I enjoy baking, but my husband also loves to bake, so I let him. He was out of town for a few days recently and I had the hankering to attempt yeast dough. I haven’t made a bread-type thing in…forever! I decided I would try making soft pretzels and pulled out my trusty iPad with its All Recipes app and did a search on pretzels. (If you don’t use allrecipes.com as an inspirational source, you really should!) Several recipes showed up and I read them over along with reviews by those who already tried them. The dough recipe was pretty basic – some flour amounts varied and made more or less of the finished product. I chose to use a recipe that made 12 large pretzels and to use a suggestion by one of the reviewers to boil each pretzel in baking soda water prior to the last rising. Some of the recipes had the pretzels dipped in a warm water/baking soda mixture and others didn’t have the baking soda bath step at all. This step seems a little scary, but it actually was surprisingly easy – but I am getting ahead of myself!
The dough recipe: Dissolve 1 pkg. active dry yeast (.25 oz) in 1 ½ c. warm (110 degree F/45 degree C) water (I used a candy thermometer – who knew I had one of those?) along with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1 1/8 teaspoons of salt in a large bowl. Stir in 3 cups of flour. Turn out onto floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes or until uniform and elastic. The dough is sticky, so keep sprinkling flour on your surface as you knead to keep it from sticking. Form into a ball. Spray a large mixing bowl with non-stick spray and place the dough ball into the bowl, turn once to coat with the spray. Cover with a tea towel and set it aside to rise for 1 hour or until doubled.
Side note: If you don’t have a silicone mat for working your dough, you should dash out and get one. While you are at the cook’s store, get some silicone mats that will fit your baking sheets. They are the best thing ever when baking cookies, scones, pretzels. Easy to clean – like washing a lasagna noodle – and nothing sticks. Go ahead – go buy some. We’ll wait….
After dough has risen, turn it out onto your surface again. It will still be a little sticky but I did not have issues with it sticking to my mat. Cut the dough into 12 equal (more or less) pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 2 ft. long – like a Play-doh snake. While you are rolling the first snake, bring 4 cups water and 4 tablespoons baking soda to a boil and keep at a simmer throughout this step. Back to the snake – when your snake is the right length and fairly uniform in width, form into pretzel shape. (Make a “U”, bring the arms of the “U” down and cross them near the bottom of the curve.
Gently drop your pretzel into the simmering soda water. It will sink to the bottom. When it rises to the top and floats, remove it with a large slotted spatula, draining the liquid, and place on your baking sheet. (PS If you don’t have the silicone mats, you will have to use parchment paper – otherwise these guys stick like crazy!) I had to reshape my pretzel a little for the first couple, but easily got into a rhythm of keeping half an eye on the simmering pretzel while rolling out the next snake. It went fairly quickly and soon I had 2 sheets with 6 pretzels on each. Let the pretzels rest for 20 minutes, uncovered.
As was suggested by one of the reviewers, I brushed them all with a beaten egg so they would be shiny. (after they were all rested and refreshed) One baking sheet of pretzels was sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar, the other with sea salt. I baked them at 450 degrees for 12 minutes with the racks positioned in the center of the oven. I switched the sheets around halfway through so they would brown more evenly. Cool on a baking rack, store in an air-tight container.
Another side note: Did you know you can get little spice grinders filled with cinnamon-sugar, sea salt, pepper corns, etc.? McCormick makes them and they are very handy to have around. Look for them in the baking aisle of your local grocery store amongst the spices. They also make good stocking stuffers for your favorite foodies. (You’re welcome, McCormick)
This was my first foray into the pretzel-making habit and I feel almost qualified to open a soft pretzel stand – that’s how easy they were to make.