Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Think you can only get soft pretzels at an over-priced stadium concession stand?  (Or from a convenience store, or in the frozen food section of the grocery store?)  Think again!
A pair of pretzels on a plate.

Simon and I took a stab at soft pretzel-making over the weekend.  Without a stand mixer and dough hooks to ease kneading, we put our muscles to good use.  That's what I call a work-out.

Homemade Soft Pretzels
  • 1.5 cups very warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces flour (a generous 4 1/2 cups) + more to flour your work surface
  • 2 ounces vegan butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil to grease your pans/work surfaces
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • Pretzel or kosher salt to sprinkle on top

First, whisk together the warm water, sugar, and kosher salt in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer, if you have one) until dissolved.  Sprinkle the yeast on top and allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.

Then add the flour and butter.  Using a wooden spoon (or your stand mixer's dough hook attachment on low speed), mix until well combined. At this point, turn the dough out onto a clean, floured work surface and knead--sprinkling flour to keep it from sticking, as needed--until the dough is smooth, approximately 5 minutes.  (Or, continue kneading in your stand mixer on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.  Then remove the dough from the bowl.)

Grease the inside of the empty dough bowl with vegetable oil and return the dough to the bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for approximately 50 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly grease with oil.  Set aside.  Then combine the 10 cups of water and baking soda in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, place the dough on a clean, lightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces.  Using your hands, roll out each piece of dough into a 2-foot long cord.  To form each pretzel, start by making a U-shape with the dough.  Then, holding the ends at the top of the U, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U.  Carefully place each pretzel on the parchment-lined baking sheets.  
 Finally, one by one, carefully place each pretzel into the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds.  Remove the pretzels from the pot using a large spatula and return them to the baking sheet.  Sprinkle salt over top of each pretzel while still wet.

Bake the pretzels until they are golden brown in color, about 14 minutes.

Yields 8 large pretzels.

I was thrilled with how these pretzels came out.  Ours were a bit short and stout rather than long and lean, but they were still fluffy on the inside with a nice browning on the outside. 
Sometimes, staple ingredients are all you need.
 Ease of Preparation:      
This is a good weekend recipe because it does take a while to make, between the dough rising and kneading.  That said, it's pretty simple to do (even without a stand mixer).
Non-vegan friendliness:      
These taste better than many, if not most, of the soft pretzels I've had the pleasure of meeting. 

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