I can remember eating a lot of soft pretzels when I was losing weight. At Cubs games, high school sporting events, and so on, where there were never “healthy” options. As someone cutting calories, events usually meant choosing the lesser of many evils. For me, that was usually in the form of soft pretzels.
Recently, one of my students and I got into a discussion about soft pretzels as he works sporting events for Ohio State. He shared that the pretzels are lathered in butter and the nutrition facts on the box are…grim. …Dang.
When I ran across a recipe a few weeks ago for soft pretzels I knew I had to make them. No butter involved. And they looked…amazing.
Soft Seasoned Pretzels adapted from Joy the Baker and Gourmet, March 2004
1 Tbsp sugar
1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 tsp)
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 Tbsp baking soda
Stir together sugar, yeast, and 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (105 to 110 F) in a glass measuring cup, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
Whisk together 3 1/2 cups flour and 1 tablespoon table salt in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough. Dust work surface with 1 tablespoon flour, then turn out dough and knead, gradually dusting with just enough additional flour to make a smooth sticky dough, about 8 minutes. (Dough needs to be somewhat sticky to facilitate rolling and forming into pretzels).
Return dough to bowl and cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Turn out dough onto a clean work surface and cut into 16 equal pieces. Using your palms, roll 1 piece back and forth on a clean dry work surface into a rope about 14-16 inches long. If dough sticks to your hands, lightly dust them with flour. Twist dough into a pretzel shape. (Dough will retract as you form the pretzel.)
Transfer pretzel with your hands to an oiled baking sheet and form the rest of the pretzels in same manner with remaining dough, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart.
Let pretzels stand, uncovered, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 425 F. Bring a wide 6-quart pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add heaping tablespoon of baking soda.
Using both hands, carefully add 3 pretzels, 1 at a time, to boiling water and cook, turning over once with tongs, until pretzels are puffed and shape is set, about 3 minutes. Transfer boiled pretzels to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining pretzels.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper and oil paper, then arrange pretzels on sheet. Brush pretzels lightly with some of egg and sprinkle with pretzel salt. Bake until golden brown and lightly crusted, about 20-22 minutes. Cool 15 minutes, then serve warm. Yield: 16 small soft pretzels.
- Dough can be mixed and kneaded in a standing electric mixer fitted with dough hook.
- Pretzels are best the day they are made. (When they are kept overnight, salt may dissolve.)
Nutrition Information (per pretzel): 99 calories; 0.1 g. fat; 7 mg. cholesterol; 721 mg. sodium; 21.4 g. carbohydrate; 0 g. fiber; 3 g. protein
Result: Mr. Prevention and I tried these, looked at each other, and just sighed. These are worth every bit of time and elbow grease. They are certainly not “easy” to make, but there’s nothing difficult about them…just set aside the time and patience I think next time I will try and shave off a bit of the sodium by using 1-2 teaspoons in the dough and lighten up the sea salt sprinkled over the egg wash. Make these for a group — they will be impressed! Oh, and forming a pretzel is really very easy. Here is a video: How to fold a pretzel.
It’s ironic that I made these on Sunday because last night I watched an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay that featured soft pretzels. As crazy as these directions sounded, they now all make sense to me.
Some can look better than others, though. Not to brag or anything, but I excel in pretzel formation when compared to Mr. Prevention.
He was a little offended to have his pretzels picked on so publicly, but he swears his tasted better than mine. Sore loser.
Question: What do you like to eat at a sporting event? Nachos? Soft pretzels? Peanuts? Hot dogs?
Have a great day,