The soft pretzels that you get at the mall from places like Auntie Anne’s or Pretzelmaker are delicious. However, with this easy soft pretzel recipe you can save yourself some money by making your own homemade pretzels that taste just as great as those at the mall.
This is also a kid friendly pretzel recipe with your supervision, as you will be using a safe baking soda solution to brown your pretzels instead of lye. All of the pretzel franchises in the mall also use a baking soda solution.
The traditional dark mahogany colored pretzels or “Brezels” you get in Germany or at Octoberfest celebrations commonly use lye. Lye is extremely caustic and can eat through your skin and blind you. While at some point I would love to try using lye, it seems to be too much of a hassle to find where to buy food grade lye, make the proper 3% lye solution, deck myself out in gloves and eye protection, etc. I’ll stick with baking soda for now.
Pretzel Dogs and Pretzel Bites
With this soft pretzel recipe you can also easily make pretzel dogs, which are pretzel wrapped hotdogs. You do this by rolling the dough out thin and the wrapping the pretzel dough around the hotdog. You can also make pretzel bites by rolling out the dough and just cutting the dough into 1” by 1” pieces.
If you want to make a healthier pretzel you can also try using whole wheat, rye, or spelt flour instead of all-purpose flour. You could also try using a mix of different flours.
- 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
- 1 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon butter , softened
- 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons warm water
In a large mixing bowl add the yeast into the warm water and mix to dissolve. Read the yeast package to determine what temperature the yeast needs to bloom at. My package of yeast said to bloom the yeast in water between 110 degrees to 115 degrees Fahreinheit. You can use a thermometer to get the correct temperature.
Allow the yeast to bloom for 5-10 minutes. The mixture should develop a foam.
In a separate mixing bowl combine the powdered sugar, flour and salt.
Add the oil into the yeast water and mix. Dump the powdered sugar, butter, flour and salt mixture into the yeast water and stir with a spoon until it comes together and forms a dough.
At this point you can flour a table surface and knead the dough by hand for 5-10 minutes or you can use an electric stand mixer with a dough hook to knead the dough using the mixer's dough kneading setting. Consult your mixers manual for the correct kneading setting.
If the dough seems too dry, add a tablespoon of water. If it seems too wet, add some flour.
Once the dough is smooth, wet a paper towel with some cooking oil and rub down the inside another large mixing bowl. This will prevent the dough from sticking. Add the dough into the new bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Place the mixing bowl somewhere warm (about 80 degrees Fahrenheit) for one hour to allow the dough to rise. What I did was put the bowl in the oven set at its lowest setting with the door slightly propped open. If your home temperature is around 80 already then just leave it the bowl on the counter.
When the dough has doubled in size, you can use a plastic dough scraper to remove the dough from the bowl and onto a lightly floured surface. If you don't have a scraper you can just dust your hands with flour and use them instead.
At this point, now would be a good time to pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
On a floured surface, or on a non-stick baking mat, use a pizza cutter wheel or a bench scraper to section off the dough into 8 parts. Then gently pull on the ends to lengthen each section.
My dough was too sticky to roll so I put some flour down on my table.
Using your hands, gently roll the dough back and forth, from the center to the ends, so that the dough becomes a long cylindrical shape. You want the dough to be around 3 feet in length.
Once you have 8 long ropes of dough, you can shape them into pretzels like shown in the photo. You can do this on your tabletop or you can try to do it the way you may have seen pretzel makers do it at the mall. The way they do it at the mall is by holding both ends up so the dough is in the air, making a "U" shape. Now, keeping your left arm still, use your right hand to lasso the dough around the other strand and then drop the dough onto the table while still holding the ends. Then pinch the ends you are holding onto the outer ring of the dough. For a good video demonstration of this technique, click here.
While traditional German pretzel are made by dipping them in a lye solution to develop a deep, rich mahogany color, and a unique outer skin and flavor, we will instead use baking soda. Baking soda is much safer to use than lye as the PH is much lower. Lye is extremely caustic and can burn through your skin (ever see the movie Fight Club?), blind you, as well as chew up your kitchen table. Baking soda will still give you a really nice color, it just won't be a deep, rich mahogany color like you would get with lye. Baking soda is also what the pretzel shops in the mall use (Auntie Anne's, Pretzelmaker, etc).
