I first tried a soft pretzel only a few weeks ago, when we visited the historic pretzel bakery in Lititz. Well, the moment I bit into it I realised I'd been missing out on something delicious, and I wanted to try making some of my own.
I like collecting interesting recipe books, so I already had one called Pretzel Baker by Anne Boulley waiting on my Kindle (a fortuitous free download). My dough draws from the basic recipe in that book, although I rolled them more like the way we were shown in Lititz, the result of which is a more solid shape.
I topped half with salt, and half with sesame seeds (one of Boulley's suggestions, and a good idea for anyone trying to cut back on salt). I thought I might prefer the sesame ones, since I found myself having to knock off half the salt in the US, but actually I like the traditional taste best - just with a moderate number of salt crystals, instead of hundreds.
Simple Pretzel Recipe
350ml hand-hot water
2tsp dried yeast
3tbsp brown sugar
650g plain flour
100g baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
1tbsp rock salt (or sesame seeds)
- Melt the butter and leave to cool.
- Mix a little of the warm water to the yeast, along with the sugar, and leave for a couple of minutes until frothy.
- Add the yeast mixture to a large mixing bowl with the rest of the water, the salt, and melted butter.
- Fold in the flour, a little at a time, to form a soft dough. You should be able to knead the dough without it sticking - you may need to add a little more flour depending on the humidity.
- Knead for a few minutes, then cover the bowl with a tea towel and set in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes.
- Divide the dough into six equal-sized pieces.
- On a clean surface, roll the dough into a long, thin sausage shape about 18 inches long.
- Form the dough into a U shape, bring the two ends together and make a double twist, then fold the ends back down to stick onto the bottom of the U (see images below). I fixed the ends in place with a little cold water.
- Arrange the pretzels on a baking tray and put in the freezer for at least an hour.
- Meanwhile, line a baking tray with parchment, spread out the baking soda, and bake for an hour at 150°C.
- Dissolve the baked baking soda into 500ml cold water, in a bowl slightly larger than your pretzels. Fill another similar bowl with plain cold water.
- Grease or flour a couple of baking sheets.
- Take the frozen pretzels one at a time, and submerge in the soda solution for two minutes.
- Rinse quickly in the cold water and arrange on the baking sheets.
- Sprinkle the tops of the pretzels with salt crystals or sesame seeds.
- Bake at 230°C for 10-12 minutes.
You can leave the raw, undipped pretzels in the freezer for as long as you like after step 9. Just pull them out, dip, and bake them when you're ready to eat them.