In the October 2008 edition of Martha Stewart Living I found a soft pretzel recipe and I knew I had to make them, but didn't know when I would have the time. A couple weeks ago, I found a post about soft pretzels on smittenkitchen.com. Deb had followed both her own recipe and Martha's, and then decided to combine the two to create the perfect pretzel. After following her recipe, I have decided that it is indeed the perfect pretzel. To read Deb's post click here.
I won't lie, pretzels are a time consuming project, but each step is surprisingly simple. Best of all, you probably have most of the ingredients already at home. I had a Saturday to kill, so I balanced my time between pretzel making and house cleaning.
Here are the ingredients to make 16 large pretzels by Deb from Smittenkitchen:
2 cups warm water (100°F to 110°F)
1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons canola or other neutral oil (I used vegetable)
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt (I used Kosher)
Vegetable-oil cooking spray
To begin, combine water and 1 tablespoon sugar, and stir until dissolved. Add yeast and stir until dissolved, then let sit 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy.
Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and mix with wood spoon until combined. Add salt and 4 cups flour, and mix until combined and dough pulls away from sides of bowl. Add 1/2 cup flour, and knead with your hands. Don't forget to take off your rings. If dough is still wet and sticky, add 1/2 cup more flour (this will depend on weather conditions - I didn't need to); knead until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth.Pour oil into a large bowl; use your hands to coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.
Heat oven to 450°F. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray or cover with parchment paper instead. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, divide into 16 pieces. I used a knife to cut my sphere of dough in half, and then kept halving it until I had 16 pieces. Then I covered them in batches using plastic wrap.
Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 20-inch-long strip. You can roll it longer or shorter depending on what works for you. I rolled them on an unfloured counter, but you might need flour for your counter top. See images below to see how to twist into pretzel shape. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels; eight will fit on each sheet. Let pretzels rest until they rise slightly, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill large, shallow pot with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Add baking soda (and step back, it foams up quickly - remember your 5th grade science project!) and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Reduce to a simmer; transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute on each side. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to a cookie rack so then can drain. Continue until all pretzels are poached. I placed my pretzels right-side down in the water to begin, so when I flipped them they would be right-side up and easier to take out of the water and onto the cookie racks.
Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes (mine were done in 12 minutes). Let cool on wire rack, or eat warm.
Pretzels are best when eaten the same day, but will keep at room temperature, uncovered, for two days. Do not store in covered container or they will become soggy. I zapped mine in the microwave for about 10 seconds to reheat, but you can also put in a 250 degree oven to warm up.
You can get creative with your toppings. I added cinnamon and sugar on a few for a breakfast/dessert pretzel, but they definitely didn't look as nice as the traditional pretzel. This recipe is great for sporting event and Deb even suggests making miniatures!