We’ve been celebrating a pretty special birthday around here this weekend (there are only two of us, and it wasn’t mine, so I’ll let you do the math). Rather than celebrating with my favorite yellow cake with chocolate frosting we celebrated by watching the Seahawks (whoo hoo!) while drinking beer floats (more on those later) and eating these delicious homemade pretzels.
I’ve always loved soft pretzels, mostly because they are a more socially acceptable vehicle than a spoon for getting loads of grainy mustard from the jar into my mouth. Go figure.
It wasn’t until about a year ago that I discovered how easy it is to make these gorgeous pretzels at home! I’m not sure if it was the cold that made us want to bake, or the fact that we were desperate for activities that took place inside our apartment building (to avoid having to brave the -50 degree temperatures), but my friend Susie and I made lots of baking ‘discoveries’ during those long cold Kazakhstani winters. Susie is a bread baking machine, but of all the things we made together, her homemade pretzels are definitely the most requested at our house!
So, pretzels. Let’s do this. If you can hold a spoon, you can handle this.
Start by making a simple yeasted dough, roll it into a long snake, and shape it into a pretzel. Fine so far? Ok, here’s the key step that takes these from nothing more than funny looking rolls to the homemade pretzel we know and love. Baking soda. Baking soda is what gives the pretzels their shiny soft crust and characteristic pretzely flavor. Bring a pot of water with a couple of tablespoons of baking soda to a boil and boil each pretzel for about a minute before toping them with salt and baking in the oven. See? Easy peasy.
Above you can see the difference between a freshly boiled pretzel and a pretzel just out of the oven.
- 3 cups flour
- 1 package rapid-rise yeast (or just less than a tablespoon)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup warm water
- 3 tablespoons plus 3 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons baking soda
- 2 tablespoons coarse salt
- In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.
- In a small bowl or in a liquid measuring cup stir together one cup warm water and three tablespoons of oil.
- Add the liquid to the flour mixture and stir until well combined. Knead dough until smooth (about 10 min) on a lightly floured surface.
- Wash and dry the bowl, and coat with a teaspoon of oil. Add dough to the bowl and turn once to coat with oil. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm location for about 45 minutes or until it’s doubled in size.
- Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and smear each one with a teaspoon of oil.
- Punch down dough (to release any air bubbles) and divide into 16 equal pieces (or fewer if you want bigger pretzels). With oiled hands roll each piece into a rope just less than an inch thick and about 10 inches long. Shape into a pretzel. Set aside for about 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit.
- Fill a large pan 2/3 full with water. Add two tablespoons of baking soda and bring to a boil.
- Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer 4-5 pretzels to the boiling water. After 30 seconds, flip the pretzels over and cook for another 30 seconds. Transfer to a wire rack and repeat until all pretzels have been boiled. Sprinkle pretzel with coarse salt and transfer to baking sheets prepared with way paper.
- Bake one sheet at a time for about 15 minutes until the pretzels are dark brown.