One of the super easy snacks or appetizers we all love is a soft pretzel. Who can say no to a hot pretzel that is smooth and buttery from the inside while being salty and crunchy on the outside? Many of us have memories of having these divine little soft buttery buns at a game or our grandparents’ house where the kitchen smells like heaven.
What are These Divine Delicacies?
The pretzels are known as one of the most delicious Bavarian foods made from German bread. This special bread is well-known for its knot shape, which is obtained by twisting a long thick loop of the dough. This twist shaped into a knot is peculiar to pretzels. Typically, after these are shaped, they are given a dip into alkaline or lye water, which is the main reason for that shiny luster on the outside. This water bath also makes these pretzels the way we all love them – chewy and crunchy.
Note: This alkaline or lye bath is the signature move to make a pretzel. Without this step before putting these knot-shaped bread in the oven to bake, they would not be authentic pretzels.
How to Make Homemade Soft Pretzels?
Making pretzels at home is easier than most people would assume. The dough needed for making pretzels is the same as the one required for making bread. For the authentic Bavarian touch, you need to add beer to the recipe.
Things You Will Need
- Instant yeast (1 package)
- Brown sugar one tablespoon
- Kosher salt (2 teaspoons)
- All-purpose flour (about four and a half cups)
- Butter (unsalted and melted about 2 ounces)
- Vegetable oil
- Baking soda (two-thirds of a cup)
- Egg yolk (beaten with a tablespoon of water)
Firstly, get the water, kosher salt, and sugar combined with some yeast sprinkled on the top. Let it sit for about 5 minutes. The mixture will probably begin to foam during this time. Add flour and butter to the mixture and let the dough hook attachment on the mixer do its trick. Set the speed on low let it all combine and take the form of a dough. When the dough becomes smooth, transfer it to a greased bowl or big pan and allow it to sit in a warm corner for an hour or so. The dough will double in size.
It is time to bring in the heat. Preheat your oven to about 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Use parchment paper to line your baking pan and grease it with oil.
Once your dough is all raised, spread it on a large flat, greased pan. Divide the dough into equal parts (makes eight equal parts easily). Roll out every part into a long loop (about 24-inch) and make a U-shape. By holding the ends of the loop, cross them over into a knot and press the ends so that they are sealed.
This is bath time. In about ten cups of water, sprinkle baking soda and bring it to a boil. Carefully pick up one knot-shaped pretzel at a time and dip it into the boiling water for half a minute. Brush the beaten egg yolk and sprinkle some salt on the pretzels after removing them from the boiling water.
Place them in a half sheet pan and bake for about 12 to 14 minutes or until they are dark golden brown. Cool them for approximately 5 minutes before serving.
Side note: For making homemade sourdough pretzels, you can also use your sourdough starter.
What Does *Baked* Baking Soda Do?
Traditionally, Bavarian pretzels are dipped in a lye solution, which helps them crisp up on the outside and give a peculiar pretzel flavor. In case lye is not available, the next best thing is to bake your baking soda. This baked baking soda undergoes a change in the alkaline levels, which works as an excellent substitute for lye.
To bake the baking soda, take about ¼ cup of baking soda and spread it out on a rimmed and foiled baking sheet. Let it bake in the oven for about an hour at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool it before using and always handle it with care.
It might be the most revolting thing for a die-hard Bavarian soft pretzel fan but if you fail to create the well-known knot shape, then fret not. Here is an easy solution for you. Make soft pretzel bites instead, and you can work on perfecting that knot shape later. These bites are prepared with the same method and taste divine.
Check out this recipe too – Savory Breakfast Braid Recipe
Some Ideas for Pretzel Toppings
- Though numerous things work wonders as pretzel topping coarse sea salt remains one of the classic ones.
- Different types of cheese – namely, parmesan or shredded – also make an amazing pretzel topping.
- You can sprinkle Italian seasoning on the pretzels and serve them with marinara sauce.
- You can also add cinnamon mixed with sugar as a topping for your pretzels.
Yummy Dipping Sauces for Soft Pretzels
- Spicy cheese sauce goes exceptionally well as a dipping sauce with soft pretzels.
