I remember making soft pretzels for the first time in my 8th grade home economics class. In my small cubical kitchen with the electric stove that took hours for water to boil, I honestly fell into another world of pure contentment every time I walked through that classroom door when I attended Anacapa Middle School. I learned to make muffins, cookies, breads, sauces, chicken cordon bleu, pasta dishes and my teachers family recipe for German soft pretzels. That class was such an escape for me, I liked school don’t get me wrong it was just that my time in that particular class was truly a foundation builder for me, I effortless earned my A+, my teacher had my full attention and dedication every day during those extraordinary 90 minutes. I learned that baking recipes should be measures in grams because 1 cup of whole-wheat flour weighs differently than 1 cup of all purpose flour or 1 cup of cake flour, I suggest you all get a digital scale and see just how different the weights are. I also learned that when making pretzels, fresh baking soda was key as well as doubling the amount called for. My teacher said it added an extra chewiness to the outer skin of the pretzel and helped to develop the deep golden color along with the egg wash.
This past weekend I asked my family if they wanted to help me make a batch pretzels, my daughter, Paige, jumped up and excitedly did the “I’m going to help mommy in the kitchen dance.” Lots of butt wiggling, some jumping spin tricks too. Her brother, Andrew, took a pass he just received a new lego set and that was his center of attention for the day. My husband was thrilled; he’s a really good pretzel maker it has to be because of his German heritage. I believe soft pretzels have to be my husband favorite snack food; he loves them more than salt and pepper potato chips. His all time #1 nostalgic type pretzel are the ones served at Disneyland, they are in the shape of Mickey Mouse. Ok, I cannot lie I like them too.
My Daughter also has taken to making pretzels like her father, so I am even more convinced it’s in her blood. She was rolling the dough out with her hands, stretching and lengthening it with every pass. Paige carefully took the snake like dough ropes and made the shape of the letter U to start then she crossed the ends over the required two times and then secured the twist to the big loop. Time after time she got a little bit better, she was in a fierce competition with her Father to see who could make the most pretzels- I’m giving the win to her, she’s adorable and she throws better fits than her father. I did overhear her at one point saying “daddy, I love helping mommy cook it’s so much fun” to which my husband replied “well, Paige now you can be mommies Sous chef, her all time helper.” She replied “ I like that and it means I get to be her taster too.” I’m blessed what can I say I have a mini-me.
Here are a few tricks I learned from my teacher and I am glad to share them with you.
- Use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour, the bread flour has more protein than all-purpose flour, which helps the gluten bonds develop. When you want a chewy or elastic texture this is your go to flour.
- Always double the amount of baking soda in any soft pretzel recipe. The average recipe calls for 2/3 cup in 10 cups of water, add 1 1/3 cup baking soda, it helps the dough swell quicker in the boiling water. It also dries the outside a bit so the dough browns better with the egg wash in the oven.
- Oven should be set to 425F (the extra baking soda is going to make it brown faster) and use the convection setting if your oven has it.
- Use Kosher or sea salt.
There you go, secrets to an amazing soft and chewy German style pretzel.
This time I changed the seasonings up a bit, on half of the batch I did the traditional egg wash with Kosher salt but the other half I used the egg wash and sprinkled my everyday seasoning on it. Talk about a different flavor but a truly wonderful one at that. Salt, pepper, granulated garlic, granulated onion, and parsley. That addition along with the baking soda’s acidic wash was unbelievable, I hope that you try it some time. I included my every day seasoning too along with my pretzel recipe. Grab some deli style mustard or make a smooth and creamy cheese sauce and enjoy the fresh flavors and surprising fun you will have making fresh German style pretzels.
Soft Style German Pretzels
- 1½ cups warm water (105-110)
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp Kosher salt
- 2½ tsp or (1 pkg) yeast
- 4 cups bread flour
- 4 oz melted unsalted butter
- 10 cups water
- 1 1/3 cups baking soda ( do not double this amount, it already has been for this recipe)
- 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Kosher salt or sea salt
- In the bowl of your stand mixer add the salt, sugar, melted butter and warm water. Mix with a whisk until sugar and salt dissolve. Sprinkle yeast in water and give it a quick mix with the whisk, let set for 5 minutes. Add all the flour to the yeast mixture and with a dough hook, mix on low speed until combined, then raise the speed to medium and let mix for 8 minutes.
- Take dough out of the bowl and set it on a clean dishtowel. Oil your mixing bowl lightly and return the dough to the bowl, turning once to make sure the dough has an even coat of oil. I like to use grape seed oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place the dish towel over it, let it rest in a warm place in your kitchen for about an hour. It should be doubled in size.
- During the rise time, line 2-4 baking sheets pans with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a boil in a large pot. Pre heat over to 425 F.
- When the dough has risen, lightly oil your work surface, turn out the dough and divide into 8 pieces. For large pretzels, roll out each piece of dough into a 2 foot rope. Make a U shape and flip ends of the rope across each other two times to make a rope twist and press onto the bottom of the U to create the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the baking sheets.
- To make mini pretzels take the 8 pieces of dough and roll each ball out a few times until you get a t 4” log shape, divide that into 3 pieces, roll each dough piece into a rope shape, make the U shape and flip ends of the rope across each other two times to make a rope twist and press onto the bottom of the U to create the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the baking sheets.
- Very carefully place the pretzels into the boiling water, two at a time, for 30 seconds; I lightly flip them over at the 15-second mark. Remove with a slotted spoon and place back on the baking sheet, brush the top of each pretzel with the egg & water wash then sprinkle the pretzel with your salt.
- Bake 20-25 minutes for the large pretzels 12-14 minutes for the small pretzels or until golden brown. Watch carefully a golden brown pretzel can burn very quickly.
- Place on a cooling rack.
- 1 cup Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
- 1 tablespoon granulated onion
- 1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- mix well and store in a jar or zip top bag.
- A few other ingredients you can add to change up the flavors are: dried rosemary, mustard powder, cumin, dried basil or chili powder.