There is nothing better than a homemade warm buttery soft pretzel fresh out of the oven. Well maybe a bowl of homemade soft pretzels, a cold brew and a Bruins game, that could be better. These pretzels deliver that unbeatable classic combination of flavor, Butter and Salt, all in one warm soft package. Pretzel making can be a little intimidating, but do not worry it is really quite simple and fun when taken in bite sized steps that I have laid out here in this intructable and if you like the guide then please vote. I promise you these pretzels are worth it in the end, they are delicious.
Step 1: Gather the Ingredients and Culinary Tools
First step to any cooking project is to gather your ingredients and cooking tools. It is best to have everything ready rather than to realize half way through that all your pots are in the dishwasher.
-1 Tablespoon Sugar
-2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
-Sea-salt or Pretzel Salt (for sprinkling on top of pretzels)
-2/3 Cup Baking Soda
-1 Packet of Active Dry Yeast
-4 cups of Bread Flour
-6 Ounces of Unsalted Butter
-1 1/2 cups milk
-10 Cups Water
-Assorted Bowls (for melting butter)
-medium pot and corresponding lid
-cooking timer (phone, stop watch, I still use the old windup cooking timer)
-saran wrap (or anything that can give a good seal to your dough bowl)
-2 sheet pans
-Total Time: 2 hours
-Bake Time:12-15 minutes
-Pretzel Yield: 8 to 10 medium sized pretzels
Step 2: Make That Dough: Part A
Get your saucepan out. Measure and pour into the saucepan 1 1/2 cups of milk (note you can use water instead but I think the milk makes tastier dough). Put it on your gas/electric stove top on medium low heat. Heat the milk until it reaches about 110 degrees (about when milk starts to steam), but turn off the heat right away so the milk does not boil over and move it off the burner. Its important to not have the milk too hot because it will kill the yeast but at the same time it needs to be warm enough to activate the yeast.
Next get a big bowl out. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and 2 teaspoons kosher salt to the bowl. Next pour in the milk. Now cut open the dry yeast packet and sprinkle the contents on top of the mixture. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, you will see it start to foam up.
While you are waiting for the yeast milk mixture cut out 2 ounces butter and melt it. I used the same saucepan from before to melt the butter but you can just microwave it for 30 seconds or so instead if you prefer that method.
After the 5 minutes are up then add the melted butter to the yeast milk mixture. Next measure and add the 4 cups of bread flour to the mixture as well. Now take a mixing spoon and start mixing.
Step 3: Make That Dough: Part B
Mix the dough until it becomes well combined, smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 4 minutes. If the dough feels too dry then add a splash of water and continue mixing until it becomes smooth, it should look somewhat like the picture above. Note if you have a stand mixer then you can use that to mix the dough with the dough hook attachment at medium speed instead, but I had no problem doing it by hand.
Next use your mixing spoon to push the dough from the large bowl into another bowl. I just used the saucepan I used to melt the butter from before. Now either get a new large bowl or clean the one the dough was created in, I just cleaned out the large dough bowl from before and dried it with a paper towel. Now take your olive oil (vegetable oil works too) and pour some on a paper towel then oil up the inside of your bowl.
Remove and return the dough from the saucepan to the well oiled big bowl.
Get your plastic saran wrap out and cover/seal the top of the bowl. Place the dough and the bowl in a warm dry place while the dough rises. I put mine by the radiator. Now set a timer and wait 55 minutes, it should at least double in size.
Step 4: Pour a Bath
While waiting for the dough to rise get out a medium pot. Measure and add 10 cups of water to the medium pot. Also measure out 2/3 a cup of baking soda but do not add it yet to the pot of water, just put it aside for now.
When there is about 5 minutes left until the dough completely rises move the pot to the stove and turn on the burner on high. Then pour in the baking soda and grab a mixing spoon to combine it with the water. It should become a cloudy mixture. Leave the burner on for now and cover the pot with a lid because we will need it later for dunking the pretzels when the water reaches a rolling boil.
Step 5: Pretezel Sculpting
When the pretzel dough has finished rising for its 55 minutes and has doubled in size then remove the plastic wrap and bring over to your kitchen work surface. Also bring over your olive oil and a large cutting board. Use the olive oil and a paper towel to oil the surface of your cutting board. Then simply plop out the dough onto the oiled surface of the board.
