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Soft Pretzels

I’ve had this post in draft form for more than a week, waiting for inspiration to strike.  I have come up with nothing profound to say about these soft, chewy, salty knots of pleasure, except they are delicious, remarkably easy, and were a huge hit at Morgan’s class Halloween party.  That’s all I got.  Hope you’ll try them.

Soft Pretzels

Adapted from Alton Brown

Ingredients:

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. melted butter*

—–

Cooking spray
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. water*
Pretzel (or kosher) salt

Directions:
Combine 1 1/2 cups warm water, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Mix on low speed (or just use a spoon) to dissolve the yeast.  Add in the flour and melted butter and mix just until the dough comes together. 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 sprayed with Pam or other cooking spray, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap or a damp clean kitchen towel 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 wide saucepan or skillet.  In the meantime, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces for large pretzels, or 16 pieces for smaller pretzels (perfect for kids).  I found that the large pretzels weighed about 4 oz. each, the small ones, half of that. Working with one piece at a time, roll a segment out into a 24-inch long rope (12 inches for the small ones).  Make a U-shape with the rope and holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and onto the bottom of the U-shape in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment lined baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 or 2 at a time, for 30 seconds.  Remove from the water with a slotted skimmer, drain well before returning to the baking sheet.  Once all the pretzels have been boiled, brush the tops with the egg wash (if using) 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.

* I made these pretzels in vegan form, due to some extreme allergies among Morgan’s classmates.  I substituted Earth Balance vegan spread for butter, and omitted the egg wash.  The results were very good, and the vegan dairy-free version was nearly as delicious and beautiful as the original recipe.

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