I have been dying for a good soft pretzel for a while now, but there don’t seem to be many places to get a good one down here in the south. So, I had to figure out how to make one.
After looking around at a number of different recipes, I decided to use the one from Smitten Kitchen.
I’ve never made dough from scratch before, and I could have done better. Still, the resulting pretzels were the perfect combination of soft and chewy, and completely satisfied the soft pretzel craving I’d been facing.
Making the dough was the most difficult part. I had trouble judging how much flour I needed to add, and thing I added a bit too much. There were parts of my dough that weren’t fully mixed and had an odd flaky quality to it. I simply cut that dough away and used what “looked right.”
My pretzels were mini pretzels, that hopefully I made roughly even. You can make yours any size you wish so long as they are more or less the same as one another for even cooking.
The cooking process isn’t difficult, but there are a lot of steps. First a quick simmer in baking soda water, then an egg wash and salting before baking. I would guess the baking soda bath does something to make the outside of the pretzels a little harder, but I didn’t think to cook any without doing that to find out.
In the end, the fuss was easily worth the large platter of perfectly golden soft pretzels. I won’t admit how many of them I ate, and I do suggest either making these for a party or cutting the recipe in half. 3 dozen is a LOT of pretzels.
Makes 16 large or 36 small soft pretzels
2 cups warm water
1 T and 2 T sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 T salt
2 t light olive oil (or vegetable oil)
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Sea salt (or pretzel salt if you have it)
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. The yeast should look foamy.
2. Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and mix on low until combined. Add salt and 4 cups more flour (all at one time), 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 the weather); 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 until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour. (In the current climate of air conditioning use, I set my oven to the lowest temperature, let it reach heat, turned it off and placed the dough inside the oven with a spoon to crack the door.)
4. Heat oven to 450°F. Lightly spray two baking sheets (you may need 3) with cooking spray. Set aside.
5. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, divide into desired number of pieces.
6. Roll one piece of dough at a time into a long strip. Twist into pretzel shape; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels. Let pretzels rest until they rise slightly, about 15 minutes.
7. Fill a large, shallow pot with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Add baking soda (it will foam up) and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Reduce to a simmer and carefully add 4-6 pretzels to the water. Poach 1 minute on each side. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached.
8. Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze and sprinkle with salt.
9. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
10. 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. I think they would freeze well, but didn’t try it.)