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I have such fond memories of mall soft pretzels.  I started my college career in Spokane.  My mom was a grad student and I was attending my first year at the community college.  Our favorite thing to do was go to the mall for pretzels.  These were a new concept to us and we loved them (so much that we often bought a dozen for home).  It wasn’t something we did all the time but something I missed once I left Spokane.

For a long time we didn’t have soft pretzels in the Palouse.  We do now and I still love their warm salty goodness but I forget that we have a mall, let alone that we can get pretzels there.  (Our mall is quite small and has few shops that interest a middle aged woman like myself.)

I have often thought of making my own and I can’t explain why I hadn’t.  Last weekend, I braved the new frontier and made my own.  I veered slightly off the beaten path and was rewarded with an okay product.

They were slightly overcooked so the hard edges had a very distinct hard pretzel flavor.  I didn’t think they would become my favorite, even with mustard.  Before committing the recipe to a post, I decided to make the pretzels again – this time following the instructions more carefully.  I will say the only thing I didn’t do was put the dough in a ziplock bag the first time and apparently that makes a difference.

I started with the dough – 1 cup lukewarm water, 1 tablespoon yeast (I wanted a little more bounce in my pretzels even though the recipe calls for 2.5 teaspoons), 1 teaspoon sugar and 2 1/2 cups flour.  I skipped the salt because we don’t use a lot of salt and there would be some on the outside of the pretzel.

Mix all the ingredients and knead into a soft but not sticky dough.  I do this all by hand and knead my dough in the bowl so I can contain the mess.  Here’s where I messed up the first time – the recipe says to place the dough in a ziplock bag.  I didn’t do that because it just seemed like a waste.  The dough dried out on top and was difficult to work with.  I still didn’t want to use a ziplock bag so I loosely covered the dough with plastic wrap.

I couldn’t believe how much nicer the dough was to work with.  I saved the plastic wrap and used it to cover my little balls of dough after I divided it into eight parts.

The dough needs to rest after every step for a few minutes.  I made the pretzels while making tomorrow’s post – chocolate covered marshmallows so I had plenty of things to go back and forth with.

I got the dough into pretzel shape but I was too tired to bake them.  The recipe says the pretzels don’t keep so I figured I’d make them in the morning for breakfast.  I shaped them, set them on a silpat covered baking sheet and refrigerated them until morning.

Before refrigeration

After refrigeration

I let the pretzels warm up while I heated the oven and prepped the baking soda dip.  For this recipe, you dip each pretzel in a solution of 1/2 cup warm water and 1 tablespoon baking soda.  I plan on trying to boil the pretzels in a baking soda solution but that means another attempt later and I wanted to get this post out before I forgot.

After dipping the pretzels, I sprinkled on coarse kosher salt.  The first batch I made, I did brush with melted butter but I found that the flavor sort of disappeared into the pretzel.  I felt that the butter didn’t add anything but fat and calories and we can always add some after they have baked.

Into a 500 degree oven and, ten minutes later,out came the beauties at the top of this post.  They were soft and golden.  I think the silpat made a big difference in the texture, along with keeping the dough soft.  The family was so excited to have these warm goodies for breakfast (with a little mustard and string cheese).

I liked that they were easy and that it didn’t take long to put them together the night before and they were quick for a hot breakfast or snack.  I think they might freeze well but that’s another future experiment.

These are not your mall soft pretzels – my family thinks they are better and I think they are good for home.  However, they are all natural and you know everything that’s in them.  I don’t think it would make any difference if you subbed whole white wheat flour (not sure about whole wheat though).  I figured out the calorie count and it’s about 150 calories per pretzel.  There are 8 per batch.  The best part is that the cost to make them is so much lower than buying them at the mall.

Homemade Soft Pretzels

1 cup warm water

1 tablespoon yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup warm water

1 tablespoon baking soda

melted butter, optional

kosher salt

Combine 1 cup water, yeast, sugar and flour in a large bowl.  Mix with wooden spoon until most of the flour is incorporated.  Finish mixing with hands – kneading until the dough is soft and springy (add flour as necessary but you don’t want a stiff dough).  Cover with plastic wrap, loose so that the dough will rise.

Peel off plastic wrap and gently press dough into a ball.  Divide into 8 equal parts and let dough rest for at least 5 minutes.  Roll each ball into a long “snake” and twist into a pretzel shape and let rest 10 minutes.

If you want to bake later – sent pretzels on baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Remove from refrigerator and finish with the process when ready.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Mix remaining water and baking soda.  Dip each pretzel into the water before laying them on an oiled or silpat covered baking sheet.  Brush with melted butter and sprinkle on salt (if skipping the butter be sure to add salt right after dipping so the salt sticks).

Bake for 10 minutes and serve hot.  We can’t say what they taste like cold but I hear it’s not as good.


Update:  I have the perfect baking soda wash happens when you boil the pretzels in the water for 1 minute.  I do double the water so it’s deep enough for the pretzels.  The water smells so good that I keep thinking it will be great for throwing in something baked.

We’ve taken these pretzels on trips and they are just as good cold the next day.  We think we like them best with cream cheese on them.