Makes 16-24 pretzels, several pretzel sticks and a dozen small pretzel bites
GO AHEAD, FREEZE THE DOUGH!
You can freeze or refrigerate the dough. If this recipe is too much for you, freeze a good-sized ball of dough for up to 3 months or place it in the refrigerator no more than a few days. Let frozen dough defrost in the refrigerator overnight and allow cold dough to sit for 1 hour, covered (in the same bag or container) so it can rise.
- Two bowls. One smaller glass, ceramic or plastic bowl for the yeast mixture and one extra large bowl for the dough. If you have a cover for the large bowl even better but not essential.
- Measuring cup and spoons
- 2 baking sheets
- Parchment paper (MUST HAVE)
- Strong mixing spoon or paddle
- Medium saucepan
- Wire racks (at least one large rack)
- Paper towels
INGREDIENTS NEEDED – SO SIMPLE: Yeast, flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, olive oil, butter and water.
- 3 cups chopped FRESH herbs, any that you like (if you want to make plain, better pretzels, omit the herbs)
- 10 cups BREAD flour (almost all of a 5 pound bag) MUST USE BREAD FLOUR
- 8 teaspoons rapid rise dry yeast (3 packets + 1 and 1/4 teaspoons) MUST USE RAPID YEAST
- 1 cup + 2 teaspoons granulated sugar DO NOT SUBSTITUTE ARTIFICIAL SUGARS
- 2 1/2 cups tap water (DO NOT PRE-MEASURE THIS WATER)
- 10 cups of water for the last step (baking soda bath)
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt plus more for sprinkling MUST BE KOSHER SALT, NO IODIZED TABLE SALT
- 4 tablespoons olive oil plus more for coating a bowl (substitute vegetable oil to coat the bowl to save money if desired)
- 3/4 cups baking soda
- 2-3 sticks butter – salted or unsalted – just make sure it is a good quality butter. Cheap stuff tastes more like oil. DO NOT USE MARGARINE OR IMITATION BUTTERS!!!
STEP 1: HERBS
If you’ll be adding herbs, gently wash and dry your FRESH herbs. Make sure to remove woody stems. Chop the herbs up roughly. You don’t want the pieces to be too small. Keep your herbs on a paper towel until ready to incorporate into your dough. Use one or a combination of fresh herbs. We used them all on this list for several pretzels and they were our favorite. Imagine little pretzel bites with different herbs. DIVINE!!!
- Oregano or Marjoram
STEP 2: YEAST
- 8 teaspoons rapid dry yeast (3 packets + 1 and 1/4 teaspoons)
- 2 3/4 cups water at 110°F (43°C)
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Get your yeast packets ready (cut them open) and measuring spoons nearby. Run your tap water to reach a very warm temperature and fill a measuring cup
to 2 1/2 cups. Use a thermometer to see if you are close to 110°F. If not, adjust. Once the water is AT or VERY NEAR the proper temp, pour it into a medium bowl. Immediately add the 8 teaspoons yeast. Add the 2 teaspoons sugar. Mix to merge. Let sit for 5-15 minutes while you prepare the flour. If all is well, your yeast mixture will look creamy. If not, your water temperature was off or your yeast is too old. Do not continue if nothing changed with the yeast water after 15 minutes. Fix the yeast first before incorporating into the flour mixture.
STEP 3: DOUGH
- 10 cups BREAD flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons olive oil plus a little more to coat the inside of the big bowl
- 3 teaspoons salt (Do not add more salt than directed because it could kill the yeast.)
Put all dry ingredients in the big bowl. Mix well by hand with the implement of your choice. Make a well in the middle of the flour. Slowly pour the yeast liquid in the well. Add the olive oil to the liquid. Start mixing with a strong paddle or thick-handled spoon. It’s ok if the dough is moist. That is better than too dry. If the dough is too dry add water in increments of only 2 tablespoons at a time. Form into a big ball and knead gracefully until fairly smooth: 5-7 minutes. Do not overwork the dough.
