Cover with sea salt for a traditional taste to dip in mustard or nacho cheese. Dress it up with a sprinkle of cheese on top, or take it even further with garlic salt, Italian seasoning, and shredded mozzarella, dipped in marinara for an Italian twist. Looking for something sweet? Top with cinnamon and sugar and dip them into yogurt or cream cheese! They’re a snack for all tastes! And they’re surprisingly easy to make.
If you’ve made bread before, then you’re already set. If you haven’t, pretzels might be a good place to start. They’re less fussy than bread, and they don’t need that pesky long second proof. Even the twisting and shaping is simple!
1. Roll your dough into a rope about 12 to 15 inches long. Make a U-shape with the dough on the counter.
2. Cross the right end of the U over the left end about 3 to 4 inches from the top.
3. Cross the right end over the left end again, making a double twist at the top.
4. Fold the twist down so the ends touch the bottom curve of the U, shaping as needed to create the classic pretzel shape.
Or skip the shaping altogether and roll the dough out to an inch thick rope and cut into 1 to 1 ½-inch pieces to make pretzel bites!
A couple tips: If your dough keeps shrinking back while you’re trying to roll it out, let it rest for about 5 minutes before rolling out again. I rolled out about 6 to 8 pieces at a time, rolling until it would pull back, then setting it aside and moving on to the next piece. By the time I was done with the last piece, the first one had rested enough to roll out a bit more!
Also, don’t let your pretzels poach for too long in the boiling water, otherwise they’ll get a little soggy. I poached some of my pretzel bites while I was busy cutting the rest, letting them boil for an extra minute or so, and they ended up a bit squishy.
I know what I’ll be snacking on during the game. How about you?
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 16 full sized pretzels, 32 mini pretzels, or a whole lot of pretzel bites
2 cups warm water (100F to 110F) (should feel warm to the touch, but not hot)
1 tablespoon, plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 (1/4 oz) package active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
Oil or cooking spray, to coat bowl
¼ cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse sea salt or pretzel salt
1. Pour warm water and 1 tablespoon of sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and stir to combine. Sprinkle with yeast and let stand for 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy.
2. Add 1 cup of flour to yeast and mix on low with the paddle attachment (or dough hook if you prefer) until combined. Add salt and 4 cups more of flour, mixing until combined. Beat on medium low speed until dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Add another ½ cup of flour and knead in mixer on low for 1 minute more. (Or turn out onto a clean, lightly floured work surface and knead by hand.) If dough is still sticky, add another ½ cup of flour. Knead until smooth.
3. Oil a large bowl (or spray with cooking spray). Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.
4. Preheat oven to 450F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats, or spray with cooking spray to coat; set aside. Punch down dough to remove any air bubbles. Transfer to a clean, lightly floured work surface and divide into 16 pieces (or 32 if you’re making mini pretzels). Cover with plastic wrap to keep from drying out while you’re working with other pieces.
5. Roll one piece of dough at a time into a 12 to 15 inch long rope. Shaping the rope into a U-shape, bring the right end of the rope over the left end about 3 to 4 inches from the top. Repeat, bringing the right end over the left end to create a double twist at the top of the U. Fold the twist over so the ends touch the bottom curve of the U, shaping as necessary to create the classic pretzel shape. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Continue shaping the remaining pieces of dough. Let pretzels rest about 15 minutes, or until they’ve puffed slightly. (*Alternately, roll dough out into ropes 1-inch thick. Cut rope into 1 ½-inch pieces to make pretzel bites. Transfer to prepared baking sheets, careful not to put them too close together, otherwise they’ll stick to each other!)
6. While pretzels are resting, fill a large pot with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Add baking soda (carefully, because it will bubble furiously! And make sure your pot has high sides, because it might boil over otherwise.) and two remaining tablespoons of sugar. Reduce heat to a simmer; transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute on each side. (They’ll sink to the bottom first, but after about 10 seconds they’ll float up to the top making them easier to flip over.) Use a slotted spoon to drain off as much of the water as you can before transferring to baking sheets. Continue until all pretzels are poached.
7. Beat egg with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush pretzels with egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, or eat warm. They are best when eaten the same day, but will keep at room temperature, uncovered for up to 2 days. Don’t store in a covered container or they will turn soggy!