Soft Pretzels

I love pretzels. When I lived in the US, I made sure to always stop by Auntie Anne’s to get a warm, buttery pretzel to snack on as I window-shopped. There’s just something incredibly comforting about a warm pretzel. Not to mention, they’re amazing with a pint of beer. Unfortunately, it seems the Brits haven’t caught on to the amazingness that is the soft pretzel. I see them every now and then, but usually they look like they’ve been sitting around for a couple of years.

Last December, I was in Cardiff with Ben and we came across an Auntie Anne’s in a shopping center and I forced him to buy some, promising that he wouldn’t regret it. Let’s just say, he’s now a fan as well.

These pretzels are fantastic. Soft and warm on the inside, buttery and crispy on the outside with just the right mix of a subtle sweetness with the salt. The recipe is from Food Network, and is really simple. The key to getting the best shapes is to roll the dough into really thin snakes, as they will puff up quite a lot in the oven! While I kept mine a relatively manageable size, I think next time I make these I’m going to go for the challenge of making a giant pretzel like the one I had in Munich a few years ago – it was literally as big as my face!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 6 Tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 20 Tablespoons (280 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup baking soda
  • 3 cups warm water
  • coarse sea salt (for sprinkling on the pretzels)

Directions

1. Warm the milk in a saucepan over medium heat until it reaches about 110°F (43°C). It should feel pretty warm if you stick the tip of your finger in it, but not too hot to keep it there. Pour the milk into the bowl of your mixer fitted with the paddle attachment then add in the yeast. Let the mixture sit for about 2 minutes before stirring it on the lowest speed.

2. Stir in the brown sugar and 2 cups of flour. Cut 4 Tablespoons of butter into small cubes and soften in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Add the cubes one at a time, allowing them to work their way into the mixture.

3. Slowly add the remaining 2 1/2 cups of flour into the mixture along with the salt until it forms a sticky dough. Switch to the dough hook attachment and knead for about 5 minutes. Add a bit more flour a spoonful at a time if needed so the dough stops sticking to the sides of the bowl and starts to form a soft ball.

4. After kneading, transfer the dough ball to a large bowl that has been lighted coated with butter or oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let it rise for 1 hour in a warm place.

5. Preheat the oven to 450°F (235°C). Line a few baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.

6. Once the dough has risen, dump it out onto a lightly floured surface and gently punch it down. Break off the dough into pieces that are slightly smaller than two ping-pong balls. You should be able to get 12 to 14 dough balls out of the mixture.

7. Take one dough ball and begin to roll it into a long, thin snake keeping the thickness as even as possible. Continue to roll out the snake until it is about 2 feet long. Then twist the dough into the usual pretzel shape. To help the ends adhere, dip your finger into a bit of water and use it to glue the ends down.

8. Dissolve the 1/3 cup of baking soda with 3 cups of warm water in a deep baking dish or a round cake tin. Deep each rolled pretzel into this mix for about 10 seconds, then allow the excess water to drip off before placing on the baking tray. Sprinkle eat pretzel with the sea salt while it is still wet.

9. Bake for 10-12 minutes until dark golden brown, then remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

10. Melt the remaining butter in a heat-proof bowl, then dip the top side of each pretzel into the butter. Place them onto a wire rack to allow the excess butter to drip off. This will give them a wonderful shiny gloss as well as add the buttery flavor.  Serve while warm for the best results.

For a sweet version of these, omit the seasalt before baking and instead dip the pretzel into a mixture of cinnamon sugar after dipping into the melted butter. 


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