I have to admit, I am a HUGE FAN of soft pretzels, even the ones you buy from street cars at amusement parks with the cheese that may or may not be 100% real cheese. I can’t eat the salted ones though. Yes, the typical soft pretzel is salted, but I’m really not a big fan of salt other than the teaspoon or so you throw into a recipe as necessity. I used to love the cinnamon sugar ones, but now I’m more a fan of plain pretzels dipped in cheese or Parmesan ones dipped in marinara sauce. Another thing about me: I LOVE marinara sauce :)
Anyway, given my love for pretzels, I’ve always wanted to try making them myself but never got around to it until just recently. That’s probably because pretzels seem like one of those things that a) seem more complicated to make than they really are, and b) seem like something you might eat for lunch but not necessarily any other time of day. But you know what? I’ve now realized the truth of the matter: soft pretzels are easy to make, taste way better than the ones you can buy, and are great with dinner too!
So… I’ve officially gone “twisted” by making homemade soft pretzels for the first time. Will I do it again? A million times YES! These pretzels are soft, much more so than the cheap pretzels you can buy, with a really good, light texture. They taste homemade (duh, I know!) but still have that characteristic soft pretzel taste which I think comes from the boiling water with baking soda in which you dunk the pretzels before baking. You can knock yourself out trying different flavoring combinations, too. I did half plain and half with provolone cheese and minced garlic. Both were good, but I absolutely loved the cheese/garlic combination, so much more than I thought I would.
Homemade Soft Pretzels
adapted from Alton Brown
(makes 8 large pretzels)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (1/2 stick)
olive oil, for oiling bowl
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
1 cup shredded cheese (I used provolone)
minced garlic, to taste
Oven Temperature: 450 F
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm water, sugar, and salt. Sprinkle the yeast over this mixture and let sit for about 5 minutes, until the mixture starts to foam at the top.
2. Add the flour and melted butter and mix in on low speed using the dough hook attachment. Once the ingredients have combined, change to medium speed and let the dough hook knead for about 4-5 minutes, at which time the dough should form a smooth ball around the hook and no longer stick to the sides of the bowl (see photo).
3. Remove the dough from the bowl and using olive oil, oil either the same bowl or another large bowl. Place the dough into the oiled bowl, cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise in a relatively warm place for 50 to 55 minutes. At this point, the dough should be approximately doubled in size.
4. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Bring the water and baking soda (for dunking) to a boil in a large saucepan. Meanwhile, cover 3 baking sheets with aluminum foil sprayed with a non-stick baking spray. Set aside two sheets for baking, using the third for prep. Place the dough onto the third baking sheet and divide into 8 equal pieces. Using your hands, roll each piece over a flat surface into a 2 ft long rope. Make a U with the rope and cross the ends over each other and toward the bottom of the U to make a pretzel shape, slightly pressing the ends into the U to stick. Return to the third baking sheet.
5. Once all of the pretzels have been formed, place one-by-one into the boiling water for about 30 seconds and remove using a spatula. Place on the other two baking sheets designated for baking. Prepare the glaze by beating together the egg yolk and water and brush over the tops of the pretzels. Add any toppings you wish to the pretzels. If using the cheese and garlic, simply sprinkle over the shredded cheese and then the minced garlic.
6. Bake the pretzels in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, until the tops turn golden. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Pretzels can be stored in a ziploc in the fridge and warmed up in the microwave; they will still taste delicious!