Are you guys ready for another edition of Dave’s Bread Corner? I leave you in great hands!
You ever been to a bar and ordered pretzels? I don’t mean the kind that sit on the bar getting sneezed on for days at a time, I mean the kind that shows up with earthy brown mustard or some cheesy beer dip and carries with it the warmth of the oven they just came from mere minutes before you eat them. Well, I have… and they are awesome. 🙂
I started the day with the question “What kind of bread have I eaten in a restaurant but haven’t made at home yet?” My answer was delicious rustic soft pretzels like you’d get at a bar or perhaps a German restaurant. I think if you are making them yourself they will almost always be a bit rustic and I also feel that is part of the charm. If they don’t come out looking exactly like a pretzel you’d get from a cart in the city, that’s probably actually a good thing.
Just like most bread recipes, these soft pretzels are not difficult to make and just like I always do, I’ll be giving you loads of simple detailed instructions to follow. Ready for lots of fun prep photos? Here we go again with a picture of the dough before it’s risen. (I could so use the same picture in every post since they all look pretty much like this, but I don’t.)
After a mere 45 minutes of hanging out in a warm place, the dough looks like it’s ready to take over the kitchen. Fear not, you can beat it into submission.
I’m a bit anal when it comes to measuring things when I bake. Sometimes it’s crucial to making sure things cook evenly and in this case since you are going for so many identical things, consistency is king. For this, I busted out my handy dandy scale and popped it into grams mode. Now, you may be thinking the metric system is scary, but don’t worry, it just means everything is just in nice whole numbers as you go.
To make 12 even pieces just write down what all the dough weighs. For example, we’ll say mine was something like 1028 grams. (I don’t remember the real number, so be sure to weigh yours on your own!) To get to 12 pieces, I found it easier and faster to repeatedly divide the dough than to try to go right from 1 piece to 12. Thus, the first step is to divide the weight of the whole dough ball by two. This will get you two pieces that are 514 grams each. Next, divide each piece in two again. Now you will have 4 pieces that are about 207 grams each. Finally, you need to divide all 4 of those pieces into thirds. That will give you 12 pieces that are about 69 grams each. Tada, 12 even pieces of dough. If you are a gram or two one way or the other or the division results in numbers that aren’t even it’ll be okay, just get as close as you can.
Now the “art” of making pretzels. You have to make them look like pretzels. This process is pretty repetitive so buckle in. The steps below have to be done 12 times. Once for each ball of dough.
These are the steps to folding pretzels:
- Roll out the dough ball until you have a long and skinny rope of dough.
- Shape the dough into an upside down U. (Upper left below.)
- Cross the ends of the U over each other to make something that looks like a Breast Cancer Ribbon. (Upper right below.)
- Cross the ends over each other again. (Lower left below.)
- Fold the twisted part up over what was originally the bend in the U. (Lower right below.)
Now that we are done with the “art” of pretzels it’s time for the “science” of pretzels. Get your big pot ready, measure in the incredible amount of baking soda you need, bring the whole thing to a boil and get ready for chemistry to happen. Fair warning, boiling baking soda water is one of the messiest things you’ll ever do on your stove. As a silver lining, when you are done and your stove looks like the site of chemical warfare, it’s also one of the easiest to clean messes you’ll ever have in your kitchen. A mere 30 seconds each (do them one at a time!) and they will develop a skin that resembles a dumpling on the outside.
Don’t forget to make your egg wash, slather them up with it and salt them before you throw them in the oven. If you are skipping the salt, I would still recommend the egg wash because it will make them nice and brown.
I moved them from the pan to the wire rack with tongs because it was easy to do while they were still too hot to touch. It’s important to let them chill out for a few minutes before you eat them. Partly because it allows the outer layer to toughen up, and partly because you may accidentally burn all the skin off the roof of your mouth if you start eating them too soon. Tina was anxious to try them and must have asked me 10 times if we could eat them before they were ready for consumption. Patience, grasshopper.
Mmm, look at that soft fluffy inside. You could have fooled me. These pretzels taste like I bought a bunch of them from the fancy pretzel place in the mall (but I didn’t… my abundance of prep photos are proof).
