Homemade Soft Pretzels

I get asked all the time how I resist all the food that I make; the truth is I taste everything but try my hardest not to eat it all. I also never recipe test on an empty stomach because that is just asking for trouble. I can usually resist most sweet baked goods, plus I actually send them immediately to my husband's office to give it to the neighbors - it if it is in front of me, I will eat it.

However, any sort of warm savory baked good, I have no self control. Case in point these soft pretzels. All bets are off when these pretzels come out of the oven. I taste a piece of one, then next thing I know I have eaten two or three. It is totally that salty buttery-ness that I love. 

Since I love this recipe,  I braved making it for you all so you can enjoy it.  Also these are perfect for the Super Bowl because we all know that we actually "watch" the Super Bowl only for the commercials and delicious food. Show up with these pretzels and no one will be watching the game! 

Couple notes about the recipe: 

First this recipe does not use lye - old school pretzels use lye in the ingredients. Lye is the same stuff used in drain cleaner and making soap and  is pretty toxic in large quantities. I know the traditional recipes use it, but I decided to pass for all sorts of reasons, mostly because you can get that golden brown color using regular old baking soda and I don't want to eat anything that has come into contact with something toxic! But if you want to make it the authentic way here is a great NY Times article on why people use lye instead of baking soda. 

Also I have made this recipe two ways - all in the same day as well as making the dough the night before, leaving it in the fridge to rise then baking the next day. Both work and it just depends on your timing. If you make the dough the day before, let the dough come to room temperature before rolling out. 

Lastly, if you want to make these sweet, skip the sea salt and sprinkle with a sugar and cinnamon mixture after you brush with the melted butter. 


Homemade Soft Pretzels 

For the dough:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 ¼ tsp.  instant yeast (or 1 packet)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp. salt

For the topping:

  • 3 cups water
  • 6 Tbs. baking soda
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • Coarse sea salt

In a small bowl, add ¾ cup of the warm water, the honey and yeast. Let the yeast proof for about 5 minutes or until the yeast mixture begins to bubble.

While the yeast is proofing, combine both flours and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast mixture and beat on low speed until dough is soft, smooth and slack, about 5 minutes. If dough looks dry, add the remaining ¼ cup of warm water 1 tablespoon at a time until dough comes together. (It just depends on your flour, my dough used the whole cup of water).

When dough is ready, remove from bowl of stand mixer and place in a medium sized bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 - 40 minutes or until doubled in size. (Or overnight in the refrigerator, just let the dough come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before rolling out). 

While the dough is resting, make the topping. Bring the water to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, remove from heat and add baking soda. Stir until baking soda is dissolved. Pour mixture into a 9 x9 shallow pan and allow mixture to cool to room temperature. 

Preheat oven to 475°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper then spray the parchment with non-stick spray. 

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface and divide into equal pieces. For smaller pretzels divide into 8  equal pieces. For larger pretzels, divide into 4 equal pieces. (using a kitchen scale is a great way to get even pretzels). 

Roll out the dough into thin ropes and form a pretzel shape. (See video on how to do this.)   Allow to rest for 5 minutes. When the pretzels are formed and have rested, place them in the baking soda water mixture for 2 minutes, spooning water over the top of the pretzels if they do not completely submerge.

Remove the dough from the baking soda mixture and allow to rest for 10 minutes on the prepared baking sheet. Top with sea salt. 

Bake pretzels until they are golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the pretzels from the oven and brush with the melted butter. Make sure to use all of the butter on the pretzels.

Serve warm with your favorite cheesy dip. 

Makes 8 small pretzels or 4 large pretzels.