat gluten (optional)
- 2¼ tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
- 1 cup non-dairy milk like soy or almond
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 2 tsp grated or minced garlic
- ½ cup baking soda
- Sea salt
- Heat the non-dairy milk along with the maple syrup and water in a saucepan to about 110 degrees or until just warm enough to dip a finger into, but not scalding.
- Place the liquid in a large bowl and sprinkle on the yeast. Let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes or until the yeast is frothing.
- Add the oil, two flours and wheat gluten, if using. Add the garlic.
- Knead on medium speed for about 6-7 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Remove the dough to a flat surface, flour the surface lightly, and knead into a ball,
- Cut the dough into eight equal parts. Roll each piece into a ball and let them stand, covered, about 15 minutes.
- Roll each piece into a cylinder about seven inches long, on a lightly floured surface, sealing any edges tightly and tucking them underneath.
- Place the buns on a baking sheet about two inches apart, cover with a towel, and let them stand for 30 minutes.
- Bring 8 cups of water to boil in a large pot. After the water boils, on low heat or with the heat turned off momentarily, add the baking soda.
- Restart the stove if you turned it off, and add the pretzel bun logs to the boiling water, cooking each side for 30 seconds.
- Remove them and place them on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet, about an inch apart. Immediately sprinkle on some sea salt.
- Cut three slits on the top of each bun. Place the buns in a preheated 425-degree oven and let them bake for 13 minutes.
- Remove and cool on a rack.