One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to make things that I previously thought had to be bought. People say, "But Hatsie, you can buy ricotta cheese, butter (which I'm doing this summer), ground beef, etc, etc, etc." To which I reply, "You certainly can, but why buy when you can make?!" Then I skip off into the sunset, tripping only twice.
Soft pretzels used to be one of those things for me. Soft pretzels are something you buy at the mall or in the airport entirely because their smell is intoxicating. No one really needs a soft pretzel--but since when do we care about that? Since never. So imagine my excitement when I found a recipe for homemade soft pretzels. A kitchen project that makes my apartment smell like a mall, but in a good way? Count me in.
The best, and most dangerous, part of this revelation is that I realized how simple it is to make soft pretzels at home. If you can make bread dough rise, and you have a free afternoon, you can make pretzels.
Let's do it!
Start with your yeast. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of sugar in some warm water and add a package of active dry yeast. Leave it to for 5 minutes do it's thing, that is to say, get foamy.
While that is sitting, prepare your dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer add flour, sugar, and salt. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter, while you're at it.
Yeast is ready!
Pour the yeast mixture and the melted butter into the dry ingredients.
With the dough hook attached to your electric mixer, mix on low until shaggy dough forms, then increase speed to medium and knead the dough until it's smooth and elastic, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Use your judgment, but this could take anywhere between 5-10 minutes. When dough is ready, remove from the bowl, wipe out any contents, add oil, then return dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for at least an hour, or until doubled in size.
One hour (ish) later, doubled in size!
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and carefully divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.
Now lets make pretzels. Take a piece of dough and roll it out into a rope, approximately 2 feet long and an inch thick.
Shape that rope into a U shape.
Twist the ends of the U.
And bring the ends down to the bottom of the U, pressing slightly at the seams.
Repeat for remaining 7 pieces of dough.
Alright! Now that our pretzels are shaped, we have to boil them. Bring 10 cups of water and 2/3 cup of baking soda to a boil.
Drop pretzels in, using a slotted spoon or spatula, and let boil for about 1 minute. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and repeat for all 8 pretzels. I don't have pictures of this part because baking-soda-water is tumultuous and requires constant awareness, so I'll just tell you what comes next. Take boiled pretzels and arrange them onto two oiled baking sheets. It's super important to grease the baking sheets because these things will stick.
Now it's time to add toppings. Make an egg wash by mixing one egg and a tablespoon of water together. Brush the tops of the pretzels with egg wash, then top with your desired toppings. I did four classic salt pretzels with just a sprinkling of kosher salt, and then the other four I topped with cheese; two with Parmesan cheese and two with cheddar.
The pretzels are baked in a 450 degree oven for 12-14 minutes, until the tops are a nice, deep, golden brown.
At this point, your kitchen/apartment/house smells like Auntie Anne's and you have 8 soft pretzels staring at you. Some of them have cheese on them. You win. Pat yourself on the back.
The pretzels are chewy and soft and beautifully brown on top. I wrapped up two and K and I took them for a nice walking-dinner around the park. Then we had more when we got back, because hello there were more soft pretzels there.
You can top these with pretty much anything you wish, too. Jalapenos would be amazing with cheese, and cinnamon-sugar is a classic. Get creative with it! Just make soft pretzels. Everyone will be super impressed, and you can be all, "This was nothing, have another pretzel! But not the one with the cheese. That one is mine."
Here's the recipe!
Soft Pretzels at Home (Adapted slightly from Shutterbean)
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (should be slightly warmer than your hand. 110-115 degrees is perfect)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- vegetable oil for the bowl and for greasing the pan
- 10 cups water
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- For toppings:
- cheddar or Parmesan cheese (or any cheese you like!)
- pickled jalapenos
- Dissolve sugar in warm water and sprinkle yeast on top. Let sit for about 5 minutes, until the yeast is foamy. If it doesn't foam, throw the mixture out and start again with new yeast.
- Add flour and salt to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. When yeast is foamy, add yeast mixture and melted butter to the dry ingredients. Mix on low until a shaggy dough forms, then increase speed to medium and knead until dough is smooth and elastic. This can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and wipe out any excess flour. Oil the bowl and return dough to the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for at least an hour, or until dough has doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line two sheet pans with foil and grease them with either vegetable oil or cooking spray. Set aside.
- Bring 10 cups of water and baking soda to a boil.
- Turn dough out onto a floured surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Shape the pretzels by rolling out each piece of dough into a 1 inch diameter rope, about 24 inches long. Form a U-shape with the dough, twist the ends, and then fold the ends down, pressing slightly to seal the edges.
- When all the pretzels are shaped, add pretzels to the boiling water one by one, using a slotted spoon or spatula, and boil for about 1 minute. Set aside on a paper towel lined plate or baking pan. Repeat with remaining pretzels.
- Brush the tops of the pretzels with the egg wash and top with desired toppings. Bake until a deep, golden brown color, about 12-14 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.
*Pretzels are best enjoyed the day of baking, but can be revived by a quick turn in the microwave.