A common question, one that should naturally be answered before you learn how to make soft pretzels, is, Are they good for you?
We keep hoping for healthy snacks and treats, don't we? Well, because the pretzels are homemade you know they aren't full of preservatives, chemicals, and dyes. And they're baked, not fried. The dough itself contains only a minimal amount of salt and sugar and just a little butter goes on top. All good so far.
The catch is white flour. And the optional coarse salt that goes on top. Here's my answer: Use whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour and Celtic Sea Salt. Celtic Sea Salt actually lowers high blood pressure.* Go figure. So we have a healthy winner!
Using a dough hook and your stand mixer for the dough
preparation saves a you a lot of work.
3 3/4 cups unbleached flour, plus a little
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 heaping tablespoon quick-rising yeast
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
3 cups boiling water
1/3 cup baking soda
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil or parchment paper
Mix the dough ingredients in a large bowl. Knead the dough
until it is smooth, soft, and slack, about 5 minutes. Dust the dough with
flour, cover and set aside to rest for half an hour.
Prepare 2 large baking sheets with a light coating of oil or
parchment paper. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 475°.
Divide the rested dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece out into a thin, 12 or 14-inch long tube. Whisk the baking soda into the boiling water thoroughly. Remove from the heat.
Shape the tubes into pretzels by crossing the ends over and
attaching them to the bottom section, as illustrated. You may want to work on a
lightly oiled surface.
When the baking soda-water has cooled to lukewarm
temperature, soak the pretzels in the water, in stages, for 2 minutes each. (A
9" X 13" pan works well for soaking several pretzels at a time.) This
is what gives it that chewy texture.
Transfer them to prepared baking sheets with a spatula.
Brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake until
golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with spicy brown mustard as dipping sauce or Kentucky Beer Cheese.
And that's how to make soft pretzels.