soft pretzels


I’m going to shoot myself in the foot here and expose one of the great secrets of the culinary arts.  There are some things – creme brulee, black forest cake (or Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, for the Germans), cinnamon rolls – that I think don’t even cross people’s mind as homemake-able.  But please, allow me just one preachy message: I know they look complicated and I know you’re probably a little scared to try them.  But when it comes right down to it – ready? – it’s really not all that hard.

little dough balls, ready for pretzeling

they're just cute, aren't they?

The general perception of a food’s difficulty of preparation must, I think, be inversely proportional to its commercial availability.  And, believe me, I’m not advocating an exclusive make-at-home policy; as I write this, I’m eating Red Vines from the bag, so clearly I’m in no place to preach.  I’m just saying that, should you have a Superbowl party to go to (as I did a few weeks ago), and should you have hungry friends who like pretzels, these might not be a bad choice.

ready for mustard

I’ve included a photo tutorial in pretzel twisting below, for those who choose to heed my advice and give these a go.  Although I can’t guarantee instant success with breadmaking if you’ve never baked with yeast before, these will at least make your house/apartment/place of residence smell like a Wetzel’s Pretzels, and that of all things is a promise you should never ignore.

roll into a longish rope

bring ends up and cross over, like those ribbon magnets you see on people's cars

give it one more twist

now just flip it down!


Soft Pretzels
I’m copying this directly from Deb, because 1. I didn’t really change anything and 2. they’re long!  Comment with any questions, though, and I’ll be happy to walk you through.

Makes 16 full-sized or 32 miniature

2 cups warm water (100°F to 110°F)
1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons canola or other neutral oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt

Vegetable-oil cooking spray

1. Pour warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar into bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook* and stir to combine. Sprinkle with yeast, and let sit 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy.

2. Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and mix on low until combined. Add salt and 4 cups more flour, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat on medium-low until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add another 1/2 cup flour, and knead on low 1 minute more. If dough is still wet and sticky, add 1/2 cup more flour (this will depend on weather conditions); knead until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a lightly floured board, and knead about ten times, or until smooth.

3. Pour oil into a large bowl; swirl to coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

4. Heat oven to 450°F. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray (parchment paper, ungreased, also works). Set aside. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, divide into 16 pieces (about 2 1/2 ounces each) or 32 if making miniature pretzels, and wrap in plastic.

5. Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip. [I find the pretzels much easier to roll on an unfloured board, oddly enough, but see what works for you.] Twist into pretzel shape; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels; eight will fit on each sheet (you may need a third sheet if making miniatures). Let pretzels rest until they rise slightly, about 15 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, fill large, shallow pot with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Add baking soda (and step back, it foams up quickly) and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Reduce to a simmer; transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute on each side. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached.

7. Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, or eat warm. Pretzels are best when eaten the same day, but will keep at room temperature, uncovered, for two days. Do not store in covered container or they will become soggy.


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