Soft pretzels remind me of summertime. Especially during baseball/softball season. When my husband and I would go to our grandkids’ baseball games and when it was time to get a drink at the concession stand I also had to get a soft pretzel. Oh yum. You know, the ones with a crisp outside and soft and chewy texture on the inside? So are soft pretzels hard to make at home? I decided to try and answer this very question.
Are Soft Pretzels Hard To Make?
After making them I found them very easy to do. I was really surprised. This just goes to show you that something you think is hard may not be after doing it. So the answer is no. Soft pretzels are not hard to make. If I can make them, anyone can!
When I decided to try and make soft pretzels at home I went on a search for the perfect recipe. Well, most of the recipes had the same ingredients and pretty much the same instructions.
You are actually making bread dough. Weird right! What makes them pretzels instead of bread is that you boil the pretzels in a baking soda and water bath before baking them. More on that later.
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the hot water, sugar, and yeast. Mix on low speed until yeast is dissolved. Then add the flour, salt, and melted butter. Mix until dough comes together. Change to the dough hook and knead the dough on medium speed until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth. About 5 min. Transfer the dough to a bowl that has been greased with oil. Turn the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm area to rise until double in size. About 1 hour.
If you bake bread often, this step will sound familiar to you.
Shaping The Pretzel
I figured this would be the most challenging part. Shaping the dough into a pretzel. But it was actually easier than I thought. I do need some practice tho but I thought they turned out pretty good for the first time doing it.
After your dough has risen double in size separate the dough into 8 equal parts. I have to be honest here. I usually have difficulty with this part but I used my kitchen scales. Made it a bit easier:)
Roll each part into a 24-inch rope. Bring the 2 ends up into a U shape. Twist the 2 ends around each other twice and then bring them to the bottom. That’s it.
I really needed to make my rope just a little thinner and longer to get the classic pretzel shape. Next time:)
Boiling The Pretzels
This is the part that makes them soft pretzels instead of bread. After shaping your pretzels, boil them in a large pot of boiling water and baking soda. Why? The pretzels will puff up immediately after being introduced into the soda and water bath. Therefore creating a chewy inside and giving the outside a head start on forming a crisp crust and cracked appearance.
The traditional pretzels are made using food-based lye instead of baking soda. But most people do not have lye on hand. Lye is also dangerous if not used properly and following the instructions closely.
I do plan on getting some lye and trying it to see the difference between the baking soda and lye. When I do I will update this article.
What Kind Of Salt To Use
Kosher, sea, or pretzel salt. But any coarse salt will work.
What is Kosher salt? This is according to Wikipedia
Pretzel salt is also known as coarse food-grade Salt and is a white, large-grain soft compressed salt that is perfect as a topping not only for pretzels but bagels as well. I found some pretzel salt at our local Amish store and that is what I used.
After you have bathed your pretzels in the soda and water bath place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and coated with cooking spray.
Brush the tops with an egg wash and sprinkle with salt.
See the video below for the difference in salt.
Bake Your Pretzels
Bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for 12-15 minutes. I baked mine for 12 minutes but I think they needed to bake the full 15 minutes. I got some crispness to the outside but in my opinion, not enough. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 5 minutes before eating.
I love soft pretzels and I wanted to try and make them at home. I have to admit I was intimidated by the shaping portion of the recipe. After all, you want them to look like pretzels, right?
But after making them, I found them a lot easier than I thought. They were not perfect by any means. I do need a little practice. But I believe doing it a couple of times and I might just become a pro. You know the saying “practice makes perfect”.
The baking soda and water bath is an important step in making pretzels. Without it you will end up with, well bread. The soda helps the pretzels develop their distinctive color, the crispy outside and chewy texture on the inside. Do not skip this step.
As for what salt to use, any coarse salt will work. Have you made homemade soft pretzels? Did you find them easier to make than you thought? Please leave me a comment below with your thoughts
And As Always
Have A Wonderful Day!