Better Than Ballpark Pretzels

Oh yeah! You thought the onion soup and the tater tots were good… wait until you make these fool-proof soft pretzels. Seriously, now I know why I gained 5 lbs. this winter (after losing 15 last summer!) — I cannot stop making these and eating these. I eat them for breakfast, for snacks and at night. I’m certainly paying for it now, that’s for sure.

With this recipe, I add both salt and sesame seeds, but you can use one or the other if you choose. I love sesame seeds so that’s just my own personal twist. I don’t see why you couldn’t use cinnamon and sugar, too, but I’m not a sweet lover. I’m all savory. But use your imagination. I’m sure you could bake them until they are almost done and then top with melted cheese… The possibilities are endless! And as you know, this is what I preach. I want everyone to cook to their own tastebuds, which is why I’m not a huge fan of measuring when it comes to savory. Of course in baking you have to be exact, but feel free to cook things the way YOU like them. You are the boss!

1 1/2 C Water warm
1 T Yeast Active Dry
4 1/2 C Flour All Purpose
3 t Salt kosher
2 T Sugar
5 T Butter melted
1 C Baking Soda
2 Eggs
Sea or Kosher Salt for topping
Sesame Seeds for topping – optional

In a large bowl, or mixing bowl of a Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachment (HIGHLY RECOMMEND) add the warm water. My rule of them with the temperature of the water for yeast breads is this: Is it too hot that you wouldn’t take a bath in it? Then don’t kill the yeast with scorching hot water. The water should be warm enough to activate it, but not kill it. Think bath water, not jacuzzi!. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and let it rest for about 10 minutes. It should turn a bit foamy. Once it’s rested, add the salt, sugar and butter. Mix. Again, I HIGHLY recommend using a mixer. It truly makes this and any bread recipe for that matter much easier.

Add the flour little by little. I like to add one cup at a time, ending with the last half cup. After all of the flour is incorporated, you need to kneed this dough like a maniac on a non-floured surface. Yes, it’s tedious and your arms are going to kill you, but it has to be done. You need this dough to be soft and stretchy to obtain that famous pretzel texture. If you’re using a mixer, which I hope you are, switch to the dough hook at this stage.

Kneed the dough for at least 10 minutes. You can use the same bowl you mixed the ingredients in for the next step… which is greasing a bowl with vegetable, canola or olive oil, and resting the dough for at least an over. Cover the dough with saran wrap and a towel to keep it warm.

After one hour, or longer, remove the dough from the bowl and place on a non-floured surface. Now the fun begins!

First, how awesome is this dough? Yes, I’m a food dork. But do you notice how stretchy and shiny it is? These are the kind of things that excite me in life… I love this dough!

Cut a good chuck off the loaf and roll it into a snake-like size. From this point on, you can be creative and form your pretzels into any shape you want. I’m not a fan of the original shape so I twist mine like this: Fold the snake in half and twist it like a Twizzler, that’s the best way to describe it. Then take the bottom part of the twisted dough and feed it through the hook/circle at the other end.

IMG_8012Yes, boiling. Boil a large pot of water with the baking soda. Using a spider or a large slotted spoon, drop each twisted pretzel into the water for about 30 seconds, then place the pretzel on a baking sheet that’s been lightly greased with baking spray. Sprinkle each pretzel with your desired topping – salt, sesame seeds, or both. It’s OK if you spill all over the baking sheet… as you can tell, I did. It really doesn’t matter. Plus it’s no secret I’m a mess in the kitchen.
IMG_8031Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. You can tell when they are done because they’ll turn the prefect shade of brown. And again, if you want them lighter and softer, cook them less. Obviously just make sure you’re not eating raw dough. Also, one more note, try to make the pretzels as close to the same size as possible so they cook evenly.

Now stuff your face!

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Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

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