Soft Pretzels-Made At Home!

My 6-year old son is obsessed with soft pretzels and makes me buy the frozen kind all the time.  Recently I decided to join him in eating one and it tasted awful-cooked and soft on one side, hard and frozen on the other.  I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and learn how to make these at home.  Turns out, it is much easier than I ever imagined!

I am someone who loves to bake bread, so I am not at all intimidated by the idea of working with yeast.  The recipe in total uses 5 ingredients-yeast, sugar, water, flour and salt.  How can you go wrong?  I am already imagining the possibilities of how I might add to that base by sticking in spices, ground herbs, zests or other ingredients to add to the flavor.  Anyway, here’s what I did:

Mixed 3 1/2 cups flour in a bowl with a tablespoon of sea salt:

In a separate bowl, mix one packet of dried, active yeast with 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (not too hot!).  Mix and let sit until it starts to bubble and fizz.  If nothing happens after 5-10 minutes, your yeast is not good and you need to try again with another packet.

Once fizzing, mix the yeast mixture with the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until incorporated all the way.  Turn out onto a floured counter and knead the dough until smooth and elastic, around 8 minutes.  Put into a clean bowl that has been oiled with EVOO and turn the dough over to be coated by the oil.  Place a clean dishtowel or plastic wrap over the dough and tuck into a warm corner for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Tip I learned from Joan Nathan: Preheat the oven to 250 F then turn off and stick your dough in the warmed oven with the door open to rise.  If you do this, don’t use the plastic wrap cover as it may melt!

Once risen, punch down and then turn out onto floured countertop and cut into 8 pieces.  Roll the pieces out like a snake and shape into pretzels.  Place the pretzels on an oiled baking sheet to rise once again.  Leave aside for 20 minutes.

About 5 minutes before the 20 minutes is up, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a tablespoon of baking soda.  Add the pretzels, 2 or three at a time, but don’t over crowd the pot.  Turn them once after a minute or so and then remove them from the water with tongs and place on a draining rack.

Preheat the oven to 425 F.  Rub pretzels with a little EVOO and sprinkle salt or salt and pepper on them and then bake for 35 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool-they will be hot!  Serve with honey mustard, Nutella, cream cheese or any other kind of dip you can think of-or they are delicious just on their own!

Okay I’ll admit, I got the idea of these from Joy The Baker, who got the idea from Gourmet Magazine.  Their original recipe is here on her site.  I’ve altered it slightly.

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