From 6 Bittersweets
Adapted from Owl Moon Studio and FoodMayhem
Makes 12 pretzels
XIAOLU'S NOTES: The amounts of filling ingredients given below are approximate. You may use a little more or less depending on personal judgment, how wide you press the dough, etc. Also, I already reduced the sugar greatly from the original dough recipe, but feel free to change the amount to as high as 1/2 cup. If you don't have a stand mixer, just mix the dough ingredients in the same order as below but with a wooden spoon, then knead by hand for 5 to 8 minutes until dough is smooth.
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F)
1 Tbsp PLUS 1 tsp sugar, divided
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour, divided
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp table salt
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
1 cup creamed spinach [prepared according to directions if frozen]
Red pepper flakes (optional)
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
3/4 to 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese [or string cheese torn into strips]
2 Tbsp butter, melted
Kosher or other large salt, to garnish
In a small bowl combine warm water, 1 teaspoon sugar, and yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes or until foamy.
Put 3 1/2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon table salt in the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix with the paddle attachment for a few seconds. Add vegetable oil and yeast mixture and just mix until moistened.
Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Add in the remaining cup of flour while dough is kneading. When dough is done kneading, place in a large oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise till doubled in size, about 1 hour.
30 minutes before you plan to bake, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F . Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray or line with parchment paper. Dissolve baking soda in hot water.
When dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope, roughly 1/2-inch diameter. Press the ropes flat, until about 2-inch across.
Mix red pepper flakes, if using and to taste, into the creamed spinach. Spoon a 1/2-inch wide row of spinach mixture down the center. Sprinkle a small amount of mozzarella and feta cheese over the spinach. Roll up dough about the filling and pinch the edges shut. Shape into pretzels, gently pressing ends down to attach. Carefully dip pretzels, one at a time, into the baking soda/water, then place pretzels on baking sheet. Be gentle to avoid the filling breaking through. In fact, these are delicate enough that you might want to lower the pretzels into the water while in your hands instead of dipping. Bake for 8 minutes, or until golden brown.
As soon as the pretzels come out of the oven, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with a little salt. Let cool 5 minutes. Then enjoy right away or reheat leftovers later in a toaster oven, sandwich press, or even waffle iron.