S. John & Sandra's Soft Pretzels
By S. John Ross ©1998

Baking these is an official Christmas Tradition with Sandra and I. They simply don't get yummier than this; if you enjoy soft pretzels, give them a try.

  • 3 rounded cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder (optional, but recommended)
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • Egg-wash and toppers (optional; see below)

Sift together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and yeast. Combine with butter and milk to make a dough, kneading until satiny (due to the schizophrenic leavening, be prepared for an unusual texture until the dough finally "comes together" into a smooth mass). Set dough in a greased bowl in a warm spot, and allow to double in bulk (or mix and rise in your bread machine, using the Dough cycle).

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Add a teaspoon or two of baking soda to the water, if desired. Do not salt or sweeten the water.

Punch down the dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll or cut each piece into a rope 18-20 inches long, and twist each rope into a pretzel (use a dab of warm water to cement the joining-points if need be).

Optional: At this point, cover the pretzels lightly with paper towels and allow them to rise for half an hour in a warm place.

Slide pretzels into water with a slotted spoon or broad spatula, and boil each one until they float to the top. Remove them immediately to a lightly greased cookie sheet.

The pretzels can be baked as-is, but are more pleasing when they are glazed with an egg-wash and topped with coarse salt or caraway seeds. To make an egg-wash, beat a single egg and a dash of water with a whisk until completely blended, and brush the tops of the pretzels with it. Sprinkle the topper onto the glazed surface.

Bake in a preheated 400º oven until golden. This will take approximately 15 minutes, but monitor the pretzels carefully after 10. If you are using an electric oven, bake the pretzels on a high rack, or the bottoms will overbrown. If no egg-wash was used, brush the pretzels very lightly with melted butter as they emerge from the oven.

Serve fresh and hot with a handy supply of deli mustard (honey mustard for Sandra)! Other tasty dippers and toppers range from garlic butter to melted cheese or even caramel. Note that this recipe makes some satisfyingly thick pretzels - if you enjoy slightly thinner ones, the dough may be divided 12 ways instead of 8.

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