Monday, November 12, 2012

Soft Pretzels

My youngest, Ella, is a terribly picky eater.  Packing her school lunch is a challenge.  One day she loves hard boiled eggs, the next she doesn't eat it.  So, I usually pack her a lot of little things, and it's anyone's guess what she will choose to eat that day.   One things she will eat every single time though is a soft pretzel.  

I usually buy a humongo box of the frozen ones from Sam's Club and then just pop one into the microwave in the morning and wrap it in some foil.  Sunday evening I just had this wild idea to just try and make some homemade ones and they were really quite easy to make.  And, you probably have everything you need in your pantry already!

4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (about 110 degrees F)

4-5 cups all purpose flour*
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4 cups hot water
1/2 cup baking soda

Toppings of your choice
Cinnamon Sugar
Kosher Salt

In a small bowl, mix the yeast, sugar and hot water.  Let sit till the yeast and sugar dissolve and has a creamy consistency.  About 5 to 10 minutes.

In a large bowl (I use my KitchenAid mixer) mix together the flour, sugar and salt.  Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture and the oil.  Mix well until all the ingredients are incorporated.  I mix it for about 3 minutes in the KitchenAid - and no kneading it required!

Your dough should be nice and smooth.  If it is too sticky, add some flour.  If it's too dry and water a teaspoon at a time.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise till it doubles in size.  Approximately one hour.  (I have a proof function in my oven.  You can also just turn on your oven light and place the dough in there.  This serves as a nice warm, draft free place for your dough to rise.)

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  (425 for a convection oven)
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or spray the baking sheets with cooking spray.  Dissolve the baking soda in hot water.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces.  Roll the dough out into a thin rope and shape into a pretzel shape.  I did not need to use any flour when rolling these out.  If your dough is sticky you may need to flour your surface.  Dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution** and place on the cookie sheet.

Bake for about 8 minutes until browned.

When the come out of the oven I brush them with melted butter.  At this point you can sprinkle them with kosher salt or cinnamon sugar.  

My first batch of pretzels was completely consumed by breakfast the next morning.  I made a second batch and I just buttered them and didn't add salt or anything.  I figured we can add whatever topping we want when we heat the pretzels back up.

*Here in hot and humid Florida I use 4 1/2 cups of flour.  I start out with four and then add more in to get the consistency I want.

**Dipping the pretzels into the baking soda solution gives the pretzels the dark chewy exterior we like in a pretzel.  Apparently the baking soda causes some sort of scientificy chemical reaction once you pop them in the oven.