Soft pretzels are an important part of my childhood… usually the ones that we would get from the pretzel guy while stopped at the red light waiting to turn left. They always came in a paper lunch sack … maybe 4 to a bag, I can’t remember. This is the rectangular kind (pictures here) I’m talking about – not the super buttery or sweet Auntie Anne’s or the “been in the heater go round on the counter” for 3 days kind from 7-11 or the movie theater. Anyway, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a good, fresh from the oven, salty soft pretzel straight from the streets of Philadelphia. However, I think I’ve found the 2nd best thing… making soft pretzels at home.
Here’s what I did: (with thanks to Smitten Kitchen)
2 cups hot tap water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoon 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
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
Coarse sea salt
1. Pour warm water into large bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon in sugar. Sprinkle with yeast and let sit until foamy (about 10-15 minutes).
2. Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Add salt and 4 cups flour, stir until combined. Transfer to a lightly floured board, adding more flour if needed, and knead for about 10-15 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
3. Pour oil into a large bowl & coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl and coat all sides of dough with oil. Cover with a towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.
4. Heat oven to 450°F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, and then divide dough in half, then in half again, and again, and finally one last time. You now have 1/16th of the total dough. (Keep all the other pieces under plastic as much as possible). Continue working with 1/16th of the dough at a time.
5. Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip. Twist into pretzel shape (haha.. this was a challenge!) and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels until you’ve used all the dough. Let pretzels rest until they rise slightly, about 15 minutes.
6. While the dough is resting, fill a shallow pot with 3 inches of water (I used my dutch oven, but a straight sided pan would probably work, too. Bring to a boil. Add baking soda and 2 tablespoons sugar (use more if your pot is particularly large and you have a lot of water. Drop the pretzels in the simmering water 3 or 4 at a time. Poach 1 minute on each side (I just learned last night that pretzels are “poached). Use slotted spoon to remove from the water and move them back to the baking sheet.
7. Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water and then “brush” pretzels with egg. (I don’t have a brush, we used our fingers). Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, or eat warm. EAT THEM WARM!
It’s kindof funny… how when I eat something so many times outside of the house… it’s actually surprising that when I try to make it at home, it really tastes the same. SO MUCH the same. In these pretzels… the slight sourness of where the dough was resting on the parchment paper, the chewy and spongy inside, the doughy center, and the salt on the top that almost seems surprising with it’s bursts of flavor. Eating these pretzels was like biting into a childhood memory.
You should try this at home. Let me know if you do!