Soft pretzels are one of the best things to use to make a sandwich, or to eat on their own. You can buy some delicious soft pretzels from a number of brands, but if you’re someone who likes to bake, you can also make them at home. Essentially, pretzel dough is pretty simple. However, it’s the other parts of making pretzels that can get tricky, including shaping your pretzels and boiling them before baking (in the same way as you would a bagel) to get that chewy crust. Once you’ve found yourself a recipe that you want to try, here’s how to nail your pretzels.
Understand What a Soft Pretzel Is
What is a pretzel? What isn’t a pretzel? First, you need to understand what exactly makes a pretzel and what the characteristics of a good soft pretzel are. You’ve likely had soft pretzels before but if you haven’t, now is the time to go out and get one. A pretzel is a baked product, which is traditionally shaped into a knot, although it can be in other shapes too. Before baking, pretzels are boiled in an alkaline solution, which traditionally uses lye but could also use baking soda. The boiling gives the pretzel its distinctive chewy skin and its flavor.
Learn How to Shape Pretzels
After making your basic yeasted dough and proofing it, the next step is to shape your pretzels (before proofing again). If you want to create the traditional knot shape, it might look intimidating but it’s not as difficult as it may seem. Firstly, take enough dough for one pretzel and roll it into a thin rope. Next, make a loop and twist the ends together so each end goes over and under once. Then bring the ends to the bottom of the loop and secure them. It’s as easy as that, and will only get easier the more you do. Of course, you can experiment with different shapes too.
Boiling Your Pretzels
Another thing that may seem intimidating is boiling your pretzels. However, without the boiling stage, you will simply end up with standard bread. Your solution should have either food-grade lye or baking soda in the water. You can bake the baking soda at 300 degrees if you want to make the pH closer to lye. Barley malt syrup is also traditionally added to the water, although you can also use brown sugar. When your water is simmering, gently lower two or three pretzels in (however many you can fit in your pot). You should simmer them for 30 seconds on each side, so don’t forget to flip them over.
Finish with Delicious Salt
Finishing your pretzels can be just as important as anything else. Savory pretzels should be finished with an egg wash, as well as salt. Coarse kosher salt or sea salt are options, but you can also choose special salts. Eastern Standard Provisions has some great options, such as white truffle, chili lime and lemon rosemary salt. Salts can be an excellent way to add some different flavors to your pretzels, although there are other ways to experiment as you get more confident too.
Anyone can make pretzels if they’re able to follow a recipe, and you can eat them however you like too.