Soft pretzels may seem like they are reserved for a trip to the mall or a street fair but did you know how easy they are to make yourself at home? I thought I would give these a try today since I hadn't ever made them by myself. I only remember watching my grandmother make them. She knew the secret and I am here to share that with you so you can make these amazing, soft, chewy, delicious treats at home. Just in time for Super Bowl!
The secret to these pretzels like any other pretzel, is the baking soda water bath! I have done a bit of research on this recipe and the fact of the matter is that pretzels originally got their deep brown finish from a dip in another alkali bath, and that was in lye! Can you imagine? Now that is not really anything new. Lye is used in several food applications like curing, hominy and of course pretzels. But this can be dangerous because lye is extremely caustic, it’s poisonous and it can knock you on your feet if you don't know what you are doing. Now, that is not to say that you cannot use it, but I am not going to use it and I don't think you should either. Food grade lye can bee difficult to find and it is just better to use the baking soda. You get a darn similar result and I think you will be happier, safer and healthier for it.
This really is a study in chemistry. Walter White would be proud! Simple chemistry of taking something and exposing it to an alkali in order to get a specified result. In this case a deep brown, crispy outer crust that is the pride of any pretzel maker. Many recipes call for just a little bit of baking soda mostly 2 tablespoons in a cup of water. However my Nanny always did it different and this, in my opinion is the way to go. She used much more water, I have estimated around 8 cups and always used 2/3 cups of baking soda. Dissolve the soda in the water and then bring to a simmer in preparation for giving your dough a lovely warm alkali bath prior to baking.
I mixed up my dough in my stand mixer and then allowed it to sit for 30 minutes. You can find the recipe here: http://bit.ly/1miMQq0 Then I preheated my oven to 400 degrees.
This step is crucial because I don't want your pretzels to stick to the parchment like mine did! Make sure you line a baking sheet with parchment and that you also spray, butter or oil the parchment well. Trust me, when this step is skipped, your pretzels will stick to the paper and although they will still be delicious, you will have to sacrifice their undersides because of the sticky problem.
Now you can divide your dough into six equal pieces. Form each piece into a snake between 12 and 15 inches long and then twist into a pretzel shape or cut into nuggets. Either way they are delicious.
Dip your pretzels or nuggets into the simmering baking soda bath for 30 seconds each and make sure to get all sides wet with the mixture.
Place the simmered pretzels onto the oiled baking sheet. At this point you can sprinkle with some coarse salt or you can leave them naked for another application after they are baked. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown and beautiful. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before diving in.
You can also leave off the salt and wait for them to be baked then dip into melted butter and roll in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar for a perfectly sweet treat!
I hope that this encourages you to give pretzel making at home a try. I think these would be delicious along side a bowl of beef barley soup or even made into some sandwich rolls for a tall Ruben sandwich. Eaten on their own they are perfect for dipping into delicious mustard or homemade beer cheese!
I hope you give these delicious soft pretzels a try and I hope you love them!