National Pretzel Day is the best excuse to hunt down your favorite salty snack. There’s nothing quite like a warm, soft pretzel.
Whether you grew up sinking your teeth into Hot Sam or Auntie Anne’s at the mall or the huge soft pretzels you find at the county fair, it’s hard to resist the smell of a delicious soft pretzel wafting in your direction. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that soft pretzels are a great vehicle for toppings, savory and sweet.
The other day I got a hankering for one. But with no country fairs or malls nearby I had a conundrum. Or did I? With a quick Internet search I realized you don’t have to go to the mall or the fair to bring the chewy buttery flavor that is a soft pretzel into your belly.
The recipe that I worked with, a combination of a couple I found, is really quite simple and it doesn’t take more than an hour to prepare. Most of the time is spent waiting for the dough to rise, and if you have a bread maker the process is that much easier. You can twist the dough into the classic pretzel or turn it into pretzel bites, knots, or even pretzel buns. Which ever way, you top it off with melted butter.
The result was surprisingly close to that soft pretzel flavor of my childhood.
Homemade soft pretzels
Yield: 8 pretzels
For the dough:
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (for yeast activation)
1 packet instant yeast (or 2-1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup of warm water ( about 110 degrees F.)
Baking soda “bath” to get the golden brown and special pretzel taste:
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons baking soda
For the topping:
Sea salt – for regular pretzels
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1. Combine the warm water, the yeast and the sugar in a bowl (or directly into the bread maker if you are using one) wait 10 minutes until the yeast activates.
2. To make dough by hand, or with a mixer: Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat until well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or with the mixer, for about 5 minutes, until it's soft, smooth, and slack. Flour the dough and place it in a bag, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
3. To make dough with a bread machine: Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine, program the machine for dough or manual, and press start. Allow the dough to proceed through its kneading cycle (no need to let it rise), then cancel the machine, flour the dough, and let it a rest in a plastic bag with flour for 30 mins.
4. Preheat your oven to 475 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with vegetable oil spray, or lining it with parchment paper (it will stick to wax paper).
5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and use a knife to divide it into eight equal pieces.
6. Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Pour the baking soda/water into pie pan.
7. Roll each piece of dough between your hands into a long, thin rope (about 3 feet long), and twist each rope into a pretzel. Place each in the pan with the baking soda and water mix, flip them over once and; leave them in the water for 2 minutes before placing them first on a towel (to get excess water from the bottom of them) then onto the baking sheet.
8. Transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse salt or the other topping choices. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
9. Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they're golden brown.
10. Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them or dunk them with the melted butter. Use it all up; It may seem like a lot, but that's what gives these pretzels their buttery goodness taste. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an convection oven or microwave.