A soft pretzel just always sounds like a good idea. If you hadn’t really thought about it, just let that marinate for a minute.
But how often do the soft pretzels you’re likely to run into really scratch the itch? When the opportunity does present itself, you’re probably faced with the cold, dry, gummy, tasteless twists hanging sadly from a rotating rack at the ballpark, fair, or convenience store. Something’s seriously wrong when you need to douse the thing with mustard just to make it palatable.
I already had packets of yeast that I’ve been itching to use and decided that it was finally time to do my family a favor, and fill the house with the smell of freshly-baked dough. Bouncing back and forth between sandwich breads, and pizza doughs, I found this little Alton Brown ditty and ran with it.
This was the first time I had baked using ingredients by weight instead of volume, and I will continue to do so whenever possible. Not only are you going to end up with more consistent results from batch to batch, but it’s just plain quicker to read a scale than to spoon, level, and dump from a measuring cup.
And look at those beauties. No melted butter drizzled over the top. No need for a beer and cheese based dipping companion (as good as that sounds after the fact). They’re tender and chewy enough to be a light snack, but dense and substantial enough to handle bread duties in a sangwich.
I just love versatile baked goods. Don’t you?!
- 1½ cups of warm water
- 1 Tablespoon of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
- 1 package of Rapid Rise yeast
- 22 ounces of all-purpose flour, about 4½ cups
- 4 Tablespoons of butter, melted
- Canola oil, enough to coat the bowl as the dough rises
- 10 cups of water
- ⅔ cup of baking soda
- 1 large egg yolk beaten with a tablespoon of water
- Sea salt
- Combine the water, sugar, kosher salt, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk together. Turns out that you can skip the blooming step when using Rapid Rise yeast. If you're using the Active Dry stuff, allow it to sit in the warm water for about 5 minutes, or until it starts to foam.
- Add the flour and melted butter and mix on low speed with the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer until well combined.
- Shift gears to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 4 or 5 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, clean out the bowl and then oil it up.
- Return the dough to the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. Don't have a warm spot handy? Heat the oven to 200 degrees and set the mixing bowl on top of the range. The heat from the oven will seep up and do the trick.
- Once the dough is ready, turn the oven to 450. Line two cookie sheets with Silpats -- or parchment paper lightly brushed with oil -- and set aside.
- Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in a large sauce pan. More on this in a minute.
- While the water's starting to do its thing, cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece 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." Okay, I felt like I was taking a spatial relations test while trying to digest this instruction. I totally wanted to be slinging these suckers around like I was behind the counter at Wetzel's, but had to hit the breaks and run slow-mo through the first couple. I got the hang of it and was pleased that my twists were sufficiently pretzel-y. Place the twists onto the cookie sheets.
- Place each pretzel into the boiling water, one by one, for 30 seconds. Novice pretzel maker that I am, here, I asked "Why?" Two very good reasons: 1) the hot water makes the dough "fluff" up, resulting in a chewier pretzel, and 2) the alkali solution gives you that dark brown crust. So yes, absolutely a necessary step.
- Remove them from the water using something slotted -- my round skimmer worked perfectly -- and return to the cookie sheet. Brush the top of each pretzel with the egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the salt.
- Bake until dark golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes, and then it's go time!