I had my first pretzel when I was nine years old during the summer we visited my Aunt in Germany. It was a little kiosk in the middle of a park that smelled of bread and butter. The pretzels where warm, soft and chewy, with the bits of salt crushing between your teeth, and the buttery crust just makes it all perfect.
I always thought homemade pretzels were a time consuming task, an impossible recipe to master, and quite honestly… a headache to make. But as is the case with many of my recipes, I decided to try it anyway due to lack of decent pretzels around.
I was pleasantly surprised one day when the whole thing too 30 minutes, start to finish. However I have to admit, the most disheartening part about the process is when you reach to the bowl and find out that it’s been wiped clean, not even a speck of salt left.
Worth the work? Yes. Worth the carb overload? Heck yes.
Salty, doughy, buttery bites of heaven. Served with a cheese sauce dip. It’s a 4-step simple recipe (no mixer required, just bring out that wooden spoon and stir away) with ingredients you can probably reach into your pantry right now and find just lying there. Just make the dough, roll and cut, boil in a baking soda bath, and bake. There are no shortcuts here. The baking soda bath will give your pretzels that authentic golden kiss and their fluffy centers. I also read something about using Lye solution instead of baking soda, but I have no idea what that is, and considering I live in a place where there are no mini marshmallows, I didn’t even bother looking. So if you know anything about it, let me know!
The dough comes together quickly, with little kneading required. You don’t have to let it rise either, just 10-minutes and it’s all set (enough time to clean up your work space)
And yes, I did mention cheese sauce. AVOID store bought ones. They’re overpriced, just filled with additives and lack the real cheese flavor. And let’s be frank, do you really want to ruin those perfect bites of heaven just because you got a bit lazy towards the end?
Soft. Golden. Chewy. Fluffy. Gone in 60 seconds.
HOMEMADE SOFT PRETZEL BITES
Yield: I lost count. But I did manage to make 2 knotted pretzels.
For the Soft Pretzel Dough:
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (lukewarm, no need to take temperature)
- 1 packet instant yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
- 15 g unsalted butter, previously melted and not scorching hot
- 450-500g all-purpose flour + more for the counter surface to knead
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 1 large egg, beaten
- coarse sea salt for sprinkling
For the cheese sauce:
- ½ Tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ Tablespoon all-purpose flour
- ½ cup milk
- 220 grams Cheddar cheese, grated
- Honey Dijon mustard or Cayenne and hot sauce (optional)
- Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir with a spoon until fairly mixed. Some clusters of yeast may remain.
- Add salt, sugar, and melted butter; stir until fairly combined. Slowly add 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time. Mix with a wooden spoon until dough is thick. Add 3/4 cup more flour until the dough is no longer sticky. If it is still sticky, add up to 1/4 cup more.
- To check if the dough is ready, poke it with your finger – if it bounces back, it is ready to knead.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes and shape into a ball. Place in a large mixing bowl that has been lightly coated with nonstick spray. Cover and let the dough rest in a warm area for about 10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 200 C. Line two large baking sheets with silicone baking mats (Avoid parchment paper because they will stick to them). Set aside.
- With a sharp knife, cut ball of dough into 6 sections. Roll the dough into six long ropes. Cut the rope into 4 cm pieces to make bites.
- Boil 9 cups of water with the baking soda. Make sure it is rapidly boiling. Drop 8-10 pretzel bites into water and let sit for 20 seconds, don’t overcrowd the pan since the bites will puff up a bit.
- Remove with a spatula and place onto the prepared baking sheet. Make sure the bites aren’t touching.
- Brush beaten egg over each pretzel bite. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake batches for 15 minutes each, or until golden brown.
- Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before eating.
- For the Cheese sauce: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and cook until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the Cheddar cheese until smooth and all of the cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper, to taste (optional: add a dollop of honey Dijon mustard for an extra kick, or even some cayenne pepper and hot sauce for a spicy version).
- Pretzel bites remain fresh for up to 3 days in an airtight container, though they will lose some softness.
P.S. I’m also guilty of eating the bites with Nutella spread all over them.
Bon Appetit 🙂