How to Make Soft Pretzels
Skip the trip to the mall and recreate that giant pretzel magic at home.
With this one basic recipe, you can make giant soft pretzels, pretzel buns, or little appetizer-sized pretzel bites in just about any flavor you want. For faster prep, you can use store-bought bread dough in place of the homemade.
Make Yeast Mixture
To begin, dissolve one 1/4-oz. packet of yeast (2 1/4 tsp) and 2 teaspoons of sugar in 1/2 cup of warm water. Allow the yeast mixture to sit for five minutes, or until it becomes frothy on top. Meanwhile, whisk together 2 cups of all-purpose flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.
Once the yeast mixture is frothy, pour it into the bowl of flour and salt, then stir until it forms a shaggy ball of dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for 8 minutes, incorporating an additional 3/4 to 1 cup of flour.
Let Dough Rise
After kneading for eight minutes, the ball of dough should be smooth, supple, and it should spring back when poked with a finger. Coat a large bowl with a little oil or non-stick spray, then roll the dough around in the bowl until it is coated in oil. Cover the bowl loosely and let it rise for one hour, or until it doubles in volume.
When the dough is doubled in volume, punch it down to deflate, then turn it out onto a clean surface. Flatten the dough into a disc, then cut it into 16 equal wedges. One by one, roll the wedges into a 24-inch thin rope, bring the two ends together, then twist into the classic pretzel shape.
To make pretzel bites, cut the rope into one-inch sections. For pretzel rolls, simply roll each wedge into a ball (for larger sandwich-sized rolls, cut the dough into eight pieces).
Arrange for Baking
Cover two baking sheets with parchment, then mist lightly with non-stick spray. Arrange eight pretzels on each baking sheet and allow them to rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add 1/4 cup of baking soda to the boiling water. Take care when adding the baking soda as it will cause the boiling water to fizz and bubble furiously.
Once the fizzing subsides, add two or three pretzels at a time to the pot. Boil the pretzels for about 60 seconds on each side, then transfer to a wire cooling rack to drain. Let the pretzels drain for a few minutes, then transfer them back to the parchment lined baking sheets.
The secret to the characteristically chewy crust and that unique pretzel flavor is this brief simmer in the baking soda water bath. That one simple step is what separates a plain breadstick from a pretzel.
Brush with Egg Wash
In a small bowl, whisk together one large egg with one tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash liberally over the surface of the pretzels, then sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
Bake the Pretzels
Bake the pretzels for 15-18 minutes, or until the surface is deep golden brown. Cool the pretzels on wire cooling racks, then serve. Alternatively, brush the surface of the pretzels with melted butter after baking, then dust with garlic salt and parmesan, or a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Offer mustard, BBQ sauce, ranch dressing, cheese sauce, or cream cheese icing for dipping.
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