Sourdough Soft Pretzels

Last spring, when the “New York Pause” of self-isolation began, our family enjoyed many special Happy Hours. My son tried every flavor of San Pellegrino soda and my daughter’s beverage alternated between lemonade and Arnold Palmer. We have limited these indulgences to once a week (if at all) at this point. 😉

The kids and I made these soft pretzels on a couple of these occasions. I loved that we all shaped them differently! We ate them with a variety of mustards and with warm queso (from Trader Joe’s) on another occasion. The melted butter was essential.

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur flour. I used active dry yeast and omitted the malt. Great.

For the Dough:

  1. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by spraying it with vegetable oil spray, or lining it with parchment paper.
  2. Mix and knead the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a cohesive, fairly smooth dough. It should be slightly sticky; if it seems dry, knead in an additional tablespoon or two of water.
  3. Cover the dough and let it rest for 45 minutes. It will rise minimally. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface, fold it over a few times to gently deflate it, then divide it into 12 pieces, each weighing about 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 ounces.
  5. Roll each piece of dough into an 18″ rope. Shape each rope into a pretzel.
  6. Brush the pretzels with water and sprinkle lightly with coarse pretzel salt.
  7. Bake the pretzels for 25 to 30 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. Note: This is correct; there’s no need to let the shaped pretzels rise before baking.
  8. Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush with melted butter, if desired. (We thought it was essential!)
  9. Serve with a variety of mustards and/or queso, as desired.

Soft Pretzels

These soft pretzels are the real deal. I looked for a reason to make them as soon as I saw them on the cover of my Martha Stewart Living. They looked so good! I had fantasized about making them with my kids and having a wonderful time. 🙂 Well, thank goodness they were absolutely delicious because we all had a minor breakdown while making them… My kids weren’t the only ones who got frustrated!

By the time we had formed two dozen pretzels, we had established pretty good technique. The secret to managing the sticky dough was to form it into the pretzel shape on a very lightly floured surface. (Too much flour kept it from maintaining the twist.) The secret to simmering the pretzels prior to baking was to keep the water-beer mixture at a high simmer and to transfer the pretzels from the liquid to the baking sheet with two slotted spatulas.

This recipe was adapted from Lina Kulchinsky of Sigmund’s Pretzels, in Manhattan’s East Village, via Martha Stewart Living. We ate them as part of our Memorial Day barbecue but I was able to freeze a bunch to enjoy later. Yay! We ate them warm with yellow mustard for dipping.

Note: Read this link on Martha Stewart.com for tips on making fun soft pretzel shapes. We worked hard to make pretzels in the classic shape, but my son also made a “snail” and my daughter made a “heart.” 🙂

Yield: Makes one dozen large, two dozen medium, or four dozen small

  • 2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) rapid-rise yeast
  • 3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 6 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 4 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup pale ale–style beer
  • Pretzel salt (available at kingarthurflour.com) (I used coarse salt)
  • Poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, caraway seeds, sesame seeds, and finely grated Parmesan, cheddar, and Gruyère, for toppings (optional)
  • Mustards and cornichons, for serving

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together warm water, yeast, and 1/2 cup brown sugar; let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour and coarse salt using your hands.
  3. Add butter and continue to combine with your hands until mixture is crumbly. Add yeast mixture and, still using your hands, combine until a shaggy dough is formed and water is absorbed.
  4. Using the dough-hook attachment, mix dough on medium-low speed until tight, elastic, and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes.
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours and up to overnight.
  6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees, preferably on convection, with rack in upper third.
  7. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
  8. Between 2 layers of plastic wrap, roll out dough into a 14-by-12-inch rectangle. Cut dough into twelve 14-inch-long strips, each about 1 inch wide.
  9. On a lightly floured surface, working with one piece at a time, form dough into desired shapes and sizes (see note above). Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
  10. Line another rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly coat with cooking spray.
  11. In a wide stockpot, combine 8 cups water, baking soda, beer, and remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar; bring to a (high) simmer over medium-high.
  12. Simmer pretzels, one at a time, about 30 seconds each, holding them under surface of water, if necessary, with a wide slotted spoon or spatula. Transfer to prepared baking sheet using 2 slotted spatulas. (You can gently reshape pretzels if they become misshapen.)
  13. Sprinkle pretzels with pretzel salt and/or desired toppings, using one topping or combining different ones.
  14. Transfer to oven and bake 5 minutes. Rotate baking sheet and bake until deep brown, 3 to 4 minutes more.
  15. Transfer pretzels to a wire rack; let cool slightly. Serve warm, with mustards and cornichons.

Note: Pretzels can be made in advance and frozen in an airtight container; thaw and warm in a 250 degree oven.

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