Soft Pretzels

This recipe is based on one from The Martha Stewart Living Christmas Cookbook.  I like to follow this recipe to the step just before baking.  I then freeze the pretzels in a single layer overnight and the next morning package two (wrapped in bakery tissue) to a small sized freezer bag.  Remember to label the bag with the contents and baking instructions to make baking day go a little easier.

When you're ready to eat them, just preheat the oven to 450F, place frozen pretzels on a cookie sheet & bake for 15 minutes. Serve with mustard or cheese sauce.

They also make great gifts packaged with some homemade mustard.

2 cups warm water (about 110F)
1 TBS sugar
1 scant TBS active dry yeast (or one envelope)
2 cups rye flour (you can use all white flour if you prefer - I like the extra flavor the rye adds)
3 1/2 - 4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 TBS table salt
Canola oil for bowl
2 TBS baking soda
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 TBS water for egg wash
Coarse or pretzel salt
Parchment paper or cooking spray

Pour warm water into a mixing bowl.  Add sugar; stir to dissolve.

Using the dough-hook attachment, beat 1 cup flour into yeast mixture on low speed until combined.  Beat in table salt and 4 cups flour until combined, about 30 seconds.  Raise speed to medium-low, continue beating until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup flour; knead on low speed 1 minute or more. If dough is still wet and sticky, add 1/2 cup more flour, knead until combined, about 30 seconds. NOTE: I just use my hand - just be sure to wet your hand and arm well before sticking it into the dough.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead until smooth, about 10 times. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl. cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place until dough has doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

If baking pretzels immediately, preheat oven to 450F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly coat with cooking spray.  Punch down dough to remove air pockets.  Turn out onto lightly floured work surface.  Knead once or twice, and divide into 16 equal pieces (about 2 1/2 ounces each); wrap each piece in plastic.

Roll out dough, one piece at a time, into 18-inch long strips.  Twist into pretzel shapes; transfer to prepared baking sheets.  Cover with a kitchen towel. Let dough rise slightly, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a large, shallow pan with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil.  Add baking soda.  Reduce to a simmer; carefully drop three or four pretzels into the water.  Poach 1 minute. Use slotted spoon to return pretzels to the baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels have been poached.

Brush pretzels with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt.

At this point, if I am going to freeze the pretzels, this is where I stop, place the pretzels in a single layer onto a plate and put into the freezer overnight.  In the morning, I wrap the frozen pretzels in bakery tissue and seal in a quart size freezer bag in whatever portions you like. I find two to a quart size bag works well.

Bake the pretzels (straight from freezer is fine) at 450F for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.  Pretzels will keep at room temperature up to 2 days.  Do not store them in a covered container. Serve warm or at room temperature with homemade mustards or cheese sauce.

Bake until golden brown, 12 - 15 minutes.