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Fat Kid Sunday: Soft Pretzels

September 25, 2011

I know it’s not Friday. You wanna fight about it? Or do you want to see my apology post about mall-style soft pretzels?

Mmm-hmm. That’s what I thought.

C and I popped into the mall on Friday to pick up a few candles at Bath & Body Works (have you smelled their Autumn candles? They’re delicious. We picked up one that smells like fresh apples and leaves and *yum*, another called Hot Apple Toddy that smells like cinnamon, and a cranberry-pine combo) and on the way by happened to pass Auntie Anne’s… which of course has some dang tasty pretzels.

Usually I can ignore the siren call of yeast and salt, but not so this weekend. I dreamed about those pretzels Friday night, so yesterday I knew I was going to have to make them! Thankfully, others have dreamed of pretzels before me, so my thanks to Rachel over at Elephantine for this recipe.

Her tip to dip the pretzels in a bath of baking soda and warm water made all the difference– these pretzels are chewy, crusty, and perfectly browned (ok, maybe a little too brown… I let them go a minute longer than I should have).

The only other suggestion I have is to proof the yeast before you add the salt and flour. Sometimes those packets have been sitting on the shelf for a long time and aren’t good any more. To do this, pour the warm water into the bowl of your stand mixer and stir in the brown sugar. Sprinkle the packet of yeast over the top and give it a quick stir with your finger.

Like so

Check the bowl after a few minutes. If the yeast is viable, it will look something like this:

It’s all yeasty and stuff. Should smell good, too!

Then go ahead and add the flour and salt and get mixing. The dough will come together pretty quickly, and the stand mixer will do most of the work if you have it fitted with a dough hook attachment. Knead for about 4 minutes in the bowl and about 4 minutes by hand on a lightly floured surface.

               

Pop the dough into an oiled bowl, turn it to coat, cover with a clean dish towel and let it rise for an hour.

It will double in size and be all soft and spongy

You can use the hour that the dough is rising to catch up on Dr. Who, like I did. Or clean your house. Or contemplate your navel. Or all three. You know, whatever.

His forehead is a little Cro-Magnon, but I find him oddly appealing

Sorry, where was I? Oh, right. When the dough has risen take it out of the bowl, punch it down, and divide into six pieces (more if you want smaller pretzels). Roll each piece into a long rope about 1/2-inch in thickness, and then twist it into whatever pretzel shape you like. You can also cut it into pieces and make pretzel bites!

This was my best looking one, from a pretzel purist’s point of view

After you’ve shaped them they’ll get a 30-second bath in a mixture of baking soda and water. Like I mentioned before, it makes the pretzel nice and brown and chewy. I read a lot of different theories about why this works, and the best I found was that it affects the texture because you won’t have to bake the pretzel as long to achieve that nice golden color we’re going for.

I suppose you could also boil the pretzels like a bagel (make them super chewy!) but I haven’t experimented with that yet.

Bake them at 450° or 8-10 minutes.

I got a little creative with the pretzel shapes

Then comes the good part– douse them in butter, and sprinkle them with salt or cinnamon sugar or Parmesan cheese or whatever else floats your boat. You could even dip them in cheese sauce or mustard if you were feeling daring. Any way you eat them, they’re perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

He’s really taking this whole ‘Fat Kid” thing to heart ♥

Soft Pretzels

  • ¾ cup warm water (110°F)
  • 1 ¼ tsp of active dry yeast (half of a .25 ounce package)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup warm water (110°F)
  • 2 tbsp baking soda (for soaking)
  • ½ tbsp butter, melted
  • coarse kosher salt (or pretzel salt)
  • mustard, for dipping (optional)

Pour ¾ cup warm water into a mixing bowl. Dissolve yeast and brown sugar into the water. Stir in flour and salt. Knead in the bowl for 4 minutes, then turn onto a floured surface and knead by hand until dough is smooth and elastic. Pour a few drops of olive oil into mixing bowl; place dough in and turn to coat surface. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.

When dough is ready, cut into 6 pieces. Roll each into ½ inch thick ropes. Shape pretzels by forming a U, then twisting ends and flipping over onto itself, gently pressing overlapping dough to seal. Let rise for 15 minutes.

Fill a bowl with 1 cup warm water. Add baking soda and stir. Soak each pretzel for 30 seconds, flipping over halfway through if not fully submerged. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 450°F for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown. While still warm, brush with melted butter and sprinkle coarse salt over top. (If you prefer sweet pretzels, use cinnamon sugar instead of salt.)

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