Soft pretzels

You won’t get a real chewy Bavarian pretzel crust without a lye bath, but it’s still great fun to make soft pretzels at home. A baking soda bath is safe for cooking with kids, and you’ll never have a fresher soft pretzel. Adapted from Alton Brown.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (gently warm to touch but not at all hot – 100 to 115 degrees if you have a thermometer)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I prefer to go lighter on salt inside in favor of more salt on top)
  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil

Baking soda bath

  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda

Topping

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Coarse sea salt or kosher salt

Directions

  1. Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in a bowl or mixing up and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.
  2. Add flour to a large, preferably wide, mixing bowl. Add yeast mixture and melted butter. Mix with a spoon until dough comes together. If your bowl is large enough, you can simply knead the bread in the bowl. Otherwise turn dough out on a lightly floured surface.
  3. Using hand, knead dough (Press down and away from you on dough with the heel of your hand, and then fold the far edge of dough down toward you and press again. Repeat.) until dough is a firm mass that is springy and smooth to touch. At this point the bowl should be fairly clean.
  4. Add a bit of vegetable oil to the bowl, spreading a light coat around the bowl and over the surface of the dough. Cover (using plastic wrap, or a lightly damp dishtowel, or an extra large pot lid that leaves plenty of room below for the dough to rise) and leave in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size. If your kitchen is chilly, a closed oven with the light on is a good option.
  5. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. lightly grease two half-sheet (jelly roll) pans or line with parchment paper. Set aside.
  6. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a boil in a wide saucepan.
  7. While water heats, turn the dough out onto a clean work surface (no flour; use a bit of oil if dough sticks too much) and divide into equal pieces (8 if you want large pretzels; 16 if you want smaller ones).
  8. Roll out each piece of dough into a long rope (24 inches for large pretzel; 14-16 inches for smaller pretzels). Roll from the center of the rope and stretch outward as you go, rolling a bit extra on any thicker areas along the way.
  9. Make a U-shape with the rope. Cross ends over each other and twist again so that ends are back on the side where they began. Fold ends down onto the bottom of the U to form the shape of a pretzel and press to secure. Place pretzel onto the prepared pan.
  10. Place the pretzels into the boiling water for 30 seconds, turning over once. Remove them from the water using a large slotted spatula. Return pretzel to the pan.
  11. Brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg and sprinkle with salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes 8 giant or 16 smaller pretzels.

Notes

  • For cinnamon sugar pretzels: skip the coarse salt before baking; melt 2 tablespoons butter; make cinnamon sugar (1/4 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon cinnamon). Spread cinnamon sugar on a plate. After baking, brush pretzels with melted butter and dip in cinnamon sugar.
  • Store pretzels uncovered, as covering will make them soggy. More than most bread products, pretzels are really best the first day.
  • If you’re low on baking soda, use 5 cups water and 1/3 cup soda. Just be sure not to boil the water until you need it so you don’t evaporate it all away while you’re shaping dough.
  • A simplified shaping method for kids: make U with dough; cross ends to make an X in the center; bring one end down and across diagonally and fasten at the bottom of the U; repeat with the other end.
  • If you’re making these in a classroom setting, you can skip the egg wash for simplicity (the pretzel crust just won’t be shiny). Brush with melted butter at the end and sprinkle with salt or cinnamon sugar.

Here’s a link back to the post and pictures.

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