o I know Oktoberfest has come and gone and those little sugar plum fairies are already dancing around in your head, but I could not resist the urge to make some homemade soft pretzels. Trust me, we have PLENTY of time for holiday baking.
Pretzels seem to be trendy these days. So if I post about pretzels does that also make me trendy? I have seen pretzel buns for burgers and hot dogs, used as crust for pizza, and even masquerading as Thanksgiving stuffing. While I didn’t venture that far out, I wanted to understand what the whole process of pretzel making was about.
Since it was the science of pretzel making I was looking to learn about, I turned to Alton Brown. Turns out it is similar to the process of bagel making in that you quickly boil the shaped dough in a baking soda mixture before baking. This helps create that chewy texture and golden brown crust we all love. My aunt and I recently attempted this boiling process using pre-made pizza dough without the exact results we wanted. Lesson 1: The dough is key!
You will start by making a very simple bread dough. Water, sugar, salt, yeast, flour, and a little melted butter. If you don’t have a stand mixer you can knead this dough by hand until it forms a smooth dough that holds its shape. This should take about 5 minutes.
It’s important to give the yeast a few minutes to “eat” after adding it to the warm water, sugar, and salt. This is how you will get a good rise out of your dough (and you don’t even have to antagonize it, hahaha).
Once the dough comes together, set the dough aside, wipe out the bowl and oil it up. Toss the dough back in the bowl and give it enough time to double in size. This should take about an hour if left in a warm spot. I like to leave mine in the microwave as long as I remember not to turn it on!
Lesson 2: I am no pretzel master. I first attempted the true pretzel shape but quickly jumped ship and opted for the more creative approach. I was much more successful at twists, bites, and knots. The knots made great buns for sandwiches! Try ham, spicy mustard, and thinly sliced fresh apples.
Serve your hot, chewy pretzels with a side of melty cheese sauce, whole grain mustard, and/or an icy cold bottle of Firestone Union Jack IPA.
For a sweet twist, omit the salt before baking and brush pretzels fresh out of the oven with melted butter. Roll in cinnamon and sugar. In this case, DO NOT serve with melty cheese sauce. Beer is still acceptable.
- 1 and 1/2 cups (12 fl. oz.) warm water (just warm to the touch, about 115 degrees F)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 22 oz. (623 grams, approximately 4 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
- Vegetable oil or cooking spray, for pan
- 10 cups (80 fl. oz.) water
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Kosher salt for sprinkling
- Combine water, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle packet of yeast on top. Set aside for 5 minutes to activate yeast. The mixture will begin to bubble. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to bubble. Add in flour and melted butter. With your dough hook, mix on low speed (speed 2) until the speed until the mixture forms a smooth dough that pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 5 minutes.
- Set dough aside then clean and grease bowl well with vegetable oil. Place the dough back in the oiled bowl and cover lid with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm area for about one hour or until doubled in size. If your bowl is small enough, I like to place it in the microwave to proof. Just make sure you don’t turn it on!
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and lightly grease with vegetable oil or cooking spray. Set aside.
- Add 10 cups of water and 2/3 cup baking soda to a pot with a large surface area and bring to a boil.
- While water is coming to a boil, shape your pretzels. Place dough on a slightly oiled work surface (I used a plastic cutting board) and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 24 inches long. From here, it’s up to you. Turns out I am not so skilled at making the infamous pretzel shape so I simply twisted the ropes and pressed the ends together to hold their shape. Use kitchen shears or a knife to cut bite sized pieces or tie rope in a knot for a good pretzel bun shape.
- Place pretzels from cutting board directly into the boiling water/baking soda mixture, one at a time, allowing each pretzel to boil for 30 seconds. Remove from water with flat, slotted spatula allowing excess water to drip back in pot (too much excess water will cause pretzels to stick to baking sheet). Place pretzels on prepared baking sheet. Brush each pretzel with beaten egg yolk/water mixture and sprinkle with kosher salt.
- Bake pretzels until dark golden brown in color, 10 to 14 minutes. Keep an eye on them as they can turn from golden to burnt pretty quickly. Transfer to a cooling rack immediately and cool for at least 5 minutes before serving or as long as you can wait to rip off a piece.
will can last up to three days in an airtight container but are best served hot and fresh.