Recipe 34: Homemade Soft Pretzels


Crispy & Chewy!

Now THIS is a dangerous recipe. Usually things that are this tasty take longer to make, but hey, a couple basic steps and BAM, you’re in golden-brown, chewy, and lightly salted heaven.

The basic process is such:

  1. Knead dough and allow to rise 1 hr.
  2. Roll-out, form into pretzel shapes, and dip in boiling baking soda bath for 30 seconds.
  3. Egg wash, salt, and bake 12-15 minutes at 450F.
  4. Dip into mustard and smash into face. ;)

Recipe 34: Homemade Soft Pretzels

I got a LOT of help from Alton Brown on this one. (You can check out his recipe at the link, and he has a full episode about pretzels on Good Eats, Season 11, Episode 2)…

Total time: About 2 hours

Yield: 8 pretzels

Ingredients:

-Dough:

  • 1 & 1/2 cups 115F warm water (115F-120F if you’re using a metal bowl)*
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp ground salt (sea or kosher)
  • 2 & 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 pkg)
  • 4 & 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup or 2 oz) melted unsalted butter
  • vegetable oil to grease bowl
*You can start with hotter water if you’re using a metal bowl because the metal will cause it to cool down as it absorbs the heat from the liquid. Your resting water (once it’s added) should be around 110F. You can wait it out to get it within this range.)

-Baking Soda Bath:

  • 10-11 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda (one 8oz box=1 cup)
-Wash & Topping:
  • 1 lg egg yolk, beaten
  • 1 tbsp water
  • ground salt (sea or kosher), set to a coarser grind
  • optional: garlic salt/cinnamon & sugar/jalapeños & cheese/poppy seeds, etc. Anything that could go on/in a bagel can be put on/in this recipe…
Process:
Your dough should be smooth and silky...

Right off the bat, a stand mixer with a dough hook makes this recipe worlds easier. If you don’t have a mixer, you’ll just have to knead by hand a bit more vigorously (we’re talking 7-10 minutes) because we want that satiny finish.

Add your warm water to the mixing bowl as well as the sugar and salt. Whisk these together and then sprinkle your yeast on the surface. Let it develop for 5 minutes, and you should see a nice foamy film on the surface with most of the yeast granules dissolved. Sift your flour over this poolish, then add your melted butter. Attach a dough hook and start your mixer on low to combine the ingredients. Gradually increase the speed to medium. Leave it alone for 5 minutes to knead until your dough is nice and smooth, and pull it out onto a cloth for a moment. Grease your mixing bowl and place the dough back in.
Cover your mixing bowl with this towel and shut the microwave door to keep the warmth and humidity in...

Tip: for the hour-long rise, you can turn your microwave into an incubator.

-Just add a damp tea-towel along with a bowl of water and nuke it for about 2 minutes. Drape the tea-towel over the mixing bowl with the dough and put it quickly into the microwave. The steam rising off of the bowl of hot water will keep the environment warm and humid. It should take about 50mins-1hr to double.(If you don’t own a microwave, put the covered mixing bowl in the warmest area you have to double.)
After it rises, prepare your baking sheets (I didn’t have parchment, so greased foil works fine…)
**Pre-heat your oven to 450F and prepare your baking soda bath, bringing it to a rolling boil**
Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a lightly greased (and clean) surface.
Use your pieces of paper to measure the "snake"...

You want to separate the dough into 8 parts. Roll out one piece like you were making a 24″ snake. For a quick way to get a good measurement, cut an 8.5″x11″ piece of paper longwise and place the pieces end-to-end. Make sure your “snake” is an inch longer than this paper by an inch on each side (about the distance from your thumbtip to the next knuckle). Lift the ends up like a jump-rope, cross them, and flop them over the bottom of that “U”-shap (refer to the pictures in this post).

There are some really pretty ways you can shape these (I saw one that was a treble cleft that was REALLY pretty looking), so get creative.
Place the "raw" pretzel on the spatula...

Get a slotted, flat spatula. You’re going to use this to lower your pretzels into the soda bath. Pick up your pretzel and carefully set it on the spatula. Lower it into the bath, and give the spatula a shake to release the pretzel into the water. Use the spatula to splash water over the top of the pretzel as it boils, and after 30 seconds, remove it onto your greased, foil-lined baking sheet. Repeat this with all the rest and then prepare your egg wash.

With a light touch, brush the egg wash onto the pretzels evenly, then crank the salt onto the surface. Pop these into the middle of the oven, and bake 12-14 minutes, rotating your pans at the halfway mark.
The results are VERY rewarding. I love mustard, so that definitely happened. And if this wasn’t enough, it’s about to get even more awesome: This is a bagel recipe. Anything you can imagine in or on a bagel is an easy possibility. Also, a cut these up into bite-sized pieces before you do your soda bath for a tasty and cute appetizer!
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