Chewy Soft Pretzels

Chewy Soft Pretzels

Over the next few days, I’ll be posting three of my favorite appetizers. Appetizers and party foods are some of my favorite ways to consume calories.

Pretzels may not seem a likely option for appetizers, but they are a fantastic way to increase the spread.

These pretzels I’ve been making for years and they certainly don’t disappoint.

Chewy, soft and slathered in butter and salt, these pretzels are a carb-lover’s dream.

I make these often for after-school snacks or when the baking bug hits and I need simple ingredients. Seriously, they are absolutely heavenly.

Chewy Soft Pretzels

*Update 1/26/11: I’ve made a few slight changes to the instructions making it easier to form a soft, smooth dough. Changes are noted below and in the printable versions.

Chewy Soft Pretzels

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Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) very warm water

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) warm water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • Coarse salt (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Mix to just combine. Add the water and mix well, adding more flour, as needed, a bit at a time to form a soft, smooth dough that clears the sides and bottom of the bowl. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, until it is soft, smooth and quite slack. The goal is to get a really soft dough that isn’t overly sticky. Lightly flour the dough and place it in a plastic bag; close the bag, leaving room for the dough to expand, and let it rest for 30 minutes or up to 60 minutes (see pictures below).
  2. Preheat your oven to 500°F. Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces (about 70g, or 2 1/2 ounces, each). Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the 1/2 cup warm water and the baking soda, and place it in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Make sure the baking soda is thoroughly dissolved; if it isn’t, it will make your pretzels splotchy. Sometimes I have a hard time getting the baking soda completely dissolved, so I just lightly stir up the mixture right before adding each pretzel.
  4. Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (anywhere from 14 to 22 inches long), and twist each rope into a pretzel. Dip each pretzel in the baking soda wash (this will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color), and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  5. Bake the pretzels for 7 to 9 minutes or until they’re golden brown. Bake one sheet at a time – it won’t hurt the other pretzels to chill out for a little longer.
  6. Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you’ve used it all up; it may seem like a lot, but that’s what gives these pretzels their ethereal taste. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave.

Notes:

As with all yeast doughs, I never use the flour amount called for in the recipe as a hard fast rule (unless a weight measure is given and then I pull out my kitchen scale). Because humidity, temperature, altitude and a multitude of other factors can impact how much flour you need in your yeast doughs, I always judge when to quit adding flour by the texture and look and feel of the dough rather than how much flour I’ve added compared to the recipe. This tutorial on yeast may help identify how a perfectly floured dough should be.

All images and text ©.

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Recipe Source: adapted slightly from King Arthur Flour

In the picture below, the dough has just been placed in the bag to rise for 30 minutes. Notice how there is a lot of slack in the bag to allow for rising.

Below, the dough has risen for 30 minutes and has expanded quite a bit.