Homemade Soft Pretzels (with a honey-mustard dipping sauce)
There are those recipes that you’ve had bookmarked in a folder on your computer or scrawled down on a “to-make” list in some notebook for months, maybe even years, and then there are the recipes that you pick up at a spur-of-the-moment, convenience-and-necessity-comes-first type of time.
This recipe for soft pretzels is of the latter sort, I am sorry to say. Because really, this is the type of thing that needs to be on everyone’s list. It should have been on mine a long time ago (shame, shame). I think it was just one of those things, you know? That you don’t ever really think about, that most people would rather just pick up at their local mall’s Auntie Anne’s if they have an hankering for it, and that just honestly sounds a little intimidating to undertake.
(By the way, if you’re of that sort that thinks this kind of recipe is intimidating because it requires the parboiling of the pretzels before they make it to the oven, please think about this: you boil and simmer things all the time. You put things in the oven all the time. Now just do it to yeasted dough shaped in pretty twists and ties! Really, it’s simple. And I’m willing to say that even if you mess up a little here or there, it’ll still turn out pretty incredible.)
Anyway, the thought of making soft pretzels hadn’t crossed my mind or, for that matter, any of my many folders on my computers or to-make lists cluttered on my desk, until my boyfriend brought it up when he was visiting me last weekend. When I asked him what he wanted me to make him for dinner, he responded pretty clearly: soft pretzels and soup. (Ooh that’s why I like him! So straightforward and decisive. The opposite of me and my many, undecided lists.) But even with the excitement with the prospects of warm, soft pretzels, I was apprehensive about how successful they would be. I just had that lingering, uncertain doubt.
Not only did they turn out, but they were so addictingly satisfying that I vowed to myself I would make them every few weeks or so–to which my boyfriend and roommates happily agreed. The only testy part of the process was the dough itself: it’s a tight, heavy dough, which means that my KitchenAid mixer couldn’t knead it properly and my arm muscles got quite the workout that night. But it’s all worth it, trust me. Instead of opting for making them all at once (the pretzels are best warm from the oven as can be expected), I kept strings of the dough in a freezer-ziploc bag in the fridge the next couple days so I could pull out a couple lengths of it whenever we wanted fresh pretzels.
My boyfriend made a simple honey-mustard dip to go along with the pretzels, and let me tell you, the two combined was heaven– I don’t care how much of a cliche it is to say that. Chewy, soft, salty and warm pretzels with that familiar and distinct pretzel taste, dipped into a tangy-sweet mustard sauce. There’s not much more I can say, besides maybe two words: make these.
Adapted from Martha Stewart, who got it from Sigmund Pretzelshop in NYC
Depending on the size, makes about a dozen or a little more
Spend the extra effort and make sure to use bread flour. I’ve tried making these with regular all-purpose flour and although the pretzels were still delicious, they were disappointing when compared with those made with bread flour.
2 cups warm water
1 (1/4 ounce) package rapid-rise yeast
3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
6 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
4 tablespoons coarse salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
nonstick cooking spray
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup pale ale-style beer
coarse salt, for topping the pretzels with
In a medium bowl, mix together the 2 cups warm water, yeast, and 1/2 cup brown sugar until combined and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour and 4 tablespoons salt using your hands. Add the butter pieces and continue to mix with your hands, breaking up the butter, until mixture is crumbly. Add yeast mixture and, again using your hands, mix until a shaggy dough is formed and the water is absorbed.
Once the water is absorbed, place the dough on a floured work surface and knead with your hands until the dough is tight, elastic and smooth, about 8 minutes. It will be dense and heavy, but make sure you knead it long enough so that it’s flexible, too. Resist adding too much flour, chances are you don’t need it and the dough should become more elastic and smooth as it goes. Once kneaded, place in a large, oiled bowl, moving the dough around so that it’s coated in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it just about doubles, about an hour and a half later. Alternatively, transfer to refrigerator and let chill at least 8 hours and up to overnight.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Turn out the dough on a clean work surface and roll out the dough into an approximate 14-by-12-inch rectangle. Cut dough into one dozen 12-inch-long strips (you might get a bit more, depending on the size you want your pretzels to be), each about 1-inch wide. Transfer to a large baking sheet and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Transfer to refrigerator and let chill for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine 8 cups water, the 1/2 cup baking soda, beer and remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
Working with one piece of dough at a time, stretch out eat piece into a “rope” until it’s about 3/4 inch thick all the way around, starting from the center and working towards the ends. Make a “U” shape with the rope and cross the ends over once or twice, pinching at the bottom of the “U” to form a pretzel. Repeat process with remaining dough.
Simmer pretzels, one at a time for about 30 seconds; transfer to prepared baking sheet using a perforated spatula. Repeat process with remaining pretzels.
Sprinkle pretzels with pretzel salt; transfer to the preheated oven and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the pretzels turn a chestnutty-golden brown color. Remove from baking sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm with honey mustard dipping sauce, recipe below.
Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/4 cup good mayonnaise
2 tablespoons honey
pinch of cayenne pepper
Mix together all ingredients until well combined.