Can You Handle The Carbs?
Soft pretzel recipe – better suited for pretzel dogs
I’m a full-time father. In our home, you need to find new and interesting things to do all the time. One great activity is cooking together. With two young boys, I found that baking is one of the better activities we enjoy as a group and they get to see what they’ve made …and eat what they create. Take for instance soft pretzels. I’ve been working on this recipe and as I improve it, I’ll repost this article with better modified instructions.
Let me give you a bit of background. I’ve been at this recipe for weeks now. There were two problems I had immediately upon my first batch which took time to figure out the solution. One was color, my pretzels were white, they didn’t look like Auntie Anne’s or even the cheap ones in the mall! My second issue was taste and texture. They tasted bland and were dense in texture.
This recipe is bulletproof. The taste is honestly similar to an Auntie Anne style pretzel as is the texture. They are brown all the way around too. So take heart folks, if you’ve already bumped your nose on Internet recipes that don’t deliver, look no further.
I’ve found no matter what recipe I’ve started with, the ones that stand out over time are the ones using the lye dipping solution, I’ll get to that. I do know I have some keys to making your pretzels come close to the type you taste from Auntie Anne’s and how you can have a great experience in baking. This recipe calls for Occidental Flour also known as Bread Flour which improves the taste and texture. You can go with traditional flour.
In addition, you’ll find this recipe is in fact delicious when used to make pretzel dogs.
It is important to understand that a key to a good soft pretzel is the baking soda dipping solution. The baking soda acts as a leavening agent and also helps with that beautiful brown coat of your pretzel. Try this recipe without it and you’ll see a dramatic difference. FYI: Mixing the baking powder in the hot water produces carbon dioxide gas.
ANOTHER SECRET TO THE REAL SOFT PRETZEL TASTE
(This is optional but strongly recommended – Optional lye bath in blue)
Above I mention the secret to the color and texture, what about taste? The ultimate secret ingredient for that final finish to your shiny brown crust and unique pretzel flavor we all know and love is lye, (a.k.a. sodium hydroxide) dipping solution. Lye not only produces a glossy coating, but it also improves the taste. For more on this look up the Maillard reaction. But in short, what it does is breaks up the gluten in the dough so it caramelizes in the oven. With the caustic bath (lye) you’ll get a shiny brown finish, with only the baking soda dipping solution you’ll get an Auntie Anne style finish and browning. Rest assured the baking soda only dip results in a great tasting pretzel.
I have not perfected the lye recipe yet but I will amend this article when I have it precise. I understand a 4% dipping solution is used but you have to wear gloves as this solution is in fact caustic. It is corrosive to the hands. Get lye in the eyes and it can blind you. Treat this ingredient with great care and responsibility. Keep it far from children. I suggest with children present, stick with my baking soda option. Be careful if you want to try this recipe with lye. You would need to purchase this item in a pharmacy or online here: http://www.aaa-chemicals.com/. And yes you can buy it in your local hardware store; however, you should look food-grade lye Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) pellets rated NF/FCC (“National Formulary / Food Chemicals Codex”). Food grade will be in pellets.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
Here is what you’ll need aside from ingredients:
- Oven & Stove-top
- Mixer with a dough hook optional but best for results
- Rolling pin – or something like it
- Pizza cutter
- Hard smooth work surface
- Cookie sheet (optional with parchment paper)
- Parchment paper (keeps from sticking to the cookie sheet)
- Low walled pot or sauté pan (approx 4 quarts will do)
- Tongs or wide strainer ladle Metal spoon (if you go with lye dip)
- Rubber gloves (if you go with lye dip)
- Safety glasses (if you go with lye dip)
- Sealable container (if you go with lye dip)
This amount is for a small batch, perfect for your first attempt so you don’t have a lot of waste should things go poorly for you.
• Teaspoon of active dry yeast
• Baking soda (for dipping solution)
• ¼ cup of warm water
• 1 cup of warm water (or milk)
• Pretzel salt (coarse salt)
• 1/6 cup brown sugar
• 2 ½ cups of flour (occidental is preferred. a.k.a. bread flour)
• Lye Bath – a.k.a. caustic dipping solution
1.5 ounces lye (pellets)
You can double this amount, but keep the same amount of dry yeast. Too much makes your dough unmanageable.
