Classic Soft Pretzels

You don’t have to visit a street fair or stadium to enjoy a warm, chewy soft pretzel. You can replicate those tasty treats at home. In this recipe, beer adds an intriguing fermented note and baked baking soda replaces food-grade lye, the commercial ingredient typically used to give pretzels their beautiful color and unique flavor.

1/2 cup warm water (110°F. to 115°F.)
1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
1 (1/4-oz.) pkg. active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup pilsner, lager or nonalcoholic beer
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut up, softened
2 teaspoons salt
3 1/4 cups bread flour
1/4 cup baking soda
6 cups hot water
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

1. Combine 1/2 cup warm water, brown sugar and yeast in large bowl of stand mixer (dough can also be made by hand). Let stand 10 minutes or until foamy. Beat in beer, butter and 2 teaspoons salt; add flour. Beat at medium-low speed with paddle attachment, if available, until ball forms. Dough should be firm and slightly tacky, but not sticky. (If sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. If too dry, knead in water, 1 teaspoon at a time.) Attach dough hook, if available; beat 5 to 7 minutes to knead or until dough is smooth and elastic.

2. Place dough in large buttered bowl, turning to coat; cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in refrigerator 8 hours or up to 24 hours (dough should double in size).

3. Meanwhile, heat oven to 300°F. Place baking soda in 8x8-inch foil-lined glass baking dish. Bake 1 hour (baking soda will not change in appearance). Cool completely on wire rack. (Baking soda can be prepared 1 day ahead; cover and store at room temperature.)

4. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Gently punch down dough; place on unfloured surface. Divide into 8 equal pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time (cover remaining dough with damp towel), pat dough into rough rectangle. Roll up tightly to form small loaf; pinch seams together. Roll into 24-inch rope. (Spray work surface lightly with water for more friction, if needed.)

5. To shape pretzels, form rope into U shape. Holding ends, twist together twice about 3-inches from tips. Fold down, pressing tips into base of pretzel at the four and eight o'clock positions. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets; cover with damp towel. (Pretzels can be prepared to this point 8 hours ahead; cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.) Let rise in warm place 30 to 40 minutes or until pretzels are soft and risen by half.

6. Meanwhile, heat oven to 500ºF. Wearing rubber gloves, combine baked baking soda and 6 cups hot water in wide shallow stainless steel pot or bowl (avoid non-stick and other metal surfaces). Be careful not to splash alkaline solution on skin or in eyes. Using a large skimmer or gloved hands, dip one pretzel at a time in solution, and let soak 20 seconds, turning once. Remove, draining excess liquid; return to baking sheets placing 1-inch apart. Repeat with remaining pretzels. Brush lightly with egg mixture; sprinkle with coarse salt.

7. Bake 8 to 12 minutes or until brown. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes to serve warm or cool completely.

8 pretzels

PER PRETZEL: 245 calories, 4.5 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 7.5 g protein, 43 g carbohydrate, 30 mg cholesterol, 2040 mg sodium, 1.5 g fiber


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