I love soft pretzels, but I hate having to go to the mall to get a good one. I always wanted to make them at home, but assumed they were really hard work. I’d heard about how they need to be steamed or boiled before baking and that it’s a touchy process, so I just steered clear and hit up the pretzel joint whenever I was at the mall.
A few years ago, though, the hubster decided to give them a shot. The recipe he used was pretty time consuming and there were a lot of steps involved. The result? Meh. They were alright. I still preferred the ones from the mall, especially since they were so much easier to acquire. His attempt, however, did make me realize that pretzels don’t have to be difficult to make. Although the recipe he used was very involved, it was much simpler than I had anticipated. With some tweaking and experimentation, there might just be a relatively fast, easy pretzel recipe waiting…
…and there was! This recipe uses just a few ingredients and it only takes about 10 minutes to mix up, 10 minutes to shape, and 10 minutes to bake (plus there is rising time in there, but that’s free time). A huge bonus is that these are coincidentally vegan! Let’s get started!
All you need is yeast, salt, canola oil, all-purpose flour, sugar, and warm water (around 110 degrees). Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the oil and the water and mix until a dough forms. If it is too dry add more water, very little at a time. If it is too wet, add more flour. Knead the dough for eight to ten minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about one and a half hours. Pretty easy, so far, huh?
Wrap the right side of the “U” down, pulling the end towards the right and laying it over the bend in the dough. Next, insert the end of the left side of the “U” through the loop you just created. Pull it through until the two sides of the pretzel look even, then wrap it over to the left, laying the end over the opposite bend. There is a really fast way to do this that involves lifting, twisting, and flinging the dough in the air, but it’s not really a beginner technique.
This pretzel will end up being slightly smaller in size, but will be fat and doughy. That’s how we like them around here. If you want the more traditional pretzel shape, roll your ropes thinner than what I have pictured. That way they will make longer sections in the pretzel and they won’t bake up as fat in the oven.
You can also make pretzel bites (my personal favorite) by cutting the rolled ropes into about 12 pieces each. They look small when you’re cutting them, but keep in mind that these will puff up about twice as big in the next few steps.
Drop your pretzels into the water, one at a time, and leave it until it floats to the surface (about five to ten seconds). Remove the floating pretzel with a slotted spoon, gently shake off excess water, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (I would just like to interrupt these instructions for a moment to share that I am finally getting Silpat sheets and I am so excited I can hardly stand it! I go through a lot of parchment, and I’m thrilled that I will be saving paper, and money, from now on!!) If you’re making bites, you can put quite a few in the water at the same time.
You’ll notice that the water process caused the pretzels to grow in size, almost doubling. This means you can fit quite a few bites on each baking sheet. They will only puff up a little more in the oven, but not much. Give full pretzels at least two to two and a half inches of space between each other.
Bake full pretzels at 450 degrees for 8 to ten minutes, or until golden brown. Don’t allow them to get too dark in color; this recipe goes from just right to overcooked very quickly. Bake pretzel bites at 450 degrees for six to eight minutes.
Place pretzels on a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely before moving on to the next step. For pretzel bites, I just allow them to cool on the sheet for about two minutes, then I brush them off onto the counter and allow them to finish cooling.
These are excellent on their own, or you can serve the salted pretzels with mustard and other condiments, while the sweet pretzels taste delicious with any light icing or glaze. I prefer them just like they are, though!
I will now take a moment to warn you about the serious dangers of this recipe. Due to how easy it is to make, and how melt-in-your-mouth delicious the results are, proceed with caution. You will not, I repeat: will not, be able to resist these. Now, with that out of the way – enjoy!
Easy Soft Pretzels
Makes 12 large pretzels, or about 12 dozen pretzel bites
FOR THE PRETZELS
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water (no warmer than 110 degrees)
1 tablespoon canola oil
FOR THE WATER
4 cups hot (boiling or close to it) water
1/2 cup baking soda
FOR THE TOPPINGS
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
Cinnamon-sugar (1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon)
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the oil and the water and mix until a dough forms. If it is too dry add more water, very little at a time. If it is too wet, add more flour. Knead the dough for eight to ten minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about one and a half hours.
Once the dough is doubled in size, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Turn dough onto a clean, dry surface (dust with flour, if necessary) and divide it into 12 equal pieces (about three and a half ounces each). Roll each piece into a rope, about 18 inches long. Shape each rope into a pretzel, or cut into 12 bites.
Combine hot water and baking soda in a medium bowl. Drop each pretzel/bite into the water and leave it until it floats. Remove with a slotted spoon, allowing excess water to drip off. Place on a line baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes for pretzels, or 6 to 8 minutes for bites. Allow to cool completely before topping.
Melt 1 stick of butter or margarine in a small bowl. Dip each pretzel/bite in the butter. Top with Kosher salt or cinnamon-sugar. Serve.
Recipe by Darla