Every year around this time, we wish we lived closer to Germany so we could celebrate the 16-day-long festival of beer, sausage and pretzels that is Oktoberfest.
If you can’t jet off to Germany, we’ve got the next best thing right here. This week, the chefs at Sunset Foods show you how easy it is to whip up a batch of soft and delicious pretzels in your own kitchen. Serve with your favorite mustard and beer, and you’ll be transported across the ocean.
This week’s recipe: Homemade Soft Pretzels
What you need:
1 ½ c. warm water (110-115°F)
1 Tbs sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4 ½ c. all-purpose flour
2 oz unsalted butter, melted
vegetable oil (for greasing pans)
10 c. water
2/3 c. baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 Tbs water
Why we like it:
Who can resist a warm, soft, salty pretzel? Not us! In fact, our test batch disappeared faster than we could crack open a cold beer. This recipe takes a little time, making it perfect for lazy football Sundays at home. Don’t believe us? Try it yourself this weekend…we’re certain you’ll be hooked!
Here’s a look at the mise en place for this recipe:
In addition to our ingredients, you’ll see that the required equipment consists of a stand mixer with a dough hook. If you don’t own one, you can still make the recipe. It will just require a good deal of kneading by hand – and more time.
First combine the warm water and sugar in the bowl of the mixer. Make sure you actually take the temperature of the water and don’t just guess. Like Goldilocks, the yeast needs the water to be “just right” to make this recipe work – too hot and it will kill the yeast; too cold and it will take the yeast a lot longer to come to life.
Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and sugar and let the bowl stand untouched for at least 5 minutes. The mixture will begin to foam. That is when you know it’s ready for the next step.
Give the mixture a stir with the dough hook, then top with the flour, melted butter, and yeast and mix on low speed until fully combined.
Increase the mixer speed to medium and let the dough hook knead the dough until it is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl – about 4-5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rest in a draft-free area until the dough has doubled in size – about 50-55 minutes. Now is a great time to catch up on the game!
Is the dough doubled in size? Great! Pre-heat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Brush the paper lightly with vegetable oil and set aside. (You can also use spray oil if you have it).
Bring the 10 cups of water and baking soda to a rolling boil in a large pot. While waiting for that to boil, you can shape your pretzel dough.
Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a slightly oiled work surface. Using a bench scraper (that’s the fancy tool pictured below) or knife, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.
Now it’s time to channel your pre-school age self. Remember working with Playdough? How you’d roll the dough into “snakes”? Roll each piece of pretzel dough into a rope – about 24-inches long. Working with one piece of dough at a time, make a U-shape with each rope. Holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U to form the familiar pretzel shape we all know and love, just like so:
Ta da! Once you have repeated the process with all eight pieces of dough, transfer the pretzels to your prepared baking sheets. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, you will place the pretzels, one at a time, into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove from the water using a large flat spatula and transfer back to the baking sheet.
Why baking soda and water? We’re glad you asked! In Germany, where the soft pretzel originated, pretzels are traditionally boiled in an alkali solution of water and lye before baking. The alkali solution helps create a nice brown crust on the outside of the pretzel. Here in America, culinary lye can be difficult to come by, so we got creative and developed a solution of baking soda and water that is equally effective in producing the beautiful brown color of the crust that you look for in a good pretzel.
Science lesson over, let’s get back to the cooking, shall we? ☺
Brush each pretzel with a little egg wash – the egg yolk and water mixture. Sprinkle with pretzel salt, and bake until dark golden brown in color – about 12-14 minutes.
It will be tough work, but resist the urge to eat one while its piping hot – it would be a shame to burn your mouth after all that effort! Let the pretzels rest for at least 5 minutes on a cooling rack before serving with your favorite mustard and beer. We found this Raspberry Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce and Stone IPA to be particularly delicious accompaniments, but you go with your favorites. You can’t go wrong with homemade pretzels!