My quest for the perfect pretzel recipe began a few weeks back. Honestly, it started because I wanted to learn how to make bagels, but I couldn't find the malt syrup/powder that most recipes call for at any of our local grocery stores. I returned home, defeated, with a lingering need for boiled dough, so I decided to try homemade soft pretzels instead.
The first recipe I encountered was pretty awful. Don't get me wrong - we still ate them all. Every last bite. But they left us bloated from salt overload. It was almost tragic. Yes, pretzels are supposed to be salty, but I firmly believe that most of the seasoning should come from toppings rather than the dough itself.
Take-two: much better in both flavor and texture. The only problem? Me.
I can't shape these things to save my life! As much as I love yeast breads, I rarely have the patience to roll and coil things properly. My pretzels, therefore, generally begin their lives deformed, and only increase in absurdity as they are transferred into boiling water.
I may try to improve my shaping skills some day, but for now I'll stick to solid twists or sticks to ease pretzel-induced stress levels. In any case, these are lovely to eat, and they're definitely going into normal rotation around here. We usually dip them in honey-mustard sauce (recipe below), but sometimes a little pumpkin butter is good too.
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 stick of butter, melted
Pretzel salt or Coarse Sea Salt
Combine the water, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a bread machine (or stand mixer). Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until the yeast begins to bubble. Add the flour and the melted butter, and turn the machine on using the dough/pasta setting. Knead the dough for 5 minutes.
Remove the dough from the machine and place in a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with a damp tea towel, and set in a warm place until doubled in size - about an hour.
Preheat oven to 450°F, and cover one or two cookie sheets with silpat mats or parchment paper. Divide the dough into eight equal pieces. Roll each piece out into a snake about two-feet long. Pull the ends together and twist, bringing the ends down again toward the center of the snake to form the traditional pretzel shape. Place shaped pretzels on the cookie sheets.
Fill a large pot with water and heat over high. Once the water begins to boil, add about 1/4 cup baking soda. Drop the pretzels in one at a time. Flip the pretzel after 30 seconds, and then let boil 30 seconds more. Place back on the cookie sheet.
Beat one egg with a splash of cool water. Brush the egg over the pretzels and sprinkle with pretzel salt, coarse sea salt, or any topping you'd like. Bake for 15 minutes and check. The pretzels should be a dark golden brown. Remove and cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before eating.
Adapted from Alton Brown's Homemade Soft Pretzel recipe.
Honey Mustard Sauce
Add one part honey to one part mustard. Beat with a fork or whisk until well mixed. Add a splash of apple cider if a smoother consistency is desired.