Sometime you get a craving for a snack and just don’t feel like going to the store. With just a few pantry staples you (and your kids) can create these easy, chewy, delicious soft pretzels. Once you make these at home you won’t go back to store bought again. According to the pretzel manufacturer Snyder’s of Hannover the history of pretzels go back to 610 AD when a monk who was baking unleavened bread for Lent got the idea of folding the dough into the shape it’s in today to replicate the praying stance of that day. When people would pray they would fold their arms with their hands on the opposite shoulder. The monk thought that these little bits of folded dough would make a good “pretiola” or little reward for children who recited their prayers.
These homemade pretzels are chewy and very simple to make. Older children can help with measuring and rolling out the dough. They take a little patience since there is about an hour where the dough needs to rest and rise but all in all these are a quick snack for a cold winter day.
There are many recipes on the internet for homemade pretzels (I’ve even seen kits at A.C. Moore) but the one I like the best is on www.foodnetwork.com by Alton Brown. I’ve used many of his recipes and they seem to be very well tested and easy to follow.
To make homemade pretzels:
1 ½ cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
22 ounces all purpose flour or 4 ½ cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
vegetable oil for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1. Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle with the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
2. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap and sit it in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until it doubled in size.
3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 half sheet pans (or cookie sheets) with parchment paper and lightly brush with vegetable oil (or use silicone sheets). Set aside.
4. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8 quart saucepan or roasting pan.
Now here comes the fun part!
5. Turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24 inch rope. The dough will be stretchy so be sure that you have a big enough work space to roll the dough out the entire 24 inches, if you don’t the pretzel will shrink up when you go to form it.
6. Make a U shape with the rope, then holding the ends cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of the pretzel. Place onto the prepared pans.
7. Once the water has come to a boil add the pretzels to the water just a few at a time and boil for 1 minute to 1 minute and 30 seconds.
8. Remove them from the water using a slotted spoon. Place them back on the prepared pan and brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with pretzel salt.
Place the pans in the pre-heated oven and bake until golden brown about 12-14 minutes.
Let them cook on a rack for about 5 minutes. Then enjoy! There are lots of variations to the pretzel theme. Sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar, dip them in garlic flavored butter or come up with your own special way to enjoy them.
How do you like your pretzels?
Check out more from our cooking contributing author Kim Bernard at her blog, From My Corner of Saratoga, here!