A fun thing to do with pretzel dough: Make one big pretzel to serve a crowd! There's really no wrong way to intertwine the strands; just be sure to leave some space between pieces of dough while you work, or they'll rise and bake together and it won't look as pretzel-y! Oh, and don't forget the mustard. —Erin McDowell
8 to 10
bread flour (5 1/2 cups)
active dry yeast (1 tablespoon)
kosher salt (2 1/2 teaspoons)
warm water, 95 to 100° Fahrenheit (1 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, mix the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt to combine.
Add the water and butter and mix on low speed until the dough comes together, 3 minutes.
Raise the speed to medium high and continue to mix until the dough is very smooth, 4 minutes more.
Transfer the dough to a large bowl lightly greased with nonstick spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 10 even pieces (about 3 ounces each). Cover the dough loosely with greased plastic wrap on your work surface and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. I like to use the bottom of the baking sheet so there’s no edges getting in the way (or you can opt for a totally flat cookie sheet if you’ve got one!
Start by making the outer ring: You’ll use 3 pieces of dough, so start by gently pressing them together a bit. Press the dough into a slightly oblong shape, just by pushing it flat with your fingers. Start at the top of the dough (the end farthest away from you), and fold one third of the piece of dough over onto itself. Press firmly with your fingertips or with the heel of your hand to "seal." Continue to fold the dough over and press to seal until it has formed a log shape.
Starting with very light pressure in the center of the dough, roll the dough between your hands and the work surface, elongating the log. Roll until the strand is evenly about 1/3 inch in circumference. Form the strand into a large ring on the prepared baking sheet, and press the ends together where they meet to seal.
Now it’s time to shape the inside. First, shape each piece of dough as described above, folding it over onto itself and sealing with your fingers or the heel of your hand, then rolling into a strand. I usually build from the outside in: I start with a round shape with the first piece of dough. Next, I twist another piece of dough around a portion of that circle so that they are connected, then I make it into a round too. Make sure each piece of dough is touching (or even twisted partially around) the outer ring. It doesn’t have to be twisted, though; if it’s touching, it will rise together, bake together, and stay together (promise)! Really, anything goes here—just intertwine the last 7 dough strands together to make twists, rounds, and such until you’ve got one big pretzel!
Cover the pretzel with greased plastic wrap and let it rise for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
While the dough rises, prepare your lye solution. Wear gloves and eye protection! Place the lye in a large, non-reactive, heat-safe bowl. Pour the boiling water over the lye, taking care not to inhale the steam that emits from the lye. Wait 1 minute, then add the cold water to the mixture, and cool a bit (or all the way to room temperature).
Preheat the oven to 425° Fahrenheit. Use a pastry brush to generously brush the entire surface and sides of the dough with the lye solution—I usually do it twice to make sure I didn’t miss a spot. Top generously with coarse salt.
Bake until the pretzel is deeply golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes (if you’re not sure if it’s done, you can always take an internal temp; it should be around 185° Fahrenheit. Cool at least 15 minutes before serving with mustard and beer!
I always carry three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's pie. My first cookbook, The Fearless Baker, is out on October 24, 2017.