June 14, 2010

Homemade Soft Pretzels

These were a big hit at our house. The kids have seen the soft pretzels at the mall, but I'm the kind of Mommy who "always says no". It's rough to be one of my children. I decided I could say yes to pretzels if we made those chewy soft delights at home. At home they would be inexpensive!

Soft Pretzels
3 1/2 c flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 package commercial yeast (the kids were not going to wait for this to be a sourdough pretzel, I'll have to try that one another time)
1 c water
1 tbsp shortening
6 c water
1/4 c baking soda
pretzel toppings: course salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, cinnamon sugar, parmesan cheese, you name it

Combine only 1 c of the flour with sugar, salt and yeast, whisk together in mixer bowl. Heat 1 c water and shortening in microwave until hot, but still touchable (100 degrees). Add warm liquid to the flour mix, blending mixer at low speed so you don't have flour flying everywhere. Then you can raise the speed to med and kneed the dough (this is a great time to use your dough hook if you have one). Add more flour as necessary. The dough should form a soft ball around the dough hook and pull away from the sides of the bowl. If it's still really sticking to the sides you need more flour, but don't add too much at once because you don't want dry pretzels. Put dough in a clean greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Put in a warm place to rise (this time of year that means just about anywhere in my house!).  The dough will double in size (about 45 mins).

Get your cookie sheets greased and ready.When dough is risen, punch it down and divide it into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a 16 inch rope (or snake as the kids called it). Twist the ropes into pretzel shapes. I had to help the kids with this one at first, but they finally got it down. Be sure to pinch the ends down into the bottom of the pretzel. Put them on the cookie sheets, cover with plastic wrap again and let rise about 15 mins.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and move a rack close to the top of the oven. Combine the 6 cups of water with the baking soda in a shallow saucepan. Bring mix to a boil. I would have liked to get a photo of this next step, but it required all my hands and concentration. This is the part I wasn't sure about, but it was much easier than I expected. You gently pick up the pretzels (I used a slotted spatula) and set them into the boiling water. It only takes about 15 seconds of cooking on each side, so this goes quickly. As you take them out of the water allow the excess water to drain off a little and then put them back on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle with your topping choices.
Bake each sheet of pretzels on the top rack for about 10 mins. Watch them carefully because mine got brown really fast and I moved them to the middle rack for about the last two minutes. Of course the kids wanted to eat them as soon as they could smell them - oh how divine! I made them wait a few minutes while they cooled on wire racks, but they were still warm when we broke them open. I really think they were better than any soft pretzel I've ever had!

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