By: Danya Weiner
The Jewish holiday of Passover (the one where you can’t eat bread) is near, and I’m craving carbs now more than ever. I’m already addicted to carbs, so take them away from me for a week and I go into overload two weeks ahead of time. Unfortunately I am aware of the empty calories related to this love of mine, and therefore I try to be careful to precisely determine if the carbs I’m eating are worth it. Pretzels in all forms are considered worth it.
In the past few weeks I’ve come across several recipes for homemade pretzels that looked enticing. I’ve never tried making pretzels at home for a valid reason-I was once shooting a cookbook with a chef who told me that “real” pretzels are boiled in water mixed with a small amount of sodium hydroxide (the stuff I use to unclog my sink). The recipes I’d been looking at recently didn’t include the toxic stuff, so I gave it a second thought and made my first batch of pretzels.
I can’t say that the first time I made them it was a huge success. The taste was completely up to par, but the look a little less. Let’s just say they came out a little chubbier than I would have liked. I’ve provided some tips so that yours may come out a little prettier.
Things to know before getting started:
- Pretzel dough is really easy to work with, but it does require that you roll the dough into long, thin ropes. If you notice that dough is getting tough to work with, let it rest for a few minutes and then get back to rolling.
- It’s important to get your ropes rolled out thin and even, that way you won’t get major chubbers.
- If you don’t have the time/energy to make the dough into pretzel form you can simply roll the dough into a small roll (say 4-5 inches). Pretzel rolls are amazing for sandwich making.
- I brushed the pretzels with a beaten egg and sprinkled on coarse salt just before baking, but this step is not necessary.
Homemade Soft Pretzels
Ingredients for 15-20 pretzels (depending on size):
For the dough:
1/4 oz. active dry yeast (25 grams/1 oz. fresh yeast)
3 tablespoons sugar
½ liter/500 ml. warm water
2 pounds (1 kilo) all-purpose flour
1½ tablespoons salt
2 oz./50 grams butter, softened
For the boil:
2 liters water
4 tablespoons baking soda
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
For the glaze:
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons coarse salt
- Using a mixer fitted with a hook attachment, mix together the yeast with a pinch of water and sugar for one minute. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients for the dough and mix until soft dough is formed. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise until doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 400ºF/200ºC.
- Divide the dough into 15 even parts and roll each part out into long, thin, ropes. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place pretzels on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Prepare the boil: bring the water to a boil in a large pot and then add the baking soda and brown sugar. Stir to combine.
- Place the pretzels into the boiling water, one by one, for 10 seconds each, using a large slotted spoon or spatula. Return pretzels to baking sheet.
- Brush with a beaten egg and sprinkle on coarse salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.