Soft Pretzels

Soft pretzels

I hate football. That’s right, hate. Hate. College football is bad enough, but the NFL is just down right ridiculous, in my opinion, of course. I’m one of those people who watches the Super Bowl for the commercials and the food. This year Steve and I watched the game with his family where enough food had been prepared for an army. We did our best to make it through it all but only made a dent. It was a delicious and gluttonous feast and I think we all left with a tummy ache.

Pretzel dough

I thought long and hard about what I would contribute to the spread. I finally decided to bake something that’s been on my to-do list for a very long time, soft pretzels. I thought they would be a very good addition to the chips, dips, candies, cookies and everything else that was bound to be at the party.

Water bath

Pretzel dough isn’t all that different from other yeast doughs, but making pretzels is a little more time consuming due to some extra steps. Everything came together fairly easily and I was so excited to pull the finished product out of the oven and see how great they looked (and oh my, did they smell wonderful!).

Soft pretzel

The pretzels definitely helped make the Super Bowl more enjoyable and delicious. I ended up cheering for the Saints (because a side has to be picked and the Saints seemed to be the more romantic pick) and was happy they beat the other guys. But for me, these pretzels were the clear winners of the day.

Soft pretzels

Soft Pretzels
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 16 pretzels

2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt

Pour the warm water and 1 tablespoon of sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then add one cup of flour to the yeast mixture and mix until combined. Add salt and the remaining flour and mix until combined. Beat on medium-low until the dough starts to pull away from the sides. If the dough is still sticky, add more flour 1/2 cup at a time and mix until combined. Knead with the dough hook another 3 to 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Transfer the dough into a bowl coated with cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and leave in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Separate the dough into 16 pieces about 2 1/2 ounces each. With your hands and with the aid of a slightly floured work surface, roll each piece into an 18-inch long strip. Then shape into a pretzel and set on a sheet pan. Let the pretzels rest for about 15 minutes, allowing them to rise a little more.

Meanwhile, boil a few inches of water in a wide, shallow pan over medium high heat. Add the baking soda and the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Transfer 3 to 4 pretzels to the water  at a time and poach them on each side for 1 minute. Remove them with a slotted spoon and return to the lined sheet pan.

Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon of water and brush each pretzel with the wash. Sprinkle with the course salt. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with mustard or your favorite dip or sauce.

These pretzels are best eaten the day they are made, but will keep on the counter, uncovered for a few days.