I find the smell of soft baked pretzels so alluring I can never seem to pass one up, but then I always find them disappointing. Once you get past the salt and the unique baking soda flavor of the skin, the insides are often tasteless and styrofoamy. So, I thought, why not try making pretzels with an enriched challah style dough so the crumb would be flavorful. Yum! You can shape the dough as pretzels, but for a party I'd suggest cutting up strands of dough into little pretzel bites. It will make a ton! —fiveandspice
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: fiveandspice is a nutrition grad student whose cooking, styling, and entertaining we admire.
WHAT: Brioche-like soft pretzels in bite form. You can serve with mustard, but your guests may not even notice.
HOW: Have faith. By the time the dough has boiled and baked, it will puff beautifully, even if it looks a little shriveled along the way.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Making your own pretzels takes only an afternoon and a bit of attention, and will make you legendary. —The Editors
warm water (around 105F)
active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups
all purpose flour (plus more for dusting surfaces, etc.)
egg white, for egg wash
fleur de sel
In This Recipe
In a large bowl stir together the warm water and honey. Sprinkle with yeast and let stand until the yeast is foamy (about 5 minutes). Stir in the butter, salt, and eggs.
Stir in the flour until it is entirely incorporated and it comes together in a shaggy ball. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead it for several minutes, until smooth. Put in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place until it rises and collapses (90 minutes - 2 hours)
Punch the dough down, and on a floured surface roll it out into 8 ropes, each about 3/4 of an inch wide. Cut the ropes into 1 inch pieces, separate them from each other placing them on a tray or baking sheet and cover with a towel. Allow to rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425F. Bring a large pot filled with 8 cups of water to a boil. Once it is boiling, stir in 2 Tbs. sugar and 1/4 cup baking soda. It will bubble up like crazy! But then it will subside. Turn the heat down to a high simmer and add your little dough pieces, about ten at a time, making sure they're not crowding each other or bringing the temperature down. Let them simmer for about a minute, giving them a couple little stirs during the process to make sure both sides cook. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and put onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
Repeat until all the little dough bites have been cooked in the water and have been placed onto baking sheets. You can squeeze on quite a few per sheet, as long as they have a space between each of them. Brush the bites with egg white and sprinkle with fleur de sel.
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until they are a deep chestnut brown, make sure you don't take them out when they're too pale. Remove onto cooling racks immediately to cool. These pretzel bites are best eaten the day they are baked (very best fresh baked, of course), so I guess you'll have to do it the morning or afternoon of the party!
Serve with a little bowl of mustard, blue cheese dip (1 cup crumbled blue cheese whisked with 1/2 cup mascarpone), or chocolate fondue.
I like to say I'm a lazy iron chef (I just cook with what I have around), renegade nutritionist, food policy wonk, and inveterate butter and cream enthusiast! My husband and I own a craft distillery in Northern Minnesota called Vikre Distillery (www.vikredistillery.com), where I claimed the title, "arbiter of taste." I also have a doctorate in food policy, for which I studied the changes in diet and health of new immigrants after they come to the United States. I myself am a Norwegian-American dual citizen. So I have a lot of Scandinavian pride, which especially shines through in my cooking on special holidays. Beyond loving all facets of food, I'm a Renaissance woman (translation: bad at focusing), dabbling in a variety of artistic and scientific endeavors.