I’d never really considered pretzels as a dining option, that is until I ordered one at a favorite gastropub (now closed – a victim of Covid-19). Warm, salted, chewy, and with an accompaniment of honey mustard – well, I was hooked. Next step, try to make them myself. One of the chef instructors at The Chopping Block, Chicago, posted some homemade pretzels on his Instagram, and fortunately he was willing to share. Pretzels are easy, fun, and oh, so good. They are why we have beer and mustard, aren’t they?
Let’s get to twisting!
For the pretzels
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
1 cup bread flour
1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp melted butter
For the bath
8 cups water
1/3 cup baking soda
For the finish
1 egg for the egg wash
Pretzel salt (or coarsely ground sea salt)
In the bowl of your stand mixer, activate the yeast by placing the yeast, sugar, and water in the mixing bowl. Wait 10-15 minutes until the mixture is foamy.
While the yeast is activating, combine the flours and salt in a medium bowl; whisk to combine.
Melt the butter.
Once the yeast is ready, add the flours and butter.
Mix on medium to medium high using the dough hook attachment, until the dough forms a smooth ball that has puled away from the sides of the mixing bowl.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead it into a smooth ball; place the dough in another bowl and cover it.
Let the dough proof until it has doubled in size, about 1-1/2 hours.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
Turn the dough out onto the floured surface again, then divide it into 6 equal pieces.
Shape each piece into a rectangle, the roll it into a log, working from the center out until the rope you’ve created is 18″ long.
Form a traditional pretzel shape with each piece of dough; place them on a baking sheet on parchment paper.
Let the dough proof for another 5 minutes.
While the dough is going through this final proof, whisk the egg until white and yolk are homogenized. Add the soda to the water in a deep pot and bring it to a boil.
Boil each pretzel for 30 seconds and return it to the parchment-covered baking sheet.
Brush each pretzel with the egg wash, then sprinkle some salt on it.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until richly browned (you know what a pretzel should look like, right?)
When forming your pretzels, there’s no magic to the number of twists – make them look like you want them to look, but keep in mind that they will ‘grow’ when they bake, so any open spaces will close up some. If the pretzels are not wanting to stay in place, using your finger and some water, wet the ends and stick them to the body of the pretzel. That way they won’t un-twist when boiling.
When boiling your pretzels, they are going to foam like crazy when you put them in the water. For that reason, you’ll want to be sure the pot you’re using is deep – at least twice the depth of the water in it. Use a spider to lower them into the water and remove them. They are very slippery when you take them out of the water, so be careful they don’t get away from you.
This is a good recipe for practicing your mise en place techniques. Getting the ingredients and equipment/tools out, in prep bowls and the like, and in the order in which you’ll use them, really makes the process from from start to finish. Use the proofing time to clean up your mixer, etc.; use the baking time to clean the rest up. When they come out of the oven you’ll have nothing to do but enjoy them.