Chef Mitch here!
A couple of years ago, shortly after making these pretzels, Kelly and I caught the stomach flu from extended family. (Every Larkin was down for the count. It was rough.) And since pretzels had been the last thing we’d eaten before that whole debacle, we swore them off. Forever!
But it’s been a few years and I think we’ve (finally) recovered emotionally. And this whole end of the world thing has motivated me to dust off the old pretzel recipe, fall off the wagon and untie my self-imposed pretzel knots… because with this recipe, the pretzels come as easy as the clichés. Today, I intend to prove that pretzels are not a “mall-only food,” and if you have the gumption, you’ll be over-indulging yourself and your family in no time.
Leave it to the Germans to devise a food that makes drinking beer even more enjoyable. Of course, pretzels are no longer just a German tradition, though. They’re a worldwide phenomenon. And while I don’t mean to weigh in on the ages-old Hard vs. Soft Pretzel Debate, today we’re making super simple soft pretzels… so deal with it.
The pretzel has a surprising history. Did you know that the pretzel’s iconic shape was, in fact, a three-holed noose devised for human sacrifices to the Celtic goddess Sirona?
(I would, however, choose to not tell your kids about this unfathomably violent pretzel origin story if you intend on making this a family activity.)
Making soft pretzels is just fun thanks to their simplicity, creative dough knotting and the fact that they’re a blank snacking canvas ready to be coated and dipped all afternoon. We call it The Larkin Pretzel Factory around these parts, and we typically set up an assembly line-style toppings bar that includes melted butter, salt, sugar, cinnamon and chocolate.
Go freaking crazy with it.
Again, the pretzels themselves are very simple, and you can just go with your standard bread ingredients and a stand mixer. The unique twist–see what I did there?–here is to submerge the dough in a hot baking soda solution to enable the creation of that dark, chewy, crusty pretzel-ness we all know and love.
The pretzel shape is easier than it looks. There are only four steps:
- The Snake: Pinch off a chunk of dough and roll it into a snake like you’re a kindergartner.
- The Smiley: Realize you’re about 8 minutes away from a completed soft pretzel, and form a smiley with your dough.
- The Twist: Take the tips of your smiley and twist them in a full rotation. The resulting shape looks like an upside-down stick figure with no arms.
- The Flip: Now grab that stick figure’s upside-down head and flip it over, folding the shape onto itself, revealing the classic pretzel shape.
I just re-read the steps, and they’re very confusing. So just look at the above photo if you’re scratching your head right now.
And whenever you have that “Aha!” moment, feel free to get started:
- Two packets of yeast (about 4.5 teaspoons)
- 5 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 1/4 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- Gently combine yeast and warm water. Allow to bloom for 5 minutes.
- Add flour, sugar, salt and oil and mix until smooth dough ball forms. Drizzle additional water if necessary.
- Cover dough and allow to rise for one hour.
- Boil large pot of water with 1/2 a cup of baking soda.
- Divide dough ball into 10 even pieces, roll each into a snake and tie into pretzel shape. (See above.)
- Boil each pretzel in baking soda solution until it floats.
- Place on greased baking sheet and bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for about 8 minutes.
- Top with kosher salt, butter, chocolate, mustard or anything else you can think of.
Chef Mitch. OUT!