I'm recycling my no-knead pizza dough yet again to make soft pretzels because: (1) I HATE kneading dough, (2) the long, slow rise works well with my schedule and gives the dough more flavor, and (3) the pretzels taste great!
Servings: Makes 12 soft pretzels
Sodium: Less than 5 mg per pretzel
Time: About 1 hour active, 12-18 hours inactive.
Ingredients for dough: 500 g bread flour (about 4 cups, all purpose flour works fine, too but bread flour gives you a slightly chewier crust) 1/2 tsp garlic powder 1/2 tsp onion powder 1/4 tsp instant yeast
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil 2 tablespoons honey 315 g water (about 1 1/3 cups)
*See step 6, below about option of leaving out garlic and onion powder for sweet pretzels.
Egg wash ingredients:
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
Poaching liquid ingredients:
About 2 quarts (8 cups) of water
3/4 cup baking soda substitute (I use potassium bicarbonate)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, minced dried garlic, minced dried onion, Swiss cheese, or cinnamon/sugar.
1) Mix the dough and give it a long rest: In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and stir to blend, then add the wet ingredients and using a wooden spoon or your hands, mix thoroughly. I usually start with a spoon, and finish mixing by hand to get it combined. The dough is shaggy and sticky. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let the dough rest for 12-18 hours at room temperature until it has doubled. Don't worry if your house is cold at night, this slow rise works well in cooler temperatures and apparently even helps to improve the flavor.
About the timing: After about 10-12 hours, you can throw the dough into the refrigerator for up to 24 hours until you're ready to use it. This is where this slow rise can give you a lot of flexibility. I usually mix my dough at night and bake the following afternoon because this fits in with my kids' bedtime/nap schedules. If you need the dough to be ready in the evening, mix it at night, put it in the refrigerator in the morning, and then take it out and let it sit about half an hour on the counter before you proceed with the recipe.
2) Preshape the dough: Turn the dough out on a floured work surface and divide into 12 pieces. I usually just eyeball it and start by dividing the dough in half, and then the halves into halves, etc. Take each piece and roll it up into the shape of a small hotdog bun, then cover with a dry kitchen towel and let the dough rest for 15 minutes. This gives the dough some time to relax so it's easier to roll out. Don't worry too much about the shape, you just need to get the dough into some kind of shape so that it has a little bit of structure to it. I go with the bun shape because we're going to be rolling it out into a long rope so the bun shape makes that easier than say a ball.
3) Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper, and lightly oil each one. Preheat your oven to 450°F.
4) Shape the pretzels: After 15 minutes, take one piece of dough at a time and roll both your hands over it to form a long rope, about 20-22 inches long. Lightly flour the dough and work surface as needed. Now shape the pretzel. Start by setting the rope into a long U shape. Then cross the ends. Then flip the crossed ends once, and bring them down to the curved bottom. I like to have the ends extend just a little bit past the curved bottom but that's a matter of preference. Transfer the shaped pretzel to the parchment-lined sheet pan and adjust the shape as needed. Shape the remaining pretzels, with 6 pretzels per pan. It's almost Valentine's Day so I decided to shape half of my pretzels into hearts. To do this, shape into a heart and twist the pointy end to keep it pointy and then press the two ends together so they don't separate while boiling.
Cover the shaped pretzels with a dry kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
5) Boil the pretzels: Bring 2 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar to a boil in a large pot. I use a large 5.5 quarts sauté pan that works great for this because it's shallow and wide. Once the water comes to a boil, add the potassium bicarbonate, it will bubble up immediately. Then add 2-3 pretzels to the boiling water at once, and cook for 30 seconds. I was worried that the pretzels would lose their shape easily when I threw them into the water but they held up really well. Just transfer gently and drop them in evenly. I don't flip the pretzels, but I do sort of throw water on them while they're in the pan. I was making heart shaped pretzels in this video below, but the same idea applies.
Remove with a large slotted spoon, shake off any excess water, and place back on the sheet pan.
The boiling is what gives the pretzels their signature exterior and sets them apart from other breads, so I wouldn't skip this part. If you don't have potassium bicarbonate or don't want to use up 3/4 of a cup of it just for this, just boil in water and sugar. Your pretzels will not brown quite as well but it's close, and much better than not boiling at all.
6) Apply the egg wash and toppings: Whisk together 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water, and gently brush each pretzel with the egg wash. Sprinkle whatever seed toppings you want on the pretzel. For a cinnamon sugar pretzel, just leave it plain. After the pretzel is done baking, brush with butter and sprinkle with a cinnamon sugar mixture. For this batch, I made one pretzel with Swiss cheese (just place a slice on top), three with an everything bagel mix (minus the salt), and two with just an egg wash because I would later turn these into cinnamon sugar pretzels.
It might seem strange to keep onion and garlic powder in the dough if you're making sweet pretzels, but I personally think they enhance the flavor of the pretzel without being overwhelmingly onion-y or garlic-y. That said, if you're really sensitive to these flavors, you can leave them out for sweet pretzels. And if you want the dough itself to be sweeter, add up to 2 additional tablespoons of brown or white sugar to the dough mixture (don't add more honey).
7) Bake at 450°F for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Transfer the hot pretzels to a cooling rack and serve hot. If you're making cinnamon sugar pretzels, brush with melted oil and generously sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture.
-Use a scale to measure the ingredients whenever possible, especially flour. If you don't have a scale, King Arthur Baking has this great video on how to measure flour accurately.
-Measure out the olive oil before the honey. That way your tablespoon will be oiled and the honey will slide off easily.
-The easiest way to clean dough off your bowls and spoons is to let them dry out for a few hours and scrape off the dry dough before you wash so you don't have as much of the soggy dough at the bottom of your sink.