RJ's De-stressin' Buttered-up Pretzels
By: Robert Jones
This, in my humble opinion, is a great pretzel recipe that I have shamelessly adapted from KAF. It doesn’t require anything fancy, is very forgiving, could be further modified with other ingredients, and can be topped with soooooo many things. But the base is good too and really hits that salty carby comfort food craving that I desire. This will require you to knead and if you do not know how to knead, WORRY NOT for I will teach you
- 2.5 cups of All Purpose Flour (keep an extra ¼ cup around in case you need to add more)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2ish teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 cup of warm water (think the temp you’d like to wash your face with without hurting it)
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- Coarse kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- Clove of minced garlic (if you’re feeling adventurous)
First things first, get your warm water and yeast ready. If your instant yeast was in the fridge, take it out and let it get to room temp. Give it about 10 minutes or so to wake up, your yeastyboys will do better if they have time to adjust. When your yeast is just about warmed up, take your cup of warm water and add a few pinches of sugar to it and dissolve them, this will let your yeast know that there is nutrients available and its time to get to work.
Add your yeast to the warm water and stir until it dissolves and breaks up. Now leave it be for a bit while we get everything else ready. Note this is also a check to see if your yeast is active. If you come back to the water yeast mixture and don’t see some bubbles and foam on top after 5-10 minutes, your poor yeastyboys may be too wimpy to make good dough. You can add more yeast or they just may need longer than usual.
While the yeast is getting activated, whisk your flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. You can also sprinkle flour a surface to knead the dough on OR it is much easier to knead it directly in the bowl which is what I do. In either case, once the flour is mixed go ahead and dump all the yeast water mixture into the flour mixture. Use a spatula to get everything combined, the dough should be fairly sticky at this point, it’ll be better to be too wet than too dry. If it ends up being too dry, slowly add water (1 tablespoon at a time) and work it into the dough until it feels more flexible.
Now it is time to get to work and knead some gluten into this thing. Using the ¼ cup of flour you set aside, powder you hands and sprinkle it on the dough. Now listen, there *is* a technique to kneading in regards to efficiency, however the dough doesn’t know that and this isn’t about looking good or efficiency we just want some dang pretzels. So here’s what you do, raise your dominant hand up, curl your fingers in like you are about to do a palmheel strike into someone’s nose, now pretend your hand is an airplane, the landing gear is the base of your palm and the dough is the runway. You want to come in kind of hard “landing gear” aka bottom of palm first, then apply more force as you go forward dragging and stretching the dough out as you go until the front of your hand plane touches down. Reform the dough into a rough sphere, and then do that again. You’re basically smearing the dough lengthwise again and again. That’s it, that’s kneading.
This recipe requires you to knead for 5 minutes, so I always throw on a good five minute song and just go to town. “September” by St. Lucia is a good one. Smack the dough, stretch the dough, punch the dough; put your feelings into the dough and it will happily transform them into gluten. As you’re doing this feel free to sprinkle more flour on to toughen it up, you’ll know you’re good when the dough doesn’t really stick to anything anymore. You’re done kneading when you can roll the dough into a ball, give it a little poke, and the dimple you make with your finger starts filling itself back in. it should be “springy”.
When you’re satisfied kneading put the dough into an oiled bowl, cover the bowl with a slightly damp towel, and put it somewhere warm and undisturbed for 30 minutes so your yeastyboys can do their job. While they are working you can do some relaxing, try a 15 minute yoga video on youtube, sit down and focus on your breathing for 5 minutes, take a quick walk around the block, whatever helps you lower your heartrate.
After the 30 minutes is up, check on your dough, it should start smelling more like bread and the dough should have ballooned up in size. If neither of those things are true it may need more time/more warmth. But assuming that they are true, flop your dough out onto a floured surface and gently break it into 8 pieces. A pastry knife does the job or a really dull butterknife.
After you separate them, leave them alone for about 5 minutes so some of the air in the dough can be remade by the yeastyboys. But do preheat your oven to 475 while you wait.
Now we can prepare the soak. Take your warm water and sugar mixture and put it into a shallow dish. The dish should be big enough to fit a pretzel so roughly fist sized.
After the 5 minutes is up, you can roll and twist the dough into the traditional pretzel shape but honestly it is much easier to roll each piece of dough into about a 12inch log, fold it in half, and then twist it making a simple pretzel braid. Once your pretzels are all braided or twisted, simply bellyflop each side into the sugar water mixture and then place them on a slightly oiled baking sheet to be put into the oven (parchment paper also helps a bunch). Let them sit for 10 minutes, but while they are waiting sprinkle them with the coarse kosher salt (BE LIBERAL WITH IT!).
After 10 minutes, toss them in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes. They should be a beautiful golden brown on the outside. DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM THEM! They can go from beautiful golden brown to embarrassingly burnt in moments. Take a peek at 6 minutes and see what’s up. And trust your nose, if they smell and look good, they are done. Also be sure to say a work of thanks for all the yeast that sacrificed themselves. Godspeed yeastyboys.
Anyway, once they are done, take the baking sheet out of the oven and onto a heatproof surface. Melt down the butter with the minced garlic and slather all of it, yes, ALL OF IT, on the pretzels with a pastry brush or drizzle with a spoon while they are still hot.
That’s it! Please wait for them to cool down before you dive it, I know it’s tempting. While they are hot you can also put some shredded cheese on top if you so choose. They go great with mustard. Enjoy!