Soft Pretzels

I love soft pretzels! My friend Rachael and I made them for our 11th-grade book report on The Scarlet Letter. In the shape of fancy letter A's, of course. We also made homemade "wine" that sort of turned into real wine over a long weekend in our teacher's office . . . but that's another story. Anyway! These are SO delicious. We have a tradition of making them during Holy Week (they are supposed to look like little folded arms, praying).

The children have gotten quite good at making the pretzel shapes (or other shapes . . . Daisy kept making shapes that looked exactly like those "awareness" ribbons you see for breast cancer or what-have-you. They were actually quite nice. And Sebby made a tram which he was very proud of).

(We referenced the recipe from here. Since we ended up modifying it and combining it with this recipe, I will reproduce our version here to save you the trouble.

Soft Pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 T sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 T yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups

2 c. boiling water
1/4 C. baking soda

4 ounces butter, melted

Combine the water, sugar, salt, yeast, and flour in a stand mixer and beat until they form a soft, not-too-sticky dough. Knead the dough for 5 minutes in the mixer or by hand. [We always do the last couple minutes by hand; I love to knead and so do ALL the children, who each have to have their turns]. Then let it rise for an hour. [The KAF recipe says just to let it "rest" for 30 minutes, but we went ahead with the longer rise.]

*NOTE: Some recipes have you immerse the pretzels in a boiling water/baking soda solution for a minute or two, and others use just hot water---but the KAF recipe is the only one I've seen that actually calls for a "soak" in the soda bath---not boiling, just lukewarm.  I've used the boiling-water-dip in the past, but with kids helping, the soaking option seemed easier, so we gave that a try. And I was very pleased with the results! So I think I'll use that method from now on.

While the dough is rising, prepare the soda bath. Mix 2 cups boiling water with 1/4 c baking soda, stirring until the soda is totally (or almost totally) dissolved. Set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm (or cooler). Then pour it into a cake pan or other shallow pan.

When the dough is puffy, divide it into pieces and roll out each piece into a long snake. Let the "snake" rest for 5 minutes (to let the gluten relax) and then twist it into a pretzel shape.

In batches of 6-7 at a time (however many you can fit in the soda-bath pan), put the shaped pretzels into the soda bath. Spoon the solution over them so their tops and bottoms are covered, then let them sit for 2 minutes. Remove them from the bath, place them on a greased baking sheet [they say use parchment paper, but that didn't work well at ALL for us---it stuck to their bottoms terribly!], and sprinkle them with kosher salt. Let them rest for 10 minutes, and then bake them at 450 for 8-9 minutes or until golden brown.

When the pretzels come out of the oven, brush them immediately with melted butter. Then eat them while warm. They are SO GOOD! We like them with dipping sauces too (mustard? flavored mayonnaises? even hot fudge---the salty/sweet combination is quite nice) but they don't need the dipping sauces to be delicious.


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