PERFECT PREPARATION STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS
1. Dissolve your dry active yeast in the ¼ cup of water. Yes, this is a very small amount of water. Give this a couple of minutes; let the yeast do its thing.
2. Mix in the additional 1 cup of warm water and 1/6 cup of brown sugar.
3. Add your flour to your mixing bowl. Add your water ingredients to the flour and turn your mixer on to a middle setting, not too fast, not dead slow. This should be done with a dough hook or not at all. If you don’t have a mixer with a dough hook then you need to mix the dough by hand. Do not knead the dough. Mix it. Kneading makes the dough tough. When it is mixed appropriately the dough should be soft and pliable. It will stretch without breaking. Add small amounts of warm water if the initial amount leaves the dough dry and does not mix all your flour in entirely. Whether mixing by hand or with a mixer and dough-hook you should have resulted with a soft, flexible dough ball. This is important as it will affect the texture and taste if you get it wrong. The texture will be dense and hard if you get it wrong. They are called soft pretzels for a reason.
4. When ready lay your dough out and stretch it just a bit so it has a semi-rectangular shape. No need to be precise. With your rolling pin, roll it out. You should have dough around 15 to 18 inches long and 4 to 5 inches wide. The density is about a ½ inch deep. It may stick just a bit to your rolling pin, that’s OK, just be careful and you’ll be fine.
5. Take your pizza cutter and cut a strip of the edge. The strip should be about ¾ of an inch wide. For bigger, thicker soft pretzels go wider. Trial and error will teach you best.
6. Roll out your strip like a long worm you are trying to make longer and longer reaching an approximate length of about 25 inches (referred to as ropes).
7. Take your 25-inch rope and twist it into the classic pretzel shape or something else you may desire. To achieve a classic pretzel shape you bow the top with the half-circle shape at the top, twist the bottom twice, and then take your two ends and bring them back up to the outside edge of your circle on both sides placing the ends of the rope down into the dough. You’ll have fun figuring this out.
8. Layout your pretzels and give them 20 to 30 minutes to rise. You won’t regret it.
9. You can use some egg whites if you bypass the dipping solution. If you take this option just brush on some egg white and sprinkle the coarse pretzel salt now. Otherwise now is NOT the time for the salt.
1. For pretzels only Start to pre-heat your oven at 500 degrees. If yours goes higher then 550 is needed. If you are making pretzel dogs, go with 475.
2. Take time now to start your boiling water for your dipping solution, when it comes to a low boil, add two tablespoons of baking soda for every one cup of water. Stir in the baking soda for even distribution in the water. How much water you use is up to you and depends on what size of the pot or sauté pan you are using. You only need enough to bathe your pretzels. Drawing two inches of water off the base of your pan is enough. Dip or place each pretzel in the bath for a solid 15 to 30 seconds. The full 30 seconds is recommended, don’t be afraid of the increased time! Using your tongs or strainer, carefully remove them and place them on a smooth service. They will be hard to handle now. They will appear a bit slimy and slick, without tongs, you will not be able to handle them.
3. If you go with the addition of a caustic soda dipping solution (lye), here is what to do. Add your 1.5 ounces of lye or 2 tablespoons and one teaspoon to 1 quart of warm water. Stir with your metal spoon and after your initial dip in the boiling baking soda bath; now dip for no more than 5 seconds in your lye bath (caustic soda). You should be using tongs while wearing gloves.
4. Sprinkle on your salt.
5. Place your pretzels on your cookie sheet with parchment paper or directly on your wire rack in the oven. If you have a wire rack to place on a cookie sheet this will be even better. If you put them on a wire rack, spray it with a non-stick spray, otherwise, you will be scraping the pretzel off the wrack with a steel spatula.
6. Bake for 10 to 20 minutes depending on how brown or done you like your pretzels. At a high temperature and a long baking soda dip, you’ll find that 10 minutes may do it.
If you are making pretzel dogs, do everything the same as above in the same order. Here is how you wrap the dog. Take your long rope of dough laid out. Now take your dog and lay it at the end of it at the end of your dough rope. Start rolling up the dog in the rope slowly spinning the dog down the strip until covered. I’ll add a photo later.
Yes, you do in fact dip the dog in the baking soda bath for up to 15 seconds and the lye bath if desired. Bake for 15 minutes. Have a bowl of mustard or desired condiment and you’ll love it. 🙂