I was in a baking mood today. My cinnamon rolls went stale and I wanted to bring life into the kitchen this morning via warmth from the oven and the smell of freshly-baked-goods. I decided to whip out my recipe book (aka unorganized bookmarks in my Google Chrome browser) and rummage through the recipes – I decided upon baked pretzels.
My schedule pre-pandemic did not allow for 3+ hours in the kitchen on a normal basis. I wasn’t willing to get home at 6pm, begin cooking, then eat at 9pm. My preferred schedule was come home, make a quick stir fry by 7pm, watch Netflix til 9pm, then sleep. With shelter-in-place, there was no commuting anymore, which meant I could start cooking in the kitchen as early as I wanted to!
With the extra time on my hands, I decided I’d learn how to cook all the foods that I’ve ever craved before in my life from scratch. These ended up falling into one of two categories – stews that you’d simmer on the stove for 3 hours and dough-based goods that required you to wait 1+ hours to let the yeast rise.
One of the first foods I ever wanted to make from scratch was the soft pretzel. None of these small, thin, crunchy chips they give you as an airplane snack. They gotta be the thick, soft, with a doughy center, like the ones you’d find at a baseball game. Ohh how delicious they were with a fresh coat of butter!
Baking your pretzel is as easy as 1, 2, 3! I referred to this recipe today.
1. Combine ingredients and knead the dough
The ingredients consist of yeast, salt, sugar, and flour. Knead and shape into pretzel twists. Today I used whole wheat flour which makes the dough tougher and harder to manage when rolling out to shape the dough, but it still bakes up nicely.
During the bulk of my quarantine days, I kneaded everything by hand. It’s amazing that we’ve invented a machine that does the elbow grease for you.
2. Give pretzels a bath
To get the distinctive brown color and develop a crunchy outside / soft inside, you must give the shaped pretzel dough a bath – a baking soda bath, that is! I usually boil water in a pot then put in 1/4 cup of baking soda – watch out for excessive fizzing! I’ve seen another recipe that just heats up water, puts in the baking soda, then coats that over the pretzels right before baking.
For this batch, after the baking soda bath, I brushed the pretzels with butter and sprinkled them with salt. Next time, I’ll try baking the pretzels first, then adding the butter to see if the flavor alters.
Throw your pretzels in the oven and you got yourself beautifully browned pretzels!