These soft pretzels are perfect in every way. They have a salty brown crust. They are soft and tender on the inside while they chewy on the outside at the same time. All that boiling and baking and repetitive labor will give these guys a chubby thick look. That might even be why I named them rustic pretzels. 😉
When we were bagging these up after the photo shoot, Tina and I discovered we’d already eaten four of them. Yes, these are seriously that freakin’ awesome.
Here’s the best part for those that like convenience… I put them in a zip top bag and put it in the freezer. They freeze and come back to life perfectly. A couple days later I wanted a pretzel, grabbed it out of the freezer, put it on a plate, microwaved it for 45 seconds on high, added a blob of delicious brown mustard, and enjoyed it like it had come out of the oven that very day.
Who’s up for some pretzel baking? I’ve already got my sites on making pretzel nuggets with this recipe! On second thought, pretzel nuggets seem like too much work. Perhaps I’ll make pretzel pillows instead. Like nuggets only bigger and easier.
Rustic Soft Pretzels Recipe
Ingredients for Dough:
- 1 and 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 and 1/4 teaspoons yeast (equivalent to 1 packet)
- 5 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (equivalent to 22 ounces or 1 pound and 6 ounces)
- 1/2 stick butter, melted
Ingredients for Preparation:
- 10 cups water
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon water
- (optional) pretzel salt
Directions for Dough:
- Preheat the oven to the lowest temperature it will allow and then turn it off. If that temperature is above about 100 F leave it open for a while to cool down again. You do NOT want to dry out or cook the dough. The perfect temperature for dough to rise in barely feels warm at all. Your goal is a draft free warm place to put the dough.
- Add warm water, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Sprinkle the yeast on top.
- Let the yeast sit on the water for about 5 minutes.
- While you are waiting, melt the butter in the microwave.
- Turn the mixer on low. (I used speed 2 on my Kitchen Aide.)
- Add the first 3 cups of flour. (Carefully! Stop the mixer to prevent covering your kitchen with flour if you need to.)
- Drizzle the melted butter into the mixer.
- Add the remaining 2 and 1/4 cups of flour.
- Let the dough come together on low speed and once it has turn the mixer up a couple speeds. (I used speed 4 on my Kitchen Aide.)
- Let the mixer knead the dough for about 5 minutes.
- Oil a bowl large enough for the dough to double in size.
- Transfer the dough to the newly oiled bowl.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
- Place the bowl in your slightly warmed oven for about 45 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.
Directions for Preparation:
- Once the dough has risen, knead it to get the air bubbles out of it.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Fill a large sauce pan with 10 cups of water.
- Add the baking soda and turn on the heat.
- While your water is coming to a boil, divide your dough into 12 equal parts. I actually use a scale for this process because I like them to be pretty close to exactly the same size. It makes them bake more evenly.
- Prepare a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper and spray it with cooking spray.
- Form each ball of dough into a string that is roughly 20-22 inches long.
- Shape each string into a pretzel shape. (See the more detailed description with pictures of how to do this above.)
- Move the pretzels as you finish shaping them to the prepared cookie sheet. (Stop when you have 6 on the cookie sheet.)
- By this time, your baking soda water should be boiling and making everything within about 12″ of the pot a messy shade of speckled white.
- One at a time, lower the pretzels into the boiling water and let them stay there for 30 seconds.
- Fish them out with a large spatula and put them back onto the prepared cookie sheet. It’s okay if you have a little bit of water on the parchment paper as you finish this process for each pretzel.
- Once all 6 pretzels have been boiled it’s time to top them.
- Prepare an egg wash with 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of water.
- Brush each pretzel with the egg wash.
- Sprinkle pretzel salt (like regular salt only bigger fluffier bits) onto each pretzel.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes.
- Remove them from the pan immediately to a wire cooling rack with tongs and let them cool for at least 5 minutes.
- Repeat the process with the remaining 6 pretzels.
Based on: Alton Brown
Here are some other smokin’ savory snacks.