Clean out your huge bowl. Coat the inside with a thin layer of vegetable oil. Place your dough inside the bowl. Cover with a large bowl about the same size. make sure you have a seal that won’t let in much air. Plastic wrap will work but if it doesn’t stick to your bowl, the inside of the bowl may not get warm enough to make th
e dough nice and puffy. Let tthe dough sit in a warm place for at least an hour.
STEP 4: PREPARE A BAKING SODA BATH
- In a big pot on high heat, add 10 cups of water
- Add 3/4 cup baking soda to the water and just before it starts to boil turn down to the lowest setting
- Line at least 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. I don’t grease baking sheets because it makes the pretzel bottoms too hard and greasy.
- Have kosher salt ready for sprinkling
STEP 5: SHAPE AND COOK
Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C). Make sure to have an oven rack in the middle.
I do not bother putting the pretzel dough out on a floured surface. Doing this on a horizontal surface gives my daughter trouble because the extra flour interferes with the “snake-making process” and she tends to overwork the dough. Have kids stand up while shaping.
ROLL THEM, VERTICALLY, IN THE AIR: Grab a handful of dough from the bowl. The dough should be spongy. Rub the dough between your hands
to make a log. Keep rolling and gently stretching until it gets longer. Let gravity help you out. Don’t worry about the ends becoming thin, you can use those for pretzel bites. Once you get a 12-16 inch rope, hold both ends and twist it around a few times like a jump rope. Weeeeee! This will extend it even further and help it to hold its long shape. To make a pretzel that won’t be one big blob, make sure your dough snake is about 3/4 of an inch thick and about 24″ long. You’ll get the hang of it after a few. Feel free to adjust to make the pretzels the shape and size you want. Get creative!
SHAPE THEM: To make the pretzel shape. First make a ‘U”, then come together with the ends in the middle and twist then around each other then p
ress the ends onto the bottom of the “U”. Don’t worry about attaching the ends to the “U”. Somehow they stay put – just give it a gentle push without disfiguring the pretzel. The image below shows the shape but try twisting one more time in the middle. Works better.
BATHE THE PRETZELS IN BAKING SODA: Place each pretzel and any sticks or bites (from small pieces of dough) on the parchment until you can dip an entire sheet in the hot baking soda bath. Once you have a sheet ready, carefully dunk one pretzel at a time in the bath for a few seconds. Use a flat spatula to enter the bath and to remove the pretzel. Place the pretzel back on the parchment until all are done and ready to cook. BEFORE COOKING, sprinkle the tops with kosher salt.
Place your sheet of pretzels on the middle rack in the hot oven for 8 minutes. Take them out when they are golden brown. These brown up very quickly. You’ll peak and they’ll be just starting to brown and a minute later – they’re done. Watch and take out before you get petrified pretzels!
STEP 6: DIP IN BUTTER
- 2 sticks butter + more if you desire
While your pretzels are cooking, melt butter in a sauce pan big enough to fit one pretzel. Get metal racks ready to hold the final pretzels. Place paper towels, a cloth or parchment paper under the racks to catch dripping butter. Place the melted butter near the wire racks on a turret to protect your counter if necessary. Get your tongs ready. Once the pretzels are out of the oven. Pick up a pretzel and place in the butter. Quickly turn to coat both side and place on the rack. Repeat. You might think that’s too much butter. It’s not. They will not end up greasy. Just don’t let them sit in the pot of butter. Optionally, you can take a brush and brush on more butter after 5-10 minutes. Yep, I really mean that. If you want the pretzels to taste amazing, then try this method on the first sheet and decide then. Somehow, the dousing of butter makes all the difference. Figures! 🙂
The most surprising discovery was that the more herbs the better, even the lavender. For the last batch we combined all of the herbs together and many of our neighborhood taste testers thought those were the best.