Buster began cooking as a wee pup by watching his mother fix the kibble. He was hooked. He loves preparing—and writing about—food.
What Makes a Great Soft Pretzel?
They should be chewy, light, and aromatic when you tear into them. The first time I had a soft pretzel—from a street vendor—I thought they weren't very good. It wasn't until a few years later that I tasted a truly excellent soft pretzel and realized that my first one had been, well, awful.
That's why I love this recipe so much. It's easy to do, and you can make as few as four at a time, so you can serve them hot (or, heck, eat them hot from the oven with butter in the comfort of your own kitchen).
- 2 cups of flour
- 1 tbsp. of yeast (you can use one package of yeast instead)
- 1 cup of warm water
- 4 tbsp. of brown sugar
- 2 tsp. of sea salt
- (for later—1 tbsp. of baking soda dissolved in a cup of barely warm water)
Step 1: Make the Dough
- Stir the tbsp. of yeast into the cup of warm water, and let it become creamy—this will take about 5 minutes.
- Into the bowl of your food processor, put the brown sugar, sea salt, and cup of yeast/warm water mixture. Pulse it several times to mix these ingredients.
- Add in the 2 1/2 cups of flour, and turn on the food processor. In a few moments, the dough will come together. Once it makes a ball, I pulse it about 8—10 times to fully incorporate the ingredients. If it seems too sticky, you can add one tbsp. of flour. This dough is really easy to remove from the processor.
Step 2: Let the Dough Rise
- Cover a baking sheet with foil, sprinkle a little flour onto it, then lightly knead this dough for just a few minutes. Don't make a big deal out of it—you just want the dough to become slightly less sticky than when it first came out of the processor.
- Shape it into a ball, cover it with a dishtowel and allow it to rise till it has doubled in size.
- If my kitchen is cool, I think the easiest way to do this is by bringing a skillet of water to a boil, then put it in the bottom of your (turned off) oven. I put the baking sheet with the dishtowel-covered dough on the middle shelf, close the oven door, and usually, in about an hour, the dough has doubled in size.
Step 3: Shape the Pretzels
- Once the dough has doubled, I cut it in half with a knife—one half I put into a gallon freezer bag and put in the fridge for making pretzels again the next day. This recipe will make four large pretzels. If you're making a "large" batch—8 big pretzels—then use all of the dough.
- Divide the dough into four even pieces (if using all the dough, then divide it into 8 pieces).
- Roll each one into a long "snake" that is slightly thicker than a pencil—you'll need to pull the dough slightly as you're rolling it. Make a loop like you're tying it around someone's neck, cross each end once, then bring the ends up and press them to the edges of the loop. It's okay to use your fingers to stretch the dough a bit, so it will have the classic pretzel shape. As you make each one, move them to your baking sheet.
- After they're all made, brush them with the mixture made from one cup of warm water with one tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in it.
- Spray them with Pam cooking spray, then sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top, or sprinkle sea salt, or you can put parmesan cheese, or poppy seeds on top, too. Use your imagination. (I prefer sea salt—for me, the original salty, soft pretzel is still the yummiest.)
- Let these pretzels rise till they've doubled in size. (As before, I bring that skillet of water back to the boil while I'm making the last of the pretzels, then put it in the bottom of my oven, then put the baking sheet of pretzels in the middle part of the oven and close the door. Don't cover the pretzels with a cloth this time. They will rise till nearly doubled in about a half hour to 40 minutes.)
Step 4: Hot-From-the-Oven, Soft Pretzels!
- Once the pretzels have fully risen, I remove them from the oven, then turn my oven on at 425 for about 20 minutes to preheat.
- Bake the pretzels for about 13—15 minutes. Watch them carefully—some ovens run hot, and they may be fully done in 13 minutes (like my oven)—when they turn golden, they're ready!
- Let them sit for about 5 minutes, then put them on a cloth on the counter. I usually eat the first one while standing at my butcher block island with fresh butter. And lots of contented sighs.