Do-it-yourself soft, salted pretzels

Hello readers!  Whether you’re new to my kitchen corner or a faithful visitor, I’m glad you found your way to this page. With spring semester completed, and after the necessary week of straight post-finals sleep, many of us experienced a phenomenon — free time. For those of you taking summer classes, you have my pity. For the rest, we were confronted with a sudden lack of schedule and structure. I am not sure how you all responded to this dilemma, but I took the most natural route, to go shopping. The mall was where I had left it last summer, thankfully, and as I wandered its hallways I caught scent of the true reason I had come — soft pretzels. Salty, chewy, twisted, and warm, they are a food I can never refuse. Pretzels are simple enough, a basic yeast dough dipped in a baking soda wash, then cooked on high heat to give them a dark shiny outside and moist bready inside. “I can do this myself,” I thought, a saying which often results in trouble (remind me to tell you about the time I decided to start a petting zoo with our farm chickens) but this time resulted in surprising success. My soft pretzels turned out smaller and less sweet but were equally satisfying. Here’s the recipe:

Dough:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar (you could increase this to a few tablespoons for a sweeter dough)

1 packet (2 ¼ tsp.) quick-rise yeast

1 cup warm water (around 110 degrees F is optimal, but who are we kidding, no one checks the temperature of water. Basically, hot enough that you can swirl your finger in it and it’s not scalding, but not the most comfortable thing either. When in doubt, air on the side of warmer. The coolness of the mixing bowl will bring the temperature down, too cool and the dough won’t rise properly, too hot and it’ll kill the yeast.)

Additionally:

½ cup warm water

½ tsp. baking soda

Cooking oil

Coarse sea salt (this is important!)

3 Tbsp. butter

Instructions:

  1.  Take all the dry dough ingredients (flour, salt, sugar, and yeast) and thoroughly combine them in a mixing bowl. Then, add the hot water and stir until there are no pockets of dry flour.
  2.  Dust your countertop with flour or pour a drizzle of oil on it and knead the dough for five minutes. It should be stretchy and not too sticky.
  3.  Flour the inside of your mixing bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and set somewhere warm to rise for around 30 minutes or until nearly doubled in size.
  4.  Crank up your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (right around here is when my smoke alarm went off) and oil a baking sheet.
  5.  Take the dough from its bowl and set it on the floured/oiled countertop. Cut it into eight somewhat equal pieces, using a sharp knife and making short, quick cuts.
  6.  Stir the baking soda into the half a cup of water until mostly dissolved and then microwave it for a minute. Heating it in a saucepan until hot works fine.
  7.  Taking your first lump of dough, roll it into a tube about a foot long. I recommend rolling it between your palms, while intermittently squeezing and stretching it. In the end, it doesn’t need to be perfect. It will give your pretzels character!
  8.  Twist the tube into a pretzel-shape, by looping it into a P, then tucking the remainder underneath the top of the P-loop, and over the bottom of it. You’ll probably have to tweak it after looping; mine never look great in the beginning. I recommend making them in two batches, four each. This gives plenty of room to rise without smashing each other.
  9.  After twisting, dip each uncooked pretzel into the baking soda bath; a quick dunk is all they need. Set on the baking sheet, sprinkle with sea salt and let rest for ten minutes (this is where you clean up that giant mess just created.)
  10.  Cook for 9-10 minutes, or until golden brown. After removing from the oven, brush with melted butter immediately, so they can absorb all that golden goodness. You can also sprinkle them with more salt if you like.

These taste best hot, so I recommend eating them all, immediately. They’re great dipped in nacho cheese sauce, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar or plain. As always, Instagram or Tweet me with questions, comments, or photos @linguistic__love, or #KitchenCorner.