While making soft pretzels seems like a lot of steps, they are really simple to make. It takes about 2 hours from start to finish, and once baked, the reason for these steps is apparent. A very short rising time makes quick work of the dough. A quick boil in a pot of water gives them the chewy exterior, and the egg wash gives them the shine. It is my belief that using a beer in the batter and boiling water enhances the yeasty flavor, but it is completely a matter of choice.
Another factor to take into consideration is the size of the pretzel. The ones sold in most places are just huge. In this day and age, that size is far too large for most people in one sitting. If that size is of interest, you may choose to make the recipe into only about 6 pretzels. I believe making them into 8 or 10 is the perfect size. The baking time may need adjusting, should you use the larger size.
Soft Pretzels at Home
4 – 4 1/2 cups bread flour
2 packets of instant or quick rise yeast
1 cup water plus 1/2 cup beer, OR use 1 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
7 cups water plus 1 cup beer, OR use 8 cups water
1/2 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon agave syrup
Coarse salt for sprinkling
In a mixer bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour with the yeast. Heat to lukewarm the 1 cup water and 1/2 cup of beer, or all water as desired, along with the 3 tablespoons sugar and the salt. Ensure that the liquid is just warm to the finger and not too hot. Add the liquid to the mixing bowl and starting on low to combine the ingredients. Then increase speed and beat well for about 3 minutes. If your mixer is heavy duty and can knead a very stiff dough, switch to a dough hook and add in 2 1/2 to 3 cups more flour. If you do not have a heavy duty mixer, take the bowl and using hands, incorporate the flour to make a stiff dough. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes. Allow to rest for 20 minutes, while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
In a large soup pot, place the 7 cups water and 1 cup beer or just use 8 cups water. Add 1/2 cup baking soda to the water. If beer is in the mixture, expect the liquid to foam up significantly. Bring this mixture to a simmer.
Mix together in a small bowl the egg yolk, tablespoon of water and the agave syrup. If agave syrup is not available, an unflavored corn syrup could be used. Combine well and set aside. Have a pastry brush handy. Prepare two large baking sheets by lining them with parchment. Spray the parchment with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Turn the dough out onto a flat surface. You may not need any flour on the surface if the dough is quite stiff. Divide the dough into 8 to 10 pieces. Each piece should be rolled into a rope about 24 inches long. Make the rope into a U shape, then bring down and cross the ends to make the pretzel shape. Pinch together the points where the dough intersects. Place 1 or 2 of the pretzels into the pot of simmering liquid. Time for 1 minute, then flip over and time for 1 minute more. Drain well on paper toweling and place them onto the baking sheets. Repeat with all the shaped pretzels.
Brush the boiled pretzels with the egg wash and then sprinkle on the coarse salt. Bake the pretzels for 18 to 20 minutes, until a nice golden brown. Makes 8 to 10 medium sized soft pretzels.
Read the instructions carefully and have everything prepared and handy and you will have wonderful, hot and chewy pretzels in about 2 hours.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I hope it was informative and helped you along your own culinary journey.