My kids really enjoy getting a soft pretzel for a special treat. And I like to, as well – so it’s not hard to convince me to spend a few dollars on one to share! It’s something my kids have come to expect, on the rare occasion that we go to the mall. But now that I have three kids, and they eat more…well, I don’t love buying four soft pretzels. That adds up quickly.
I considered different ways to still allow my kids to enjoy soft pretzels. Buying enough pretzels for my family to each have one would cost us about $15. That option is clearly too expensive for me, but what about buying the soft pretzel kits that mall kiosks and some grocery stores carry? At about $10 on sale, and with quite a bit of work still attached, this option wasn’t really much of a savings for me.
I’ve looked up and tried various soft pretzels over the years, but never been totally happy with one. Until recently! I found a soft pretzel recipe that uses a bread machine to mix and rise the dough, making the effort pretty low-key. The ingredients, which I had on hand at home, cost me less than a dollar. The time commitment is higher – but mostly, you just need to be home to shape and boil the dough before baking.
So, in the interest of discovering whether my new go-to soft pretzel recipe would hold up to the discriminating palates of my family, we put it to the test. We bought 5 large pretzels from a mall kiosk and whipped up a batch of 12 smaller pretzels at home, and let our families be the judges.
There were a few complaints that the homemade pretzels were a bit too salty. My recommendation is that you salt to your family’s preference, and remind your kids that the chunks of salt are easy to brush off. But overwhelmingly, our families voted for the warm, chewy, crisper home-baked pretzels over the store-bought. So, if you have a bit of time and want to save a pretty good chunk of change, make your own!
What you need:
For the dough:
- 1/2 c. water
- 1 c. milk
- 1 T. malt powder (or sugar)
- 1 1/4 t. salt
- 4 c. bread flour
- 2 1/4 t. instant yeast
For the pretzel bath:
- 2 quarts (8 c.) water
- 2 T. baking soda
For the glaze and topping:
- 1 egg white whisked with 1 T. water
- 1-2 T. coarse kosher, pretzel, or sea salt (optional)
- bread machine
- measuring cups and spoons
- bench scraper
- large slotted spoon or spatula
- pastry brush
- small bowl and whisk
- lined baking sheets
Time: 2 hours to mix and rise (divided), 20 minutes prep/shaping, 30 minutes baking.
Freezeable: I wouldn’t recommend freezing the baked pretzels because of the salt topping. You could shape the pretzels and freeze them before the second rise. Remove them from the freezer and allow to thaw on baking sheets before boiling, topping, and baking as usual.
Serves: Makes 12 pretzels.
Multiplying the recipe: Only if your bread machine can handle the increase in ingredients. As you can see from the pictures, the risen dough completely fills my 2 lb.-capacity bread machine dough bucket.
For the dough: Add all the dough ingredients to your bread machine dough bucket in the order specified by the manufacturer. Set the machine for the dough cycle and press Start.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
When the dough cycle is complete, remove the dough from the bucket to a floured surface and divide into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a 20″ rope and shape it into a U. Twist the legs of the U over each other one time, and then pull the curve of the U over top of them. Press seams to seal. Place each pretzel on the baking sheet with 2″ space between them. Rise, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400F and bring the pretzel bath ingredients to a boil in the stockpot. When the rising time has ended, careful slide two pretzels into the stockpot at a time, boiling them for 1 minute. With a slotted spatula or spoon, carefully drain them and return them to the baking sheet. Brush each pretzel with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt, if desired.
Bake the sheets, one at a time, in the center of the oven for 15-20 minutes. The pretzels will turn golden brown. Repeat with the remaining sheet. Serve warm, or cool on a wire rack and store in foil for up to three days.