I know it is really tempting to start playing with dough but before you start shaping the dough and creating the iconic pretzel shape first get out two cookie sheet pans then lightly oil them up with olive oil, Pam, vegetable oil or your preferred cooking method to prevent dough from sticking during the baking process. I actually used a Silpat mat on one pan and oiled the other with a quick spray of Pam. You will need the pans to hold the pretzels for the next few steps as well as for the baking process.
Now here comes the fun part. Take the olive oil and pour some in your hands and rub them together. Now take your big mound of dough and split it up into about fist sized balls, I got 9 balls out of my dough. Next return all but one of the dough balls to your oiled bowl because unless you have a really large cutting board you will not be able to roll out all the pretzels. Be sure to look at the pictures if you are feeling confused because I tried to make it as easy as possible visually to follow each step in making the dough into the pretzel shape.
Take that ball of dough left on the cutting boards and start rolling out into a long strip/rope of dough. Work and roll the dough back and forth from the center out to push the dough evenly across both ends. Stop when you have a piece about 2 feet long.
Take the 2 ends of the dough strip and create a large U-shape. Then take the ends and curl them inward so they meet at the center.
Then take the two ends of the strip and cross them over each other. Then pull them up and over the bottom of the U-shape curling the ends over the top and pressing them up into the bottom of the dough that makes the lower part of the U-shape.
Congratulations you've made a ball of dough into the shape of a pretzel. Now move that dough pretzel onto one of the pans and do the same for the rest of the balls of dough.
Step 6: Bathing the Pretzels
By the time you finish transforming all the dough balls into pretzel form the water should have reached a rolling boil. If not then wait until the water comes to a boil before doing anything else. Once boiling, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bring your pans of uncooked pretzels over by your boiling baking soda water and get out the spatula (the bigger the spatula the better). Scoop up one pretzel with the spatula and carefully lower it into the boiling water for 30 seconds. I set a timer for this part because if you leave the pretzels in the bath for too long then they will get soggy and will taste funny. Remove your spatula and use it to dunk the pretzel below the surface to make sure all of it gets covered with the water. When the 30 seconds is about to run up then take the spatula, position it underneath the pretzel and lift it out gently at the 30 second mark. Place the pretzel down on the pan it came from and repeat the process for each unbaked pretzel.
Note if while you are bathing your pretzels you happen to drop it while taking it out of the pot and it breaks apart into bits inside the boiling water then use tongs to pull out the broken pieces. Then use your hands to shape the bits into bite size balls. Then use tongs to dunk the little balls back into the boiling baking soda water bath for five seconds and place each nugget on the pan. Now you turned a ruined pretzel into yummy pretzel bites.
Step 7: Paint on a Coat
Melt another 2 ounces of butter in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of water. Then crack and drop an egg into the bowl. Now use the whisk to combine the whole mixture and use the brush to paint a generous coat on each pretzel. Next sprinkle either sea salt or pretzel salt over each of the pretzels, the coat will help the salt stick.
Step 8: Bake the Pretzels
The oven should be at 450 degrees by now, but if not then just wait until it is finished preheating. Once the proper temperature as been reached then put the two pans of pretzels into the oven. Now bake for about 12 to 15 minutes. While the pretzels are baking melt the final 2 ounces of butter. When the 12 minute mark has been reached check the color of the pretzels, if they are golden brown in color then they are perfect and transfer to them to a cooling rack. If they are still a light tan color then cook them for another 2 minutes and continue cooking until the color pretzels is that nice golden brown before transferring to a cooling rack. While on the cooling racks use a brush to paint on a second coat of butter. Be careful taking the pans out of the oven and be sure to use oven mitts, remember hot things are hot.
Step 9: Marvel and Eat
Congratulations. You have done it. Marvel at your creation. Look at its glorious buttery coat. Breathe in deep that wonderful fresh baked bread and butter smell that has by now filled your kitchen and is traveling into other rooms. Lean in and look closely at all the little sea salt crystals that speckle the surface. Now eat your creation. Embrace the warm buttery goodness, relax and if you are feeling generous then share with friends and family.