This is a great recipe to do with your friends and family. It does take some time, just under 2 hours, for all of the prep and the cooking. But again, it's a great recipe to make with your kids. And they are delicious as well as versatile! This recipe makes 12 pretzels. Feel free to double it or more. It's really great for parties!
Step 1: Ingredients
3-3.5 Cups Flour (Separated into 1 1/2 Cups and 1 1/4 Cups and then the rest for bench flour)
1 pkg Dry Active Yeast
1 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt (Just ordinary table salt)
2 Tbsp Oil
1 Cup Warm Water (about 100 degrees)
4 Cups of Water (for boiling)
2 Tbsp Baking Soda
8 oz Block of Cheese (Any hard cheese)
1-2 Tbsp Coarse Salt (Any kind of coarse salt)
Step 2: Equipment
For this recipe you will need the following:
2 Large Mixing Bowls
1 Large Sauce Pan
1 Mixing Spoon
1 Slotted Spoon or Spider
1 Whisk or Fork
1-2 Cutting Boards
2 Cookie Sheets or Jelly Roll Pans
1 Resealable Baggy
Cooling Racks (Optional)
Step 3: Prepping the Cheese
First step is to cut the cheese into 12 pieces that are roughly the same.
I started by cutting the cheese widthwise. Then cutting each half into half and those quarters into thirds. This gave me 12 sticks that were roughly equal in size.
Then place the cheese stick into the baggy. Seal it up, removing as much air as possible. Then place it in your freezer for 30 minutes to 1 hour. You can freeze it for longer if you want but it's not necessary.
Also, if you're in a time crunch, you can skip the freezing process altogether but it might cause a mess later on during the boiling process. And if you you a harder cheese you might be able to skip the freezing as well. Freezing the cheese mainly prevents it from melting all over the place during the boiling process.
Step 4: Preparing the Yeast
This is one of the most crucial steps of the whole process and should not be rushed at all. I do not suggest just winging it for this part. And if you have a meat thermometer that reads as low as 100 degrees, it's extremely helpful for this step.
First add warm water to one of your mixing bowls. You can use a meat thermometer to ensure that that water is 100 degrees. Otherwise, you can test it with your wrist like you would a baby's bottle. Which you want it to be slightly warmer than the milk you'd give a baby, but not by much. The importance of the temperature of the water is that if it's too warm it could kill the yeast which would lead to flat, non-airy bread or pretzels. And if it's too cold, it won't wake up the yeast and you could be left with similar results.
Once you've got your warm water in the bowl, mix in the sugar. This serves as food for the yeast as it wakes up and it helps the yeast to be more active. Make sure you dissolve the sugar completely into the water.
Then add the yeast to the water, mixing it around slightly with a whisk or fork.
Then let the yeast mixture sit for at least 10 minutes. Seriously, do not rush this part. This will allow the yeast to do its thing and get all bubbly. The result should be a frothy, mirky, bubbly goodness. If you watch the yeast during this process you'll notice blooms happening as the yeast wakes up and bubbles. It's rather fun to watch!
Step 5: Forming the Dough
Once the yeast has been able to do its thing, the next thing to do is to make the dough.
First add the oil, salt and 1 1/2 cups of flour to the yeast mixture.
Mix it around with a mixing spoon or spatula. This will start to make a loose, gooey dough.
Then gradually add in the other 1 1/4 cups of flour. Continue to mix it until it forms a dough. If it is too dry, feel free to add in more water, 1 Tbsp at a time. Make sure the water isn't too hot but not too cold. The exact temperature isn't as vital at this point. You just don't want to kill the yeast with scalding hot water and you don't want to put it to sleep with cold water.
Once your dough is together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Then knead the dough for 5 minutes. This is another part that cannot be rushed. Kneading the dough will help it rise as well as give the bread a nice texture on the inside once the cooking process is over. The dough should become smooth and elastic, with a little bit of push back as you knead it.
After you're done kneading the bread form it into a ball. Then spray the inside of the other mixing bowl with cooking spray. You can also use about 1 Tbsp of oil to coat the inside of the bowl.
Then place the dough into the oiled bowl.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Then a towel over the top of the plastic wrap.
And then place in a warm spot to rise for 1 hour. You can let it go over the hour but do not cut corners and try to rush it, it must rise otherwise it won't be as good and fluffy later.
Step 6: Forming the Pretzels and Proofing
Once the dough has risen for at least 1 hour, remove the cheese from the freezer. And then turn the dough out onto a cutting board or any surface you don't mind cutting on.
Then cut the dough into 12 roughly equal pieces. I do this by cutting it in half and then half again to form quarters. Then I cut each quarter into thirds. It's not perfect but it make 12 pieces that are pretty close to equal in size.
Once you've cut your dough into 12 pieces, roll each piece into a long rope. About a half inch or smaller in diameter. It just has to be long enough to be able to wrap around a stick of cheese.
Once you have your dough rolls ready, wrap them around the cheese. Make sure that you seal the dough around the cheese as best as possible. It doesn't have to be perfect but the less gaps means the less possibility of the cheese just melting out. Which some melting and spilling will occur during the baking process.
Then once you've formed all of your pretzels, set them either on a counter or onto the baking sheets or pans and allow them to proof for 30 mins. Basically just let them sit for 30 mins and recover from being formed and such. Also, if you place them on the cooking sheets, just know that you'll have to remove them before the next step.
And during the proofing, go ahead and preheat your oven to 475 degrees.
Step 7: Boiling Process
This is the step that actually makes a pretzel a pretzel. Boiling the dough in a baking soda and water solution gives it that pretzel taste as well as gives it that pretzel skin. And if you were really in a bind, you could use pre-made dough and you could just about skip all the way to this step.
First, spray the cookie sheets or jelly roll pans, whichever that you're using. Removing the pretzels first, if applicable.
Then add the 4 Cups of water to your sauce pan.
Mix in the baking soda, before bringing it to a boil. If you add it after it has come up to a boil you'll have a mess on your hands. And make sure all of the baking soda has dissolved into the water.
Then bring the water up to a rolling boil
Once the water has come up to a boil, boil the pretzels 1 at a time for 1 minute each. After 30 seconds, turn the pretzel over to ensure an even coating.
After the pretzel has boiled for 1 minute, remove the pretzel from the water with a slotted spoon or spider. Either allow the pretzel to drain while in the spoon or place it on a towel. If you use a towel just be fore warned that it will likely stick to the towel.
Then place the pretzel onto the cookie sheet. And sprinkle it with coarse salt. If you were making a sweet pretzel, you could add a cinnamon and sugar blend at this point. Though I would forego the cheese if you went that route, but that's just me.
Continue doing this process until all 12 pretzels have been boiled.
Step 8: Baking the Pretzels
Once you've boiled all of your pretzels, it's time to bake!
Bake the pretzels in a preheated oven at 475 degrees for roughly 12 minutes. Depending on your oven it could take as little as 10 minutes or as long as 15.
Don't be alarmed, there will be melting during this process. Depending on the cheese and how tight you sealed the pretzels, there likely will be melting during the baking.
Once the pretzels have become golden brown, it's time to enjoy. Though I do warn you that pretzels right out of the oven are extremely hot.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and please feel free to share this with your friends and family.