Who doesn’t love soft pretzels? Cover them with salt and dip them in cheese and you’ve got yourself a meal. Or brush on some butter, cinnamon and sugar and call it dessert. The possibilities are endless. I’ve recently perfected my homemade soft pretzel recipe, and I’m excited to share it with you.
To start with, I should tell you that I don’t cook well. A lot of my food ends up in the trash (actually, for many years most of my food ended up in the trash and my husband and I would just go get takeout somewhere.) Now I’m not telling you this so you’ll skip the recipe, I only mention it so that you will all know how easy these pretzels really are. Believe me, if I can make these things, anybody can.
[A Note to Bread Beginners – This pretzel dough is a yeast dough, which means you’re going to have to let it rise. The trick to getting your dough to rise is temperature and fresh yeast. If your yeast is more than 3 months old, and your dough won’t rise, get fresh yeast. Also, yeast likes it warm. I rise my dough in the greenhouse, which sits at about 90-100° F, if that gives you an idea of the temperature to shoot for.]
Anyway here we go:
The Cast Of Homemade Soft Pretzels
1 ¼ c warm water (Beginners, you are shooting for right around 110°, give or take)
1 tsp sugar
4 tsp active dry yeast
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water and leave it alone until foamy/creamy (5-10 minutes)
5 c flour (I use organic bread flour and can notice a difference…. However, I am also being influenced by the immensely hippyish climate around me so take whatever I say while a grain of (organic) salt. Probably, white, bleached, non-organic flour will make equally awesome pretzels, but you didn’t hear that from me.)
1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
Directions For Homemade Soft Pretzels
1. Mix all of those dry ingredients together and then make a well in the center; into which you’ll pour your yeast mixture and 1 TBSP vegetable oil.
2. Mix it all together until you get a nice, round dough ball. (I usually have to add more water to get a ball of dough and not a mess of moist flour, just add it slowly, like maybe 1 tsp at a time.)
3. At this point, they say that you should knead your dough before you set it to rise. However, I am lazy and I think kneading unrisen dough sucks, so I don’t follow the conventional recommendations and wait to knead it until after it has risen. If you decide to knead it first, do so for about 10 minutes. Either way, cover your dough ball with a thin layer of oil/butter, then cover that with a clean, moist cloth (I use a damp paper towel and then cover that with cheese cloth, but I also set my dough OUTSIDE in the greenhouse to rise so it takes some extra care) and set your dough in a warm place until it doubles in size. In the greenhouse this takes about 1 hour, on the window sill, which is cooler, it takes about 2.5 hours.
4. Once your dough has doubled, preheat your oven to 450 ° F, and dump the dough out onto a clean surface. If you haven’t already kneaded it, flour the surface first and then knead that dough baby! (Seriously, set your timer and do this for a good ten minutes, you won’t regret it). If you kneaded your dough before you let it rise (and this is why pretzel connoisseurs and Germans everywhere knead it first), it’s better to set your dough on an Un-floured, Un-oiled surface because it’s easier to roll it out and pretzel it. Either way, once you’re ready to pretzel (I turned that word into a verb just for you guys), separate your dough ball into 12 equal sections, then roll each section into a long snake ( you know what I mean right?) To pretzel your snakes (which should be about 12-14’ long), form the dough into a “U”, twist the top of the U twice, and then fold it over. I’ve included some pictures here to help describe what I’m trying to say.
5. Now comes the fun part. Did you know that the main difference between pretzels and just weirdly twisted dough is a quick dip in an alkaline solution? Me neither until just recently. In Germany, they used to dip their pretzel dough in lye before baking, but I tend to think of lye as belonging to the rat poison family so I don’t use it. Instead, take 4 cups of almost (but not quite) boiling water and dissolve 1 – 1.5c of baking soda into it. Quickly dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution and then set it on a greased cookie sheet. Then cover that sucker in good stuff like coarse salt, cinnamon and sugar, or whatever else floats your boat. Put your recently dunked and covered pretzels into the oven at 450° F for about 8 minutes, turning your pan halfway through, until they turn a pretty golden brown. (By the way, the baking soda dunk is what turns your pretzels brown and gives them a hard crust – if you skip that step, or don’t do it RIGHT before you stick your pretzels in the oven, then you’ll end up with salted white bread… still yummy but less “pretzely.” ) If everything works as it is intended to, you’ll end up with some gorgeous pretzels for your whole family to enjoy. Or, you could hide all of the pretzels in the linen closet and eat them all yourself…. we won’t judge you.
About The Author Of Homemade Soft Pretzels
Amanda blogs over at Late Nights and Little People where you can follow along as she navigates the perilous waters of having three young children, a husband who is away 6 months out of the year, and the craziest in-laws on the planet.
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