Soft-Baked Pretzels

A couple of months ago when Lauren and I were messing around with yeast and dough for cinnamon rolls I mentioned to her that I really wanted to make soft-baked pretzels. Just this month I happened to catch an episode of Good Eats that explained exactly how to do just that. Unfortunately I don't see how you get this done without an electric mixer unless you've got some seriously muscular forearms. There is a lot of kneading required to get the smooth consistency required for the pretzels to have awesome chewiness.

* 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water

* 1 tablespoon sugar

* 2 teaspoons kosher salt

* 1 package active dry yeast

* 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups

* 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

* Vegetable oil, for pan

* 10 cups water
* 2/3 cup baking soda

* 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water

* Pretzel salt

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan. Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula.

Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the pans(s) half way through. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

These pretzels are excellent. You can use coarse sea salt instead of pretzel salt if you have a sea salt grinder at home. On the episode, Alton Brown said the primary benefit of pretzel salt was that it gives you the classic pretzel look. Table salt gives you a little too much coverage on the pretzel.

Aside from the one hour proofing time, the recipe was quick and easy. Once the dough was ready it took about 10 minutes to roll them out, shape them and get them ready to bake.


Rach said...

I saw the same episode & it made me crave those soft-baked pretzels. Now I reading your blog & looking at the pictures and it's the only thing I want to eat right now. Yum. Woe is me.