Pretzels originated in Germany in the region of Franconia, the modern-day states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. In Alsace, they are known as Bretzels, meaning bracelet. In a Christmas market in Strasbourg, mulled wine and Bretzels are a popular item. A traditional Weisswurst meal is served with sweet mustard and soft pretzels. Pretzels today are versatile. You can twist them, shape them round them or knot them for your unique pretzel shape.
Pretzels bring me back to my childhood. My father would take me to the mall every Saturday to get a soft pretzel and I would find myself in heaven. The buttery softness with the browning of the outside of the dough is a mouth memory that lasts a lifetime.
Pretzels can take many shapes. As you see in my formula, I have made them into rolls. You can make them 1 oz. size for a dinner roll, 2 oz. size for an appetizer or slider, or 4 oz. size for a sandwich or burger. Imagine leftover Christmas ham and mustard on a soft pretzel roll, or perhaps a fried egg and cheese for a breakfast sandwich or fresh cucumber, tomato and flavored goat cheese if you are vegetarian. Pulled pork slider on a pretzel bun, oh my!
• 1 cup milk
• 2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
• 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
• 1 (2-1/4 tsp.) envelope Fleischmann’s® instant dry yeast
• 2 tsp. salt
• 2 to 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 3 quarts water
• 3/4 cup baking soda
• Pretzel salt
• Cinnamon and sugar
1. In a small saucepan, heat milk, brown sugar and butter until warm (120 to 130 degrees); the butter will not completely melt.
2. In mixing bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attachment, add warm milk mixture.
3. Add yeast and mix on low for 3 minutes.
4. Add half of the amount of flour and mix on medium for 3 minutes.
5. Add salt and mix on low for another 3 minutes
6. Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.
7. Knead in mixer using dough hook attachment about 8 to 10 minutes. Dough will be smooth when finished. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size, in a warm environment (preferably 80-90 degrees.)
8. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
9. Combine water and baking soda and bring to a boil.
10. Punch dough down and divide into desired size. Form each piece into a tight, smooth ball. Boil each rounded ball in the solution for 2 minutes, turning after 1 minute. Remove rounded balls from pot using a slotted spoon and place on a greased or silpat lined baking sheet. If using parchment, you will need to spray it with pan spray to avoid pretzels sticking to paper after boiling solution.
11. Add salt to top before baking.
12. Bake for 15 minutes then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake an additional 10 to 12 minutes until the loaves are evenly browned. The browning is important — the browning should be very dark like a pretzel.
13. Remove from pan and brush with melted butter.
14. If using cinnamon and sugar, now is the time to roll them in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
Chef Deborah Misik is a baking and pastry arts instructor at The Culinary Institute of Montana at Flathead Valley Community College.
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