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The month of April is National Soft Pretzel Month. My son is a big fan of big soft pretzels — so much so that we had to start making them at home.
This is a simple soft pretzel recipe that you can adapt with butter and salt or cinnamon and sugar. The recipe also contains short videos that illustrate each step. There are also tips so that you can make your pretzels the best ever!
Tip 1: One of the keys to success with this recipe is to dip the pretzels in a boiling alkaline bath before baking. This step is what gives soft pretzels that distinctive rich brown exterior color and the coveted soft, chewy interior. Professional bakeries often use lye for this process, while many home cooks prefer to work with baking soda as a less caustic alternative. Here, a more user-friendly baking soda bath is used.
Tip 2: Another important step is to brush each pretzel with an egg wash after they have been removed from the alkaline bath and patted dry. This step imparts a nice shine to the pretzels and helps the coarse sea salt adhere while baking. For a richer golden color, use a whole egg or just the yolk (vs. just the egg white) for this step.
After the recipe, there are some pictures that show you the difference in the pretzels with and without the egg wash and with and with the baking soda bath.
Homemade Soft Pretzels
- 3 T. extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1½ c. very warm water
- 1 t. table salt
- 1 T. brown sugar
- 2¼ t. active dry yeast 1 packet
- 4½ c. all-purpose flour divided
- 8 c. water
- ½ c. baking soda
- 1 large egg
- 1 T. water
- Sea salt
Optional to serve
- Spicy mustard or cheese dip
- Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat™ baking mats and grease a large bowl with one tablespoon olive oil. Set aside.
- Add the warm water to a different large bowl, followed by salt, brown sugar, and yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes.
- Add remaining olive oil to the bowl with the yeast. Gradually add four cups flour, one cup at a time, stirring vigorously with a fork and scraping the sides, until the flour is thoroughly incorporated into the dough without any lumps.
- Sprinkle remaining flour onto a clean, dry work surface and lightly coat hands with additional flour. Drop the dough onto the work surface and knead in the remaining flour just until the dough is no longer sticky. Do not overwork.
- Shape dough into a ball and add to the clean bowl coated in olive oil. Cover the bowl with a towel and set aside in a warm place for one hour or until the dough doubles in size.
- When the dough is almost done resting, position the oven racks so that the oven is divided into thirds and pre-heat the oven to 450°F.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down with your lightly floured fist. Rest for a couple of minutes, then drop the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into 12 equal-sized portions.
- While the dough is resting (Step #7), fill a large pot with 8 cups water and one-half cup baking soda and bring to a rolling boil.
- Roll each section of dough into a long, thin rope, with your hands. Bend the dough into a “U” shape and twist the loose ends together twice before attaching each tip toward the bottom of the “U” to form a traditional pretzel shape, as shown. Transfer pretzels to the prepared baking sheets.
- Tip: If the pretzels are allowed to sit for 10-15 minutes once shaped, they will continue to rise or “puff up” to form a nice full shape.
- Drop each pretzel, one at a time, into the boiling baking soda bath and boil for 20 seconds before flipping. Boil for another 20 seconds, then transfer with a slotted spatula to a wire rack to drain excess liquid.
- Gently pat pretzels dry with a paper towel and transfer back to the prepared baking sheets.
- Beat egg and water together in a small bowl and brush each pretzel with the egg wash. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and place in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Tip: For even browning, rotate the baking sheets and move the baking sheet on the bottom rack to the top (and vice versa) halfway through baking.
- Remove from the oven and cool for a couple of minutes before serving with some spicy mustard or your favorite cheese dip. Enjoy
The ideal appearance for these pretzels is the rich caramel color. To achieve that, you typically need to do both the baking soda treatment and the egg wash. Here are some pictures that illustrate the difference in appearance if you omit one or both of these steps.
Soft Pretzels with Baking Soda Wash. One with the Egg Wash (darker pretzel) and without Egg wash (lighter one)
Soft Pretzels with NO baking soda Bath and with Egg Wash
Soft Pretzels with No Baking Soda Bath and No Egg Wash
A comparison shot with all options
I hope these tips help with your pretzel making! Enjoy!
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