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Sprinkle them with sea salt. Dunk them in mustard. These are the best homemade soft pretzels have a short proof time and minimal ingredients so before you know it, you will be devouring these in no time.
Pumpkin beer. Cozy sweaters. Watching football on Sunday. All of them are so much better with a pretzel in one hand isn’t it?
Ok now I wish I could say that I have been to Germany and tasted the best pretzels ever. However, that is still on the bucket list. But when it comes to all things I crave in October. Pretzels is one of them.
But just because I haven’t been to Germany, doesn’t mean that I can’t get my twist on. Pretzel twist that is. So let’s get to twisting…
Why You Will Love These Pretzels
- Simple Ingredients – These pretzels are made with simple, real ingredients. Nothing fancy at all here. I love making my own homemade version of things that if you bought them at a store would be full of, well things I can’t pronounce!
- Make now, bake later – Pretzels can be a time consuming project. With any yeast dough, you always have the option that after they are shaped you can refrigerate them for their second rise and bake later.
- Freeze! – Who says you have eat them all now? If you want to bake them all and freeze some go for it.
- Dark Beer – Or a light beer can be used, or just use water.
- Brown sugar –
- Yeast – I used active dry yeast but instant yeast also works.
- Baking soda – This is not used in the actual dough, but is used in the boiling step. You will add baking soda to the boiling water to help create that chewy crust.
Make the soft pretzel dough
In your stand mixer with your dough hook attachment, proof the yeast with warm dark beer and brown sugar for about 10 minutes until it’s foamy.
Then add in your flour, salt, and warm milk. And knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic. You can test your dough with the windowpane test to see if you have kneaded the dough long enough. Simply pinch some of the dough and give it a stretch. If you have a beautiful window of dough then it’s good to go.
Then place the dough in a greased bowl. Be sure to give it a turn and let it rise until doubled in size.
This will take about an hour. Then it’s time to make some pretzels! Go get that oven pre-heated and a few cookie sheets ready with parchment paper. Let’s get to shaping the pretzels…
Roll Out The Pretzel Portions
- Divide the dough into equal portions. Note: You will get 8 equal portions
- Roll each portion of dough into a smooth round ball. Again I like to bring up the edges of the dough and pinch to form like a little purse, flip over, and then roll the dough around on the counter with a clawed hand until smooth.
- Roll out each portion of dough. Keep the others covered while you are rolling out each portion. You will need to do this segments. Roll each one several inches then let it rest and work on another.
- Continue to roll each one to a long rope.
BAKING 101: The protein in the wheat flour is called gluten and it provides a stretchy network where the gasses from the yeast get trapped. If you try to roll out each portion all at once you will find it’s very difficult! The dough needs time to relax, to let the gluten relax, in order to allow the dough to be easily rolled out to such great lengths.
Shape The Soft Pretzels
- Taper the ends of a rope. Bring the ends up to form a “U” shape.
- Cross the ends over each other to form a “X”.
- Twist the ends again.
- Then bring the tapered ends down to the bottom of the pretzel to secure at the bottom of the “U” shape.
HEATHER’S BAKING TIP: If the ends of the pretzel are not securing to the pretzel, just brush the pretzel with a little water and press down slightly.
Proofing The Pretzels
- Place the shaped pretzels onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Cover the pretzels and let rise for 10 minutes.
Boil the pretzels
- Boil 8 cups water and 1/4 cup baking soda to a gentle boil.
- Place 2 pretzels in the boiling water top side down, and boil for 30 seconds then flip over and boil for another 30 seconds.
- Remove each pretzel with a spider strainer and let the water drain off and then place onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Brush each pretzel with the egg wash.
Bake and coat the pretzels
- Bake the pretzels for about 10 to 13 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven to cool.
- Brush each pretzel with melted butter. Sprinkle with salt.
Adding baking soda to the water is what will give your soft pretzels the soft and shiny crust. When you drop them in the water, it will cause the dough to puff and help to create that crust. It will also give the pretzels a beautiful color. Baking soda, is an alkaline which means it will cause the browning reaction to happen more rapidly.
It also adds that distinctive flavor. So let’s recap. Baking soda = chewiness, color, and flavor. In other words, don’t skip the baking soda bath.
You can. However you will need to use about 2-3 times as much. Which means about 3/4 cup for this recipe. I don’t know about you but I don’t have that much baking powder on hand, but it is an option. Baking soda is cheaper than baking powder, so if I were you I would stick with baking soda.
