Monday, June 18, 2012

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Don't run away, these are much easier than you think! 

I'm no stranger to making yeast doughs, whether it's for cinnamon rolls, bread, pizza dough, even doughnuts, but for some reason I had never tried soft pretzels. I'm not really sure why - I love them, whether they're savory or sweet and could probably eat three large ones in one sitting . . . With these I limited myself to two, but still that's a lot! I think what might have discouraged me was that after you form the pretzels, you have to boil them with baking soda before baking. Not that it's difficult, but it's an extra step.

Now that I've made them once, I will definitely be making them again. If you're worried this will be too difficult, please just try it - the dough is a dream to work with. It wasn't a sticky mess in the least - it was soft, stretchy, and easily pliable and yielded chewy, tender, delicious-beyond-words soft pretzels. 

I set up a little buffet for my husband and myself so we could try making our favorites from Pretzelmaker (Parmesan with Pizza Sauce, Buttered with Cheese Sauce, and Cinnamon-sugar with Vanilla Glaze). I'll include the recipe for the cheese sauce and vanilla glaze. Otherwise I just brushed butter on the pretzels and either left them like that, dipped them in parmesan, or sprinkled them with cinnamon-sugar. I used store-bought pizza sauce but if you have a recipe you love, go for it!

All three variations were unbelievable; so unbelievable that I couldn't pick a favorite. I just kept cycling back through each of them and eating more and more and MORE!

Homemade Soft Pretzels (original recipe can be found here)
1 1/2 c. warm water
2 Tbls. light brown sugar
1 pkg. dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
3 ounces butter, melted
2 1/2 tsp. sea salt
4 1/2-5 c. flour
3 quarts water
2/3 c. baking soda
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbls. water (called egg wash)
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt, if desired
1. Combine water, sugar, butter, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with hook attachment. Let sit 5 minutes (otherwise mix by hand if you don't have a mixer).
2. Add salt and 4 1/2 c. flour and turn mixer on med-low to knead bread approximately 3-4 minutes, or until dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If it looks too wet, add additional flour a little at a time. (Can knead by hand, but allow 10-15 minutes for dough to come together while kneading).
3. Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and let rise in a warm place until double in size - about 1 hour.
4. Bring water to a boil. and preheat oven to 425. Grease two large baking sheets and set aside.
5. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope. To shape into pretzels, take the right side and cross over to the left. Cross right to left again and flip up. Slowly add the baking soda to the boiling water. Boil the pretzels in the water solution, 2 at a time for 30 seconds, splashing the tops with the warmed water using a spoon. Remove with a large flat slotted spatula or a spider. 
6. Place 4 pretzels on each baking sheet, brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with sea salt (you can skip the salt if you want - I don't like it on mine so I left it off). Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until pretzels are golden brown.

Cheese Sauce (original can be found here)
2 Tbls. butter
2 Tbls. flour
1 c. milk
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over med. heat. 
2. Stir in flour and continue to cook about 1 minute.
3. Slowly whisk in the milk a little at a time to avoid lumps.
4. Mix in cheese slowly until completely melted and smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Vanilla Glaze
1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 Tbls. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1. Mix all ingredients together, adding more milk or powdered sugar until you get the consistency you want.
 Next time I would roll my ropes thinner - my pretzels ended up a tad chubby. :) And see how they look ugly after they've been boiled? Don't worry about that . . . 
 Look at those beauties! Who would've thought they resembled bumpy, ugly globs of roughly shaped dough before they were baked?

Have you ever worked with yeast dough? If not, what's holding you back? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Hugs and cookies,

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