Soft Pretzels are one of those foods that remind people of good times. Maybe its memories of ball games, amusement parks, or if you’re like me: mall shopping with Mom and splitting a big Auntie Anne’s pretzel… because of course she had a coupon! Whatever the memory, soft, warm, doughy pretzels are generally a fun time food.
While not the quickest recipe, making them at home is a lot of fun too. I have to confess that since I’ve been playing around with pretzel dough in preparation for this tutorial, I’ve become a little obsessed. They’re so good. I could eat them all day. And apparently so could my cat, Luna! Cats love soft pretzels… who knew? Anyway, without further ado: Homemade soft pretzels. And cheese. Did I mention the cheese? Wow.
I adapted this pretzel dough recipe from my kitchen hero Alton Brown on the food network. Its largely the same except that I don’t use a stand mixer. You really don’t need one as long as you have two arms!
For the pretzels you will need:
– 1 package of active dry yeast
– 1 1/2 cups warm water
– 1 tbsp sugar
– 2 tsp salt
– 4 1/2 cups of flour
– 1/2 stick of butter (melted)
– 2/3 cup baking soda
– 1 egg yolk
– course salt for sprinkling
Mix the sugar and salt into the 1 1/2 cup of warm water, then add the yeast packet on top. Don’t stir it, just let it sit for about 5 minutes while you measure out the flour and melt the butter
In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, melted butter, and yeast mixture. Fold together with a rubber spatula until a dough ball forms. Once the dough has come together into one mass, pick it up and move to a large cutting board or clean floured counter top.
Now knead away! If you’ve never kneaded a yeast dough before, you basically flatten the dough ball with the heel of your hand, fold the dough back onto itself, and repeat. Check out YouTube for some great video demonstrations of the kneading process.
Kneading strengthens the dough by forming strands of gluten. Gluten free diets be damned, this technique is centuries old! You’ll know your dough is well kneaded when it’s smooth and velvety to the touch.
Spray a large bowl with some non-stick spray and place the kneaded dough ball inside. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm room for about 1 hour.
Once your dough has doubled in size, cut it into 15-20 evenly sized pieces. You can vary this depending on what size and shape of pretzels you want to make, anything goes!
Roll each section out into a long snake. Then fold in half, pinch the two ends together, and twist 2 or three times. Place each twist onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
Around this time is when you’ll want to preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Fill a large shallow pot with about ten cups of water and mix in the baking soda. Bring to a boil.
Gently place the pretzel twists into the boiling water and baking soda mixture, a few at a time. Let them boil for 30 seconds, then lift out with a slotted spatula or spoon and place back onto the baking sheet. This step is what gives the soft pretzels that lovely toasted brown outer layer and soft white middle!
Thin one egg yolk with a spoonful of water, and gently brush over the top of each pretzel. Sprinkle liberally with coarse salt. You can season your pretzels with anything you like here. I made one batch with some everything bagel seasoning and they came out awesome!!
Bake for 15 minutes, then allow to cool a bit before stuffing your face! These are best served fresh and hot! Because I loathe mustard, I served them with a hot cheddar cheese dipping sauce (recipe below!). But hey, if mustard is your thing, go for it. It is traditional I suppose.
Extras can be stored in a zip top bag and taste pretty great warmed up briefly in the oven or toaster oven.
Spicy Cheddar Cheese Sauce:
– 1 cup milk
– 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese (grated)
– 2 tbsp butter
– 2 tbsp flour
– 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
– 1 dash hot sauce
– sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes
Heat the milk in the microwave until steaming. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Sprinkle in flour, whisking constantly, to form a rue. Slowly add in the warm milk, keeping the mixture moving. Toss in the cheese and stir until melted. Add cayenne, red pepper, hot sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Serve along side your fresh homemade soft pretzels and enjoy!