I have so many memories of eating soft pretzels on the streets of New York City. My Aunt and Uncle used to live on 72nd street and my grandma loved taking my sister and me around the city during our visits. We would stop by the food carts, mouths watering, and order pretzels and hot dogs that we ate as we leaned against buildings that stretched miles into the air. All the while, we would watch the world go by.
It seems that for everyone, soft pretzels provoke a memory. They’re a classic ballpark food, easy to grab and have on the go. Personally, I prefer mine without salt. I was surprised to learn, when initially researching recipes, that the ‘pretzel’ taste everyone is so familiar with comes from boiling the dough in a mix of water and baking soda before baking. This put me off at first; I’m definitely one for simple recipes, but I was genuinely surprised at how easy it was to make these soft pretzels at home!
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tbsp. sugar
2 1/4 tsp. yeast
4 cups flour
2 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. melted butter
10 cups of water and 2/3 cup baking soda (baking soda bath)
1. First, place warm water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl or stand mixer. Combine the ingredients and let sit for 5 minutes (so the yeast can activate) or until foamy.
2. Next, on a low speed, use a wooden spoon or dough hook to mix in flour, salt, and melted butter until the dough is fully formed. Then, increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for 5 to 7 minutes. In the end, the dough should be soft yet firm, and slightly elastic.
3. Shape your dough into a ball and place into a lightly greased bowl. Cover the dough with a towel and let rise for 1-2 hours. The size should ultimately double.
4. Once dough has risen, start boiling your water and baking soda bath. As the pot heats up, begin forming your pretzels. Punch the dough down and separate into eight equal portions. Next, use those pre-school play dough skills and roll each of the eight balls into long, snake like tubes, about 2 feet long.
5. To form your pretzels, take one of the tubes and lay it out in front of you. Make an arch with the dough, then cross the ends, right over left. You should have a loop at this point. Next, twist further so that the left end is on top of the right end. Take the ends and flip them up, placing them at the center of the arch above. Your pretzels do not have to be shaped perfectly, by any means. but keep in mind that the dough will rise and spread when boiled and baked.
6. Once the water and baking soda bath is boiling, use a slotted spoon to dip the pretzels one by one. The dough should remain in the water for about 30 seconds, or until it lifts off the spoon and floats to the surface. Remove the pretzels from the bath and place them on a silicone mat or a piece of parchment paper, placed on a baking sheet.
7. These pretzels bake best at 450 degrees fahrenheit. Start with 6 minutes on your timer, and then rotate pretzels depending on color. This is also the time when you can brush your pretzels with egg and sprinkle with salt, if you would like. To finish, bake for another 4-6 minutes.
I think these soft pretzels would be fabulous as a snack during a summer barbecue or picnic. Because this recipe was such a success, I want to start testing out different types: cinnamon sugar, parmesan, maybe even stuffed. The possibilities are endless, and I’m so excited to get back into the kitchen.