1 cup (240 ml) lukewarm water
Scant 2 teaspoons (6 grams) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon (15 grams) granulated white sugar
1 3/4 cups (225 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (130 grams) bread flour
1 tablespoon (15 grams) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons (25 grams) butter, melted
1 teaspoon (5 grams) salt
8 cups (2 liters) water
1/3 cup (90 grams) baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1 large egg yolk (about 17 grams)
1 tablespoon cream
Pretzel Salt, Sesame Seeds, and/or Poppy Seeds
Homemade Soft Pretzels: In a small measuring cup stir the yeast and white sugar into lukewarm water. Let stand until foamy (about 5-10 minutes).
In the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the dough hook, combine the flours, brown sugar, and salt. Gradually pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture, with the mixer on low speed. Add the melted butter, then knead this mixture on medium speed until you have a soft dough that is smooth and elastic, and just a little sticky (this will take about 3 to 5 minutes). Shape the dough into a ball and place into a lightly oiled large bowl, turning once so the top of the dough has a light coating of oil (this prevents a crust from forming on the top of the dough). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled (approximately 1 hour). Then gently press the dough to release the air and let rest about five to ten minutes.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Have ready a baking sheet that is lined with aluminum foil. Thoroughly spray the foil with a vegetable spray or brush with a flavorless oil.
In a large skillet or Dutch oven mix 1/3 cup (90 grams) baking soda into 8 cups (2 liters) water. Cover and bring the water to a boil over high heat.
Meanwhile, divide the dough into six equal portions (each portion should weigh about 105 grams) and cover them with a clean dish towel. Working with one portion of dough at a time roll the dough back and forth, using both hands with even pressure (working from the center outwards), until you have a 24 inch (60 cm) long rope. Lift the rope periodically as you roll to make sure it's not sticking to the counter. Then form the rope into a U shape with the two ends pointing away from you. Take the two ends and cross them, left over right, about 2 - 3 inches (5 - 7 cm) from the ends. Then cross the ends again, right over left. Lightly moisten the two ends with water and fold the two ends down and press them into the bottom of the U at the 5 and 7 o'clock positions. This will give you that classic "pretzel" shape. Place the pretzel onto your prepared baking sheet. Cover your baking sheet with a clean towel and continue rolling and forming the other five portions of dough into pretzels.
Next, using a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, gently place one pretzel into the boiling water, top of the pretzel facing down (I like to place two pretzels into the boiling water at a time). Boil for 30 seconds, then turn the pretzels over and boil for an additional 30 seconds. Remove the pretzels from the water using your slotted spoon, drain, and place the pretzels back onto your prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pretzels. You should be able to fit all six pretzels on one baking sheet as the pretzels don't really rise in the oven.
In a small bowl whisk the egg yolk with the cream. With a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops of the pretzels with the egg wash. If desired, sprinkle the pretzels with a little pretzel salt, sesame seeds, or poppy seeds.
Bake the pretzels for about 10 - 15 minutes or until golden brown. Half way through baking, turn your baking sheet front to back. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Homemade pretzels are at their best the day they're made. But they can be covered and stored at room temperature for a day or two.
Makes six large (4.5 inch) (11.5 cm) pretzels.
Have you ever thought about making those delicious soft pretzels that you buy at shopping malls and airports? They're really not that difficult to make. Soft pretzels are just a yeast bread is that formed into a pretzel shape. The one big difference in pretzel making, as opposed to a regular bread, is that pretzels are boiled and then baked. It is the boiling that gives the outside of the pretzel its beautiful golden brown color and uniquely crisp and chewy texture.
Homemade Soft Pretzels can be made with all purpose flour (plain flour) or bread flour. The difference is that if you use all purpose flour you will find that the inside of your pretzels will have a softer more fluffy texture, like a dinner roll. Conversely, if you use bread flour the insides of your pretzels will be more chewy. For this recipe I've compromised and used a combination of both bread flour and all purpose flour. This makes a pretzel that is a little fluffy yet still has some chewiness.
What's unique about Homemade Soft Pretzels is once you have formed the dough into the classic pretzel shape, the pretzels have to be boiled in a mixture of water and baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) before they are baked in a hot oven. The water/baking soda helps to give the pretzels their wonderful golden brown color but it's also what gives the outside of the pretzels their crisp and chewy texture. Now, homemade soft pretzels do not have quite the chewiness and the flavor of a commercially made soft pretzels. And that is because commercially made pretzels are usually boiled in a mixture of water and food lye.