There is nothing better than hot homemade bread, baking is one of my favourite things to do in the kitchen and I always look forward to the colder months that Fall and Winter bring because that’s generally when I do the most baking in general. Not all bread baking need be complicated or a lengthy process, it can be as easy as whipping up a recipe of easy fresh soft pretzels! I’ve used this recipe for a couple odd years now, it’s really easy, does not need all that much effort and never fails to hit the yummy mark. This is a recipe adapted from Alton Brown’s “Homemade Soft Pretzels” recipe. I’ve simply tweaked it, changed quantities and some ingredients to suit my needs and tastes. I like to make small batches, just a few at a time, as they are so much better piping hot right out of the oven, though they do reheat nicely. If you would like to check out the original recipe, head on over to www.foodnetwork.com and search for the recipe and follow along!
I like to basically “half” the original recipe, which gives me 4 good-sized soft pretzels. I make some of my own personal substitutions to the recipe and alter the directions slightly. I prefer to use honey instead of the sugar called for in the original recipe, I add it to the warm water and omit adding salt to the yeast mixture entirely. I do add a little salt to my flour mixture, you can substitute the amount called for the yeast mixture or just add what you think is the right amount for you. I prefer to use quick-rise instant yeast. I buy Fleischmann’s Bakery Format, which is yeast in bulk, 450g bag and I store it in an airtight container in the freezer and it lasts me for years and is much more practical than buying small packets of dry yeast, I always like to have plenty of yeast on hand for when the urge strikes to start baking
Once the yeast is nice and foamy, I start putting it all together in my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, I use the dough hook attachment to mix and knead the dough, it does a fine job for both and you don’t dirty more than one attachment that way. I mix it for roughly 5 minutes, give or take, it all depends on the dough and when it looks and feels ready to be set aside to rise, 5 minutes is usually the right amount of time. Once the dough is smooth and has pulled away from the sides of the mixing bowl you will be good to go.
I simply remove the dough from the mixing bowl, add a few drops of vegetable oil to the bowl, return the dough and turn it around until the dough and the bowl are well coated and cover it with plastic. At this point you would set it aside to rise until it is roughly doubled in size, I find that 1 1/2 hrs is about the right amount of time, I check after the first hour and if it looks like it needs a little extra time, then I leave it for another 30 minutes. I like to leave my dough to rise in my microwave, in which I’ve heated a small amount of water to the boiling point in a microwavable container. Once it is softly boiling, I remove the hot water, carefully, and tuck the mixing bowl into the microwave and leave it there undisturbed to rise. I find it’s a really easy place to set my dough to rise, the steam from the water makes a nice little “proofing” box inside the microwave and it’s become my favourite place to leave anything that needs to rise.
Once the dough has roughly doubled in size, I divide the dough into 4 equal portions and roll each one out into a rope, which is then twisted into the classic pretzel shape, covered and left to rise while I bring a pot of water to the boil for the baking soda bath.
For the baking soda bath, I simply use a pot that is large enough that I can drop the pretzels in and have enough clearance that they can free float, I just eye-ball the amount of baking soda based on how much water I think is in the pot. I’ve done this recipe using the amounts listed in the original recipe, but find that I get the same results doing it my way and I don’t have to use up more baking soda then I need to that way, it’s just a quick 1 minute dip and you’ll just be throwing the water away after, why use more than you need too!
Once they come out of the baking soda bath, it’s straight to the prepped baking sheet, they’re then brushed with some beaten egg and topped with some kosher salt and sesame seeds. I put on as much as I like, here is a great place to play around and add your own favourite toppings, experiment, that’s what cooking is all about!
Then it’s straight into a pre-heated oven and I bake them for 10 minutes before I go and check on them, if they look like they need a couple more minutes, I leave them till they are a dark golden brown. In my oven, at 450F, that is about 12 minutes.
These soft pretzels rarely last long enough to cool down, they’re pretty darn good! As soon as they come out of the oven, at least one goes right on a plate and straight to my lips, give them a try if you’re looking for something new to try!