Back when I lived in New York, one of my favorite breakfasts came from a street cart or bodega with a grill: egg and cheese on a roll (the classic version of this sandwich comes with bacon, but as a non-meat eater, I skip it). The roll was soft and chewy (and sometimes slightly stale because – you know – it’s still from a cart), the cheese gooey, and the egg slightly salty. I didn’t allow myself to get them often (maybe not the healthiest choice), but when I allowed myself the treat, it would be gone in about 12 seconds.
These days, whenever I visit New York, the egg and cheese happens at least once during the trip. Now, it also tastes nostalgic to me, a quick breakfast from the city I love, eaten during some very fun years of my life. I don’t think that exact sandwich can be replicated anywhere else, since it’s not just about the food but also about all the memories that come with it.
So, rather than create something that I won’t be able to entirely capture, I figured I should try to replicate the flavors and textures – chewy, salty, cheesy. I love tender, salty, toothy pretzels and figured they would be the perfect pairing for a west-coast version of a classic favorite of mine.
A few notes about this recipe – I tried making a few adjustments for my first batch, and they were a bit of a flop (because, you know, science). I’d suggest following what’s below pretty closely – the one change I did keep in from the original was making the rolls slightly larger, so that they could fit a full egg. Also, I shorted some of the boiling time, the rolls were plenty chewy with slightly less time in the water bath.
1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
2 3/4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
6 cups water
1/4 cup baking soda
Place the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside to rest until the mixture bubbles, about 5 minutes. (If the mixture does not bubble, either the liquid was not at the correct temperature or the yeast is old.) Meanwhile, coat a large mixing bowl with a thin layer of vegetable oil and set aside.
Place the flour, sugar, and measured salt in a large bowl and whisk briefly to break up any lumps and combine. Once the yeast is ready, fit the bowl on the mixer, attach a dough hook, and dump in the flour mixture. Mix on the lowest setting until the dough comes together, then increase to medium speed and mix until the dough is elastic and smooth, about 6-8 minutes.
Form the dough into a ball, place in the oiled mixing bowl, and turn the dough to coat in oil. Cover with a clean, damp dishtowel and let rest in a warm place until the dough doubles in size, about 30 to 35 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, coat the paper with vegetable oil, and set aside.
Once the dough has risen, punch it down and knead it on a floured, dry surface just until it becomes smooth and springs back when poked, about 1 minute. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and form into oblong rolls. Place the rolls on the baking sheet and cut 4 (2-inch) diagonal slashes across the top of each. Cover with a damp towel and let the dough rise in a warm place until almost doubled in volume, about 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425°F and bring the 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat.
Once the rolls have risen, stir the baking soda into the boiling water (the water will foam up slightly). Boil two or three rolls for 1 minute 30 seconds per side. Using a slotted spoon, remove the rolls, drain, and place on the baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle well with salt and repeat with the remaining rolls.
Once all the rolls are ready, place in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Serve hot.
Strudel and Streusel are two friends living in different cities, sharing a love of baking (and butter) through this blog. With Streusel in Denver, and Strudel in Seattle, we've found our little site to be a great way to stay in touch, share recipes we love, and talk about experiences in our respective cities.