- You can also serve them with mustard or honey mustard sauce.
- Marinara sauce is also a delectable option for serving with pretzels, especially those that are sprinkled with Italian seasoning.
- Ranch dressing and soft pretzels also go well together.
Tips for Fresh Soft Homemade Pretzels
- Though freshly baked soft pretzels cannot beat the taste of stored ones, you can try storing them for later use. You should use a zipped plastic bag to store the soft pretzels. Press out all the air that you can so that the pretzels remain fresh. This trick can keep them fresh for about a day or two.
- The trick for reheating soft pretzels is to brush a tad bit of water on them before placing them in the microwave.
- Do not reheat in the microwave for more than 15 seconds, or the pretzels will become chewy.
- Another tip for reheating stored pretzels is to brush them up with melted butter and bake them for about 6-8 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Soft baked pretzels can also be stored in the freezer once they cool off.
- While making pretzels, the trick to keep them from drying out is to cover and wrap them lightly with foil and tuck them in your slow cooker in warm settings.
- It is best to knead the pretzel dough by hand instead of using the mixer.
- Beer cheese also makes for a delectably perfect dipping sauce.
Fun Facts About Pretzels
- Pretzels were once used as a reward for children. It is perceived that pretzels first appeared in 610 AD by the Christian Monks. They used to make the soft pretzels on purpose and made them in the shape of arms crossed in prayer. These pretzels were given as a reward to children if they learned their prayers well. It’s quite funny how pretzels were a “religious dessert”.
- Surprisingly, the word Pretzel means “Small Reward”. This can be linked to their initial usage as described in the first fact.
- The market sales of Pretzels for 2021 with regards to the top sellers amounted approximately to $1185 million. That is for the USA alone.
- If a pretzel is unsalted, it is named “Baldie”.
- Sellers earn a lot of money by selling pretzels. Even if they sell for $2 to $3, they offer a 50% to 60% profit margin. It may seem low for a small quantity but becomes a big amount if your sales are in hundreds of Pretzels.
- April 26th is considered National Pretzel Day. Unexpectedly, October is considered National Pretzel Month.
- If we talk about soft pretzels, you would be surprised to know that the most authentic form of them is when they are handmade and baked. In addition to that, they were also frozen and warmed in different temperature-controlled cabinets. However, now, even the soft pretzels are neither made by hand a lot nor stored like this. You can simply get one pack from the market and enjoy the soft and scrumptious taste easily.
- Philadelphia should be named as the “State of the Pretzels”. This is because it consumes about 80% of the Pretzels produced in the USA.
- Pretzels have been a part of many festivities as well. For example, at times of Easter, they were once hidden just like an Easter Egg. The trend reduced gradually.
- According to one study, an average American consumes about 2 pounds of Pretzels every year.
- Hard pretzels were not invented until the end of the 1600s. Even when they were invented, it happened by an accident when a baker in Pennsylvania overbaked the pretzels which made them very crunchy and inedible too. The story does not end here. Once the master baker tried a bite out of anger of this pretzel, he was surprised as he absolutely loved the taste.
- Handmade pretzels have stayed very common till the 1930s and the bakers could make up to 40 in a minute. Although this was quite a high speed, there was still a need to automate the process. In 1935, the Reading Pretzel Machinery was created which allowed the bakeries to make about 245 pretzels per minute, which is about 6 times higher than the average worker was making.
- Did you know that one of our Presidents choked on a pretzel? This happened with George W. Bush in 2002 when he was eating a pretzel while watching the Baltimore-Miami NFL Playoff in the White House. He even lost consciousness for a while due to this incident.
- The record for having the largest pretzel baked was given to a pretzel that spread over 5 feet and weighed about 40 pounds. The creator of this pretzel was Joe Nacchio.
Last Look at the Soft Pretzels
If this article did not water your mouth and made you move to the kitchen where you start rummaging for the ingredients to make soft pretzels, we do not know what would. Contrary to popular belief, these soft pretzels are quite easy to prepare at home. They do not require any additional special ingredients other than the ones used in making bread. Just follow the recipe mentioned and let the tips guide you!
You can also check out our Recipe for Sourdough Bread.