In a 9x13" baking dish, add 4 cups of warm water. Then slowly add in 1/2 cup of baking soda while mixing with a spoon. Be sure to try and and fully dissolve the baking soda into the water to make a solution. If a layer of baking soda remains at the bottom and you can't get it to dissolve, then that's ok. Just do your best to mix it really well.
This is how my baking soda water bath looked after stirring.
Next to the baking soda solution, put down a few paper towels.
Put a sheet of parchment paper down on a baking pan.
While holding the pretzel where you pinched the ends to the outer loop, dunk the pretzel into the baking soda water bath. Be sure that the pretzel is completely covered. Then transfer the pretzel to the paper towel to dab off any excess liquid. Flip the pretzel so you get each side. Then transfer the pretzel onto the parchment paper that's on your baking sheet. Repeat until you fill up your baking sheet.
Here are some of my pretzels on my baking sheet about to go into the oven. I was only able to get 2-3 pretzels on each baking pan. At this point you can top your pretzels with coarse kosher salt or pretzel salt. If you are making cinnamon-sugar pretzels, omit the salt. You want to bake the pretzels at 425 degrees Fahreinheit for 4 minutes, and then spin the pan around in the oven and bake for another 3 to 4 minutes. I found that after spinning the pan around, 3 minutes and 30 seconds gave me the best color. Your oven may differ. As soon as you see a nice golden brown color, take them out right away.
At this point you can dip the pretzels into a baking pan of melted butter or you can brush melted butter onto the pretzels.
If you want to add a cinnamon-sugar coating on top of the butter, mix a half of a cup of sugar in a baking pan with a couple tablespoons of cinnamon. Then just dip the pretzels into the mixture.
Tip: Pretzels will get stale within a day. Be sure to eat them right out of the oven. Also, I found that the thinner pretzels tasted the best as they had a really nice crispiness on the outside while still being soft inside.
Pretzel Toppings:Other possible pretzel toppings include: parmesan cheese, garlic seasoning, caramel with almonds, cinnamon-sugar with cream cheese icing, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or bacon pieces.
Pretzel Dips:Some dips that you could make that would go well with the pretzel: mustard, honey mustard, marinara sauce, nacho cheese, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, icing.
Please do leave a comment and let us know how your pretzels turned out and if you have any suggestions for improvement of this recipe.
History of Pretzels / Pretzel FactsPretzels are said to have originated from Italian monks around 610 A.D. The monks would form their scraps of dough into the shape of children's arms crossed in prayer over their chests (the twist) centered between three rings representing the holy trinity. When the children learned their bible versus or prayers they were given these pretzels as a "pretiola", which in latin means "little reward". The pretzels worked so well as a delicious reward that even adults loved them. The adults called them brachiola or "little arms". Soon they were being made in other parts of Europe, particularly Germany, where the pretzel shape came to represent good luck and good fortune. This is also where lye was first used when a baker accidently dropped pretzels in a lye cleaning solution and baked them anyway. To the bakers astonishment, the lye gave the pretzels a great color, texture, and flavor.
It has become a tradition for a pretzel to be hung around a child's neck by a string during New Years celebrations in Germany. Some Austrians even top their Christmas tree with a pretzel!
The Danish call their salty pretzels saltkringler, with Kringle being the name for the pretzel shape. An actual Kringle is a sweet pastry in the shape of pretzel. While the word "kringle" may make you think of Kris Kringle, the Santa Claus character in the movie Miracle on 34th Street, it had nothing to do with the sweet pastry.
The first commercial pretzel bakery in the United States was started by Julius Sturgis in Lititz, Pennsylvania, in 1861. The legend is that Julius was approached by a homeless man looking for work in his bakery. Although there were no jobs available, Julius provided the man with a free dinner. As a thank you, the homeless man gave him a pretzel recipe. After testing the recipe, it became so popular that Julius converted his bakery to only make pretzels. The Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery is still in business today at the same location.
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