Homemade Soft Pretzels | the perfect party food

I'm not sure how I happened upon this particular recipe, but it's an adaptation from Alton Brown's homemade soft pretzel recipe and has been amazing from the first time that I made it to this past Sunday, when I made a batch for a Superbowl party. There are never enough pretzels and they are always GONE straight into people's bellies.

Here in San Diego there were a lot of West Coast fans rooting for the Seahawks this Superbowl - plus, the party I went to was hosted by the ex-wife of a former Seahawk footballer (helmet above)... so the majority of party people were definitely going for the Seahawks. I wore my Chargers shirt anyway because honestly, if the Chargers weren't playing, I didn't really care who won!

Back to the party food though. You're going to gather these ingredients:

1.5 C warm water
1 T white sugar
2 t salt
2 1/4 t instant yeast
4 1/2 C all-purpose flour
2 oz unsalted butter, melted - for the dough
10 C water
2/3 C baking soda
2 t butter, melted - for the formed pretzels
course sea salt, for sprinkling

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the water, sugar, yeast, and salt on low speed for 10 seconds. Switch to the dough hook and add the flour and butter, and mix on low speed until well-combined. Increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 5 minutes. It will be perfect when it looks like this:

Pour a little oil around the sides (I used a 50/50 canola/EVOO mixture), cover with a warm, damp cloth, and set it in a warm place for about 55 minutes - or until the dough has doubled in size. I always preheat my oven to 250 for 3 minutes, turn the oven off, then set it in the oven to rise... it is nice and warm without cooking it, and rises nicely.

When the dough has risen, you're going to turn the dough out onto a lightly-oiled work surface (I use my counter top) and divide it into 8 equal pieces, or 16 if you want smaller pretzels that last a little longer, or even 32 if you want them even smaller! Preheat the oven to 425° F and line 2 large baking sheets with silicone/Silpat mats, or parchment paper if you don't have those, and set aside. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope if making 8 large pretzels, and 12-inch rope if making 16 small ones, and smaller if making 32. Place a barely damp towel over the dough and the formed pretzels to prevent them from drying out while you form the other pretzels. They will look like this (this is half of my batch of 32 small ones... word to the wise, people will grab these up so make a bunch):

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an wide 8-quart-ish saucepan. Using a spatula or scoop with drain holes, gently lower the pretzels into the boiling water and boil them for 30 seconds or more... you want to see them plumping up. Depending on the size of your pot and your pretzel size, boil 2 to 8 pretzels at a time. Remove the pretzels from the water using the spatula, drain as best you can over the pot or a napkin nearby, and place them on the baking sheets.
They will look like this:

See how they have plumped up and have those grooves that make pretzels so good?
Next you're going to brush the top of each pretzel with some melted butter and sprinkle with the course sea salt:

Bake until dark golden brown in color, about 12-14 minutes for smaller pretzels, and possibly longer for larger ones. Lightly brush pretzels with the remaining melted butter immediately after you remove them from the oven if you like and serve warm... but these are good even hours later.

Pop them in the microwave for 10 seconds or so to revive that warm goodness, if desired. I serve with lots of mustard!

The kids at the party kept jumping in the trampoline, tossing the football, and then coming back inside to check the score and grab another pretzel.

Enjoy... I hope they become as easy a staple for you as they have for me!

Thanks for looking :)


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