Your pretzels will be good at room temperature for 3 to 4 days. Just keep them covered so they don’t dry out.
You can also freeze them in a sealable plastic bag and should keep for up to 6 months.
- When working with yeast, make sure the liquid’s temperature you are proofing it in is between 105 and 110°F. You can read all about yeast here.
- If your dough is fighting you and stretching back, give it a 10 minute rest. Then go back to rolling it out.
- Wrap the ends underneath the bottom edge of the dough so they stay secure when boiling.
- When boiling the soft pretzels, boil only 1 to 3 pretzels at a time. Use a large slotted spoon to remove them so the excess water can drip off.
More Recipes To Try
Homemade Soft Pretzels
- 1 1/2 cups (360 grams) warm dark beer
- 1 tablespoon (14 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons (6 grams) Active dry yeast
- 5 – 5/12 cups (625- 688 grams) all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon (9 grams) kosher salt
- 1/4 cup (60 grams) baking soda
- 1 large egg (50 grams) lightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter melted
- Kosher salt for topping
To Make The Pretzel Dough:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, stir together warm beer, brown sugar, and yeast. Let stand until mixture is foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Add 5 cups (625 grams) flour, warm milk, and salt, and beat at low speed until combined. Increase mixer speed to medium-high, and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, 5 to 6 minutes. Add remaining ½ cup (63 grams) flour if dough is too sticky.
- Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Place dough in bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (75°F) until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
To Make The Pretzels:
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, and spray with cooking spray.
- Turn out dough, and divide into 8 equal pieces (about 5 ounces each). Starting from the center and working outward, roll each piece into a log (2½ to 3 feet long and ¾ inch in diameter). Shape each log into a pretzel shape, and place on prepared pans. Cover and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat, and add baking soda. (Make sure pot is deep enough. Once you add baking soda, the water will expand an additional 2 inches.)
- Drop each pretzel into boiling water-baking soda solution for 30 seconds per side. Remove from water using a large slotted spoon. Place back on prepared pans, and brush with beaten egg.
- Bake until golden brown, 10 to 13 minutes. Brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with salt.
- Make ahead:
- Baked: Thesepretzels should be good for up to 2 days, covered at room temperature.
- Unbaked: Once the pretzels are shaped you can wrap up the cookie sheet and let rise overnight and then boil and bake the next day.
- Boiling step: You can skip the boiling step. But be aware the boiling in baking soda step is what gives the pretzels their distinct flavor and chew.
- Freezing: These will be good frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature.
- Yeast: I used active dry yeast, but you can also use instant yeast, but your proof time may be less.
- Beer: You can also just use regular water, or a light beer if you want.
- Room Temperature Is Key! – How cold or warm your kitchen will always play a role in how fast your dough rises. Ideally dough should rise in a warm environment, about 75-78oF. If your kitchen is cold like mine I like to move my dough to warmer spot. The top of your fridge is a good spot. Or in your oven with the light on but the oven is OFF for the FIRST RISE ONLY.
- Rolling Out The Pretzels – You have to roll each portion of dough out to about a 20 inch rope. The gluten in the dough will prevent you from accomplishing this all at once. I like to roll each portion out a few inches, then I let it rest and move onto the next one, and then circle back to the beginning to repeat. If you don’t the dough will fight you and keep shrinking back taking even longer to roll them out.
- Don’t Use Too Much Flour! – Too much flour will result in dry, tough pretzels. It’s best to WEIGH your flour, rather than use cups. If you don’t have a kitchen scale yet, then be sure to spoon and level your flour into your cup. You most likely won’t use all of your flour. I like to err on the side of a slightly sticky than too dry and adding too much. Also be careful when dusting your countertops, a little goes a long way.
- Keep The Dough Covered As You Roll Them Out – Because it will take several minutes to roll out each dough into the long rope and you will be stopping and starting with each portion I like to keep the other portions I’m not working on covered so they don’t dry out. I either cover with lightly greased plastic wrap or the same towel I used to cover my bowl of dough when it was rising.
- Set A Timer When Boiling – You don’t want to boil each pretzel for too long. Each pretzel should boil for 30 seconds on each side. I set myself a timer so I know when to flip them and take them out of the water.
- Boil Only A Few At A Time – You don’t want to overcrowd the pot otherwise it can be hard to flip them over. I boiled 2 at a time. I would boil 3 pretzels at the most, no more.
- Recipe adapted from Bakefromscratch.com