Recipe for homemade soft pretzels
This weekend, I was in some sort of I-could-make-that-from-scratch mood. A trip to Beachy's, my favorite Amish bulk food store, only made it worse.
Before I went, I consulted my "Better than Store-bought" cookbook and resolved to look for supplies to make mustard and curry powder from scratch.
But one thing I didn't know I was looking for until I found it? Pretzel salt.
A pound and a quarter of the pebble-y, soft-but-crunchy salt cost 86 cents, so clearly, I could not resist.
After I bought it, I went home and immediately set out to make pretzels. Lucky for me, there was a recipe in "Better than Store-bought." It's below.
The final results were chewy, salty and delicious. The recipe does lack an egg wash step, which I think I missed in the finished product, but that would be easy enough to fix.
Since then, I've found myself daydreaming about homemade pretzels. There are so many variations, like for Auntie Anne's knock-offs, Parmesan and garlic pretzels, pretzel rolls and pretzel bread bowls.
The possibilities seem endless, which is lucky for me. I bet it takes a while to go through more than a pound of pretzel salt.
1 1/2 cups warm (110 degrees) water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 package dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups gluten flour
3 cups flour, or as needed
(I used a scant 3/4 cup of whole-wheat flour, two tablespoons of vital wheat gluten and three cups all-purpose flour.)
1 quart water
3 tablespoons baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt or pretzel salt
In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the warm water with the sugar and yeast. Let proof until fluffy, about 10 minutes.
Combine the remaining cup of warm water, salt, gluten flour and 1 cup of the all-purpose flour in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until well-blended. Add the yeast mixture and beat on medium-low speed for four or five minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 cups more flour.
Turn the dough onto a floured working surface and knead until very smooth and shiny, adding about 1/2 cup flour, or the amount needed, as you knead. (I just let the dough hook on my stand mixer do this for me.)
Form the dough into a ball and place in an ungreased bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, about one hour or more.
Punch down the dough and cut into 12 equal pieces.
Roll each piece under your palms, stretching as your roll, to form a long rope about 20 inches long, with tapered ends.
Form each into a pretzel shape (the book has an illustration - you basically cross the ends twice, and then fold the remaining middle loop over them).
Lay each pretzel on a lightly floured board. Let the pretzels rise until not quite doubled, about 20 minutes.
While the pretzels are rising, preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Make the water bath. In a 9-inch enamel or stainless-steel pot, combine water, baking soda and sugar. Bring to a simmer.
Slide three pretzels at a time into the bath. Keep water at a bare simmer and cook the pretzels for 20 seconds on the first side, and then flip gently with a skimmer. Cook 20 seconds on second side, then remove with skimmer, draining them over the pan.
Place on a towel for a moment, then flip them on two nonstick-surfaced baking sheets with their original topsides up.
Sprinkle sparingly with coarse or pretzel salt. Repeat with remaining pretzels.
(I used one cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat and one covered in parchment paper. I think the parchment paper helped the pretzels' undersides develop a better texture while baking.)
Bake the pretzels in the center of the oven for 15 minutes, or until nicely browned, switching pan positions halfway through the baking.
Cool pretzels to lukewarm and eat them fresh, or wrap and freeze them after they've cooled completely. To rewarm, unwrap frozen pretzels and bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes.