Soft Pretzels

Today is one of my favorite fall activities – Homecoming. Mark and I will be meeting up with a few of our friends for a lunchtime tailgate. Of course, life is so busy for all of us now (wedding planning, grad classes, impending house closings, soccer games) that tailgating will be shorter than usual and we’ll all be running off to other things. In the interest of keeping things easy, we decided everyone would just bring something snack-y to share. But, finding something that’s vegetarian-friendly, doesn’t need to be heated or refrigerated and travels well turned out to be harder than I thought.

I finally settled on Annie’s Eats’s gorgeous soft pretzels. Yeast breads always make me nervous but these went smoothly. My pretzel twisting skills still have room for improvement, but these taste awesome.

And, if you have left over cheddar-mustard sauce you can heat it up for a great, easy dipper.

Soft Pretzels
(from Annie’s Eats, originally from Alton Brown)

1½ cups warm water (110-115° F)
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
22 oz. all-purpose flour (about 4½ cups)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for greasing the bowl
Cooking spray
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. water
Pretzel (or kosher) salt

To make the dough, combine the water, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed to dissolve the yeast.  Add in the flour and melted butter and mix just until the dough comes together.  Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly greased with vegetable oil, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, about 50-55 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 450° F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray.  Bring the water and baking soda to a boil in a large saucepan or stockpot.

Divide the dough in 16 equal pieces, roll out and make each into a pretzel shape.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 or 2 at a time, for 30 seconds.  Remove from the water with a slotted skimmer and return to the baking sheet.  Once all the pretzels have been boiled, brush the tops with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Bake in the preheated oven until dark golden brown, about 12-14 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

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