Something about a warm, soft pretzel is utterly irresistible. The crisp, salted crust hiding a perfectly chewy center. Something this delicious must be insanely difficult to make. There is no way that I could possibly replicate that perfection in my tiny, amateurish kitchen. First big surprise of the year: Pretzels are ridiculously easy to make. Dangerously easy.
Using this simple base recipe, you can make pretzel dogs, pretzels stuffed with garlic and cheese, cinnamon sugar coated pretzel twists and other endless variations. Like the baked corndogs, these are perfect party food. They are addictive, filling and will be devoured quickly. Serve them with a variety of flavored mustards and you will be the talk of the town. Let’s just say that you may have to scrape a couple jaws off the floor when people say “You made these?!?!”
The recipe will make 16 pretzel dogs (each using one half of a hot dog) or you can make a variety of pretzel shapes and twists. I tried a couple sprinkled with cinnamon sugar which, of course, were amazing. If you are looking to truly replicate that Fresh From the Mall taste, brush the pretzels with melted butter after taking them out of the oven. Irresistible. Be careful though, once your loved ones discover just how easy it is to make these beauties, they will be demanding homemade pretzels by the dozen.
Yield: 16 pretzel dogs
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package dry active yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda*
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt (or kosher salt), for topping
8 hot dogs, cut in half
- Combine the warm water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes, until the yeast is foamy and begins to smell of yeast.
- Add the flour and butter to the yeast mixture. Attach the dough hook to the stand mixer and, on medium-low speed, combine the mixture until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and appears shiny, roughly 4 to 5 minutes.
- Spray a large bowl with non-stick spray (or lightly grease with vegetable oil) and place dough in greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Place bowl in a warm area (near the oven, perhaps) and let dough rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Spray parchment paper with non-stick spray. Set aside.
- In a large pot, bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a roiling boil.
- Place the dough on a greased surface, and divide into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope, roughly 12 inches long. Carefully wrap each piece around a half hot dog. Pinch the ends together to seal the dough. Alternatively, to make regular pretzels, shape the rope into a U shape, cross the ends over each other and fold the twisted ends back onto the bottom of the U. Again, pinch the dough together to form a seal. Place each shaped pretzel on the parchment lined baking sheet.
- Boil the shaped pretzels and pretzel dogs, one at a time, in the baking soda water for 30 seconds each. Using a slotted spatula, remove each pretzel dog from the water and place it on a drying rack to allow any extra baking soda mixture to drip off.
- Place the boiled pretzel dogs back on the parchment lined baking sheets.
- Brush with beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with pretzel or kosher salt.
- Bake until golden brown, roughly 14 to 15 minutes. Transfer pretzel dogs to a cooling rack for a few minutes before serving. Serve with a variety of mustards.
* Yes, I know that this seems like a crazy amount of baking soda, but trust me, Alton has clearly done the math on this one. The baking soda mixture gives the pretzels that perfectly crisp crust that you are looking for
Adapted from Alton Brown's Homemade Soft Pretzels