Pretzels are an amazing snack. There are so many different varieties to love, whether you’re enjoying sourdough, cinnamon, ballpark, or Bavarian pretzels. We could go on, but we’d sound a bit like Bubba from Forrest Gump.
One we didn’t mention is a homemade pretzel, and why would we? Isn’t it difficult to make the special dough and shape? You’d actually be surprised at how easy (and quick!) it is to make your own fluffy, delicious soft pretzels. With our recipe, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been making your own for years!
The Pretzel Dough
Quality pretzel dough is the most important aspect of a good pretzel. Sure, toppings can take a pretzel to another level and make it amazing, but without a solid foundation, they’ll end up chewy or tasteless. Luckily, making pretzel dough is pretty straightforward and foolproof. If you’ve made any kind of dough before, it’ll be familiar.
There are two routes you can take to make your dough, and ultimately the pretzels, flavorful. The first way is to season the dough (like adding a little extra sugar or cinnamon for a sweet pretzel). A bit of salt will be important to enhance the other flavors in the pretzel, but our recipe also uses some butter to give it some fat.
The second route involves using half the amount of water and replace it with an equal amount of beer. Usually, you’d use a pilsner or a light beer, though some people do use a dark beer. Using beer adds a lot of flavor, especially for savory pretzels.
Preparing to Bake the Pretzels
Taking a lump of pretzel dough and forming the pretzel may seem difficult, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. After two or three pretzels, you’ll be able to do it in your sleep. Here are the basic steps:
- Roll a 1/3 cup-sized lump of dough into a 20- to 24-inch long, half-inch thick dough rope.
- Lay the rope in a U-shape.
- Take the two upper ends of the rope and gently lift them.
- Twist the ends twice halfway between the ends and your floured surface.
- Place your ends over the bottom of the U-shape, with just the very tip of the ends sticking over the edge.
- Gently press the ends of the pretzel where they overlap at the bottom of the U-shape.
Next, you’ll need to make a baking soda bath to dip the pretzels in. By quickly dipping them in, you’ll be completing an essential step as this process creates the deep brown, soft and fluffy inside that Bavarian soft pretzels are famous for. In Germany, they use food-grade lye, which can be highly corrosive and should be handled with gloves and goggles. Baking soda is less intimidating to work with and has a similar effect.
Seasoning the Outside
Here is where you can add a bit of extra flavor to your pretzel. Depending on how you’ve seasoned it up to this point, you may want to go a more savory or sweet route. For example, if you used a little extra sugar in making the dough, make a sweeter pretzel. If you used beer and less sugar, a savory pretzel is a good option. Before you add any seasoning or toppings, you’ll need to do a water or egg wash. This will help adhere your seasonings to the pretzel and give your pretzel an appetizing shine.
Homemade Soft Pretzels Recipe
- 1 1/2 cup of warm water
- 3/4 cups of lager or pilsner beer (Optional: If you use the beer, only use 3/4 cups of warm water).
- 9 cups of water
- 1 tbsp of water
- 1/2 cup of baking soda
- 1 packet of active dry yeast (roughly 2 1/4 tsp)
- 2 tsp of salt
- 1 tbsp of sugar
- 4 cups of all-purpose flour, with extra for flouring surfaces
- 2 tbsp of unsalted butter, melted
- 1 egg yolk
- Coarse kosher salt, for sprinkling
- Mix the warm water and sugar in a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the sugar-water.
- Allow the yeast to sit for 5 to 10 minutes to bloom (foamy on the surface of the water).
- Pour 4 cups of all-purpose flour into a stand mixer bowl and add the yeast-water, melted butter, salt, and the optional beer.
- Begin to mix the flour and liquids at low speed with a dough hook.
- Once the ingredients are thoroughly combined, raise the speed to medium until a smooth dough forms. It should pull away from the sides of the bowl easily.
- Set the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise for about an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Once the dough rises, cut it into 1/3 cup portions. (You should get between 6 and 8 even pieces.)
- In a large pot, combine 9 cups of water and the baking soda. Slowly bring it to a boil as you complete steps 10 and 11.
- On a floured surface, roll the pieces into a dough rope until they’re between 20- and 24-inches long and a half-inch thick.
- Laying the rope in a U-shape, take the two upper ends of the rope and twist them twice. Place your ends over the bottom of the U-shape, with just the very tip of the ends sticking over the edge of the U-shape.
- Once you have formed the pretzels, gently drop 1 or 2 pretzels into the boiling water for no more than 30 seconds. Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon (allowing excess water to drip off) and place them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
- As the pretzels are placed on the baking sheet, brush them with an egg mixture of 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of water. Once they’re brushed with the egg mixture, sprinkle them with coarse kosher salt.
- Place the pretzels in the oven and allow them to bake until they’ve browned, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on a wire cooling rack for at least 5 minutes.