Buttery Homemade Soft Pretzels

Babysitting hasn’t always been my strong suit.
I don’t know what to do with kids.
They blink at me…
They blink back…
I say, “Hey, do you like vampires?”.
They say, “Yeah”.
I put on the movie ‘Blade’.
They have nightmares.
Best. Babysitter. Ever.So when my sister left my nephew with me for the week, I decided to go another route.
“Hey, do you like pretzels?”.
“Yeah”.
“Cool.  Let’s make some, ok?”.
“Whatever”.
Pfffftt, pre-teens…
But once we were in the kitchen & baking, all that Justin-Beiber-too-cool-hipster-kid attitude flew right out the window & my sweet little nephew was covered in flour & dough, smiling ear-to-ear.
Like I said:
Best. Babysitter. Ever.So grab a kid (preferably one from your own family otherwise that’s just weird…or a felony…)
& bake some memories & delicious pretzels!
Enjoy!
Before we get to the recipe, let me share a couple of things we learned about pretzels…
(Because you totally care, right? I thought so.)
  1. You must BOIL pretzels in water & baking soda!  This step should NOT be skipped.  It is this step that makes the inside of the pretzel “puff” giving it its signature chewiness.  The baking soda makes the boiling water an alkali (aka basic) solution which also helps to develop a soft pretzel’s signature brown crust & distinctive aroma.  Skip this step & you are going to end up with a pale, hard breadstick.  Ew.
  2. Put an egg yolk wash on your pretzel before you put it in the oven to bake.  It helps make it look extra golden brown & almost too pretty to eat…almost….
  3. Left over pretzels make the BEST breakfast sandwiches.  I am now a firm believer that all things should be served on soft pretzels.  EVERYTHING.

Enough of that…Let’s bake!

Pretzels aren’t as hard to make as they look.  They do, however, require patience.  So find a good book, clean something, or be prepared to just sit & stare at your dough for about an hour.  You’ve been warned.
After mixing the salt, sugar, & warm water (between 110-115 F degrees) together, add a packet of active yeast to the water mixture.  Make sure the water is the right temperature or your yeast will not activate properly & your dough will not rise!
Leave the yeast & water mixture to sit for about 5 minutes.  The yeast will start to “activate” & foam up to look something like the picture below.  Don’t worry, you didn’t do anything wrong,
this is supposed to happen.
Add the melted butter & flour.  Don’t be shy, just throw it all in.
There’s not much finesse needed for this part.
Put a dough hook attachment on your mixer (or use those arm muscles!) to knead the dough on low until it all starts to just come together (or for 5 minutes if kneading by hand).
It won’t look smooth, but that’s ok.  Scrape the dough off the hook, put it all back into the bowl making sure that all the flour & butter is mixed in.
Put the mixer on medium speed & continue kneading for about 5 more minutes.  It should start to smooth out & get more elastic.  The dough will also begin to pull off the sides of the mixer at this point.    If you are not using a mixer, I’m sure your arms are about to fall off but don’t give up! You will not only be rewarded with muscle-y arms but also a delicious snack…in about 1 1/2 hours. *sigh*
After it’s been kneaded, take it out of the bowl &
gently fold the edges under itself to form a little ball of dough.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a dish cloth or plastic wrap, put it somewhere warm & go do something interesting for an hour.  I took my nephew to the comic book store…
where I learned that you don’t call action figures “man-dolls”.
My bad.
After the dough doubles in size, remove from bowl & cut into 8 equal pieces.  I weighed them out to 2.5 ounces to be sure they were even.  Take that rolled out dough and twist it into the traditional pretzel shape.
I attempted to explain this pretzel shaping process in words but for some reason I couldn’t.
I saw it on TV once & magically, my hands just knew what to do.  It was weird & oddly satisfying.
So let me link you to someone that can explain this better (Amanda @ Food52)!
Once twisted, leave the pretzels on a baking sheet & prepare the pot of boiling water + baking soda.  Using a slotted spatula, dip each pretzel into the boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Drain each pretzel well before placing back on the baking sheet.  Beat an egg yolk + water together to brush over the tops of the boiled pretzels.
Sprinkle with coarse salt & bake!
We watched the pretzels bake through my little oven window & they turn brown quite quickly.
Make sure not to walk away if this is the first time you are making them!
All that work pays off, I promise!  You will have soft, chewy & hot pretzels that will be well worth all the work & definitely worth all the wait!!
Enjoy!
Buttery Homemade Soft Pretzels

Prep Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Yield: 8-2.5 oz pretzels

Buttery Homemade Soft Pretzels

Buttery, homemade chewy pretzels just like the ones in the mall!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (110-115 degrees F)
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsp melted unsalted butter
  • 10 cups water (for boiling)
  • 2/3 cups baking soda (for boiling)
  • 1 egg yolk plus 1 Tbsp water (for brushing on pretzels)
  • Coarse salt (topping for pretzels)

Instructions

  1. Combine warm water, sugar & salt in a mixing bowl & sprinkle yeast on top. After 5 minutes, yeast should begin to "bloom" & become foamy.
  2. Add flour & butter, mix on low using a dough hook attachment on mixer until just combined. If you don't have a mixer, add flour & butter into the water/yeast mixture stir until combined, turn out onto a lightly oiled surface & knead until smooth & stretchy when pulled. This will take about 10 minutes by hand.
  3. If using a mixer, after ingredients have been combined, increase speed to medium & allow the dough to knead for an additional 5 minutes. Dough should look smooth & stretchy when pulled.
  4. Remove dough from the mixer, shape into a ball & place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel, place in a warm place & allow to rise for an hour (or until dough doubles in size).
  5. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Prepare a half sheet baking pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set aside.
  6. Bring the 10 cups of water & baking soda to a rolling boil. Use a pot or pan that is large enough to not let the pretzels touch the sides of the pot & allows them to float freely.
  7. While the water is coming to a boil, remove dough from bowl, cut into 8 equal parts (about 2.5 ounces each), and roll each piece into a 24 inch rope.
  8. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding it at each end. Cross each end over each other and press into the bottom of the U to make the shape of a pretzel. If that didn't make sense, then watch the video above...or google it...or make pretzel twists!
  9. Place pretzels into boiling water for about 30 seconds, one at a time. Remove from water with spatula making sure most of the water is drained off before placing on prepared baking sheets.
  10. Brush each pretzel with beaten egg yolk/water mixture, sprinkle with salt, & bake for about 12 minutes.
  11. Remove pretzels from baking sheet to a cooling rack & let sit for 5 minutes before eating.
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