Soft-Baked Pretzels

When I think of bread, I often (and unfortunately) forget the Soft-Baked Pretzel. On another culinary adventure, I made a batch of bread dough, altered it some, and tested a few options. Lessons learned? If you fry it, no need to 'bathe' it. The fry was favorable to balls of dough, but less so in the formed pretzel attempt. If you bake it, 'bathe' it. To achieve the brown layer, an alkaline bath is integral in yielding something pretzel-like in appearance and taste. No bath results in salted bread: great for breadsticks, but a pretzel fail. As one could hope for, these savory-skewed Soft-Baked Pretzels paired deliciously with old-fashioned or stoneground mustard. Enjoy!

Servings: 10-12 pretzels
Prep Time: ~2 hrs

Pretzel Dough
2 Cups Warm Water
2 Packages of Active Dry Yeast, rapid rise
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tsp Salt
4 Tbsp Butter, Unsalted, melted
5-6 Cups All-Purpose Flour

Pretzel Bath
5 Cups Boiling Water
2/3 Cup Baking Soda

Egg Wash
1 Egg
1 Tbsp Water
Coarse Sea Salt, garnish

Pretzel Dough: Using warm (to-the-touch) water, pour the yeast, sugar, and salt together and let sit for 5 minutes. Using a mixer at its lowest setting, stir the yeast mixture, pour in the butter, followed by the flour, 1 cup at a time until dough forms. When dough becomes sticky, dust a clean surface with the remaining flour and knead dough until dough no longer sticks to your hands. Form dough into a ball, coat lightly with oil, and cover and let rise for 1-1.5 hours, or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Lightly punch the dough to let out air. Divide the dough into equal balls for desired quantity of pretzels. Roll the dough into strands ~10-14" in length (personal preferences dictate desired thickness). Form each strand of dough into a large "U" and cross the two strands just beyond the lower part of the "U" (about 1/2 inch).

Pretzel Bath: Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water. One at a time, gently place the formed pretzels in the bath for 30 seconds and lay on a lightly-greased cookie sheet, 1-2" apart. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt before baking. Note - a wide, flat pancake spatula is helpful for this, pretzels will soften after the bath. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until brown in color. Remove from oven to cool, pour some hot mustard, and enjoy!!

Nutrition Info (1 pretzel):
Calories 252, Total Fat: 4.3g, Sat. Fat: 2.6g, Cholesterol: 27.8mg, Sodium: 876.6mg, Carb: 44.5g, Fiber: 0g, Sugars: 1.1g, Protein: 6.2g