I have a confession to make. I love mall food. No trip to the mall is complete without at least 1 pair of shoes, a new purse, orange chicken from Panda Express, Mrs. Field’s cookies, a strawberry frappuccino from Starbuck’s and a soft pretzel from Auntie Anne’s. After all that food I’ll also have to pick up a new wardrobe because all of the clothes I own will be about 4 sizes too small. But those soft pretzels are worth every calorie. My favorite soft pretzel is the cinnamon/sugar one. So good. And now I don’t even need to go to the mall to get my pretzel fix. This could be a dangerous situation.
A couple years ago we made our first attempt at soft pretzels. Let’s just say it was not a success. In fact it was much closer to disaster than success. We missed one important step. We forgot to add the baking soda to the water before we boiled the pretzels. We tried to go back and re-do them but it was too late, they didn’t puff up at all. I don’t know the science behind the baking soda, but I do know it is a necessary step, so don’t skip it! This time we remembered the baking soda and our pretzels turned out perfect. We made 2 cinnamon/sugar pretzels, 2 asiago pretzels and 4 salt pretzels. Next time we will skip the salt ones and make more cinnamon/sugar and asiago ones. I used the leftover pretzels to make Cliff roast beef sandwiches on pretzel bread for lunch. Our second attempt at soft pretzels were a complete success.
1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups flour
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Cinnamon/sugar, melted butter
Grated asiago Cheese
Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until the yeast dissolves. Add the flour and butter. Continue to mix on low speed until well combined. Increase to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Coat a large bowl with oil. Remove the dough from the bowl and place in the oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the bowl sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in a large saucepan.
Place the dough onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 or 2 at a time, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water and place them back on the sheet pan. Brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. We brushed all 8 of our pretzels with the egg wash. We sprinkled salt on 4 of the pretzels. We sprinkled grated asiago cheese on 2 of the pretzels and baked 2 more plain. The plain ones we dipped in cinnamon/sugar after they were cooked. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving. For the cinnamon/sugar pretzels after they are cooled dip them into melted butter and then the cinnamon/sugar mixture.
Source: Adapted from Alton Brown