Whenever I go to a ball game, fair or movie I have to get a pretzel. Something about the soft, salty (or sweet) pretzel-y goodness just can’t be beat. Of course, I don’t get to go all that much with my budget so unfortunately my life has pretty pretzel free recently.
However, yesterday my good friend Becky, pretzel baker extraordinaire, surprised me with a visit and a impromptu lesson on how to make some of the best pretzels I’ve ever had. And let me tell you, they were so simple I was absolutely shocked at how easy it was. I even got her permission to share the secret to what makes pretzels… well, pretzels.
But we’ll get to that in a second.
For the most part, the pretzel recipe is pretty much similar to just about any other baking recipe. You’ll add the water, yeast and sugar to a bowl and let it sit for a bit until the yeast activates and starts bubbling. It should look like this:
Then, add the flour and salt and mix it together to form a dough. Knead it until it’s elastic-y just like you would with a regular bread dough. I don’t have a photo of it, unfortunately.
Let the dough rise for at least 30 minutes (mine took about an hour) until it’s doubled in size.
Now for the fun part! Pinch off a bit of the dough and roll it into a long rope. The longer and thinner it is, the more you’ll be able to shape it.
Becky, being the pretzel expert, did this really cool flipping thing to shape the pretzels. It was too fast to get a photo of, but I am pretty sure there was magic involved. I know I don’t have those skills, so I just cheated and shaped them on the table.
You can shape your pretzels however you like, but we went with the traditional shape.
Once you have them shaped, then dunk them in the baking soda solution and place them on a greased baking sheet. Them pop them in the oven and wait!
They were absolutely delicious. We got about a dozen pretzels out of the recipe, but you could have more or less depending on how big you made them. We melted some cheese and ate them with the cheese, but it was all gone before I could get a shot of it. That’s how delicious they were!!
Here’s the full recipe:
- 1½ cups water
- 1¼ teaspoons (1 pkg) active dry yeast
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 1¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 cups flour
- 2 cups water
- 2 Tablespoons baking soda
- 2 - 4 Tablespoons butter
- Salt, coarse or fine (optional)
- Cinnamon sugar or cheese topping (optional)
- Place warm water in a large bowl and add yeast and sugar. Stir to dissolve and let rest for 5 minutes or until it bubbles.
- Add salt and flour and mix to make a dough. Knead until smooth and elastic.
- Let rise until doubled (at least 30 minutes)
- While dough is rising, prepare a baking soda water bath by adding 2 cups water to baking soda.
- Preheat oven to 450 once dough has risen.
- Turn dough out onto floured surface. Do not knead again! Roll into ropes and shape however you wish.
- Dip shaped pretzels into the baking soda bath and place on greased baking sheet
- Allow pretzels to rise again.
- Salt, then bake for 10 minutes or until golden.
- Melt butter in a microwave-safe dish, then brush hot pretzels liberally with butter while hot. Add salt, if using.
For savory pretzels: Melt velveeta cheese with a sprinkle of paparika to dip pretzels.
So, did you spot the secret? It’s all in the baking soda bath. That’s the most important part and essentially what makes regular dough a pretzel. I’m not a scientist so I can’t tell you why, but I can say to make sure you don’t skip that step!
There are any number of things you can dip your pretzels in including cheese, icing, honey butter, salsa, salad dressing… you name it! Happy baking!
Also, a huge thanks and shout-out to my awesome friend Becky for sharing her recipe and expertise with me!! Thanks B!