I don't love the mall.
My teenage self would be horrified at those words, but it's true.
Between the crowds, the noise and the dressing room lighting, the mall usually leaves me feeling a little wrung out.
I do love the smell of the mall, though: movie theater popcorn, cinnamon rolls, and, of course, fresh pretzels.
I have a weakness for mall pretzels. They are warm, salty and buttery, and they satisfy my mid-afternoon carb craving. Come to think of it, the only thing I don't love about mall pretzels is the mall itself. Wouldn't those pretzels be better without all the noise and the people and the lack of seating?
Yes. Yes, they would.
Soft pretzels are so easy to throw together that there really is no reason not to make them yourself. The ingredients are basic, the process is simple, and you can make a whole batch for less than what one would cost you at the mall.
Don't skip the boiling step with these: it's what gives them that wonderful chewy outside while keeping the inside soft. I like them topped with just butter and salt, but they are also good dipped in warm mustard or pizza sauce, or even sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar.
Goth kids and mysterious table stickiness totally optional.
- 1 pkg. active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 c. warm water
- 2 T. brown sugar
- 2 t. kosher salt
- 1 c. bread flour
- 3 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 T. vegetable oil
- 10 c. water
- 1/4 c. baking soda
- 1 egg yolk
- melted butter + additional coarse salt, for topping pretzels
Dissolve yeast and brown sugar in 1 1/2 c. warm water. Let rest until foamy, about five minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together flours and 2 t. kosher salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and pour in yeast mixture and 1 T. oil. Mix well.
Turn dough out onto lighty floured surface and knead briefly, until dough is smooth and elastic. Put dough into a well-oiled bowl, cover with a lightweight cloth and let rest in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30-45 minutes.
After dough has risen, divide it into eight pieces. Shape each into a rope no more than 1/2" thick. (If you want larger pretzels with more "space," roll your dough no thicker than the diameter of a pencil. If you like them "fatter," roll the dough closer to 1/2" thick, like I did.) Dough will be sticky, but will lose its stickiness as you shape it into ropes. Use as little flour as possible to help in this process: too much flour will make the dough difficult to work with.
Shape each rope of dough into a pretzel: shape rope into a large "U" shape; cross ends over each other, twist once and press into place.
Place pretzels on parchment-lined cookie sheets and cover with a lightweight cloth. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 15-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil 10 cups of water mixed with 1/4 c. baking soda, and preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Boil pretzels in water, one at a time, for about 30 seconds. They will puff up a bit during this process. Remove pretzels from boiling water with a large spatula or slotted spoon. Put back on parchment-lined cookie sheets.
After all pretzels have been boiled, brush them with a mixture of one egg yolk and a tablespoon of water. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for 12-18 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush with melted butter if desired.
Pretzels are best enjoyed right away.
Makes 8 large pretzels.