I don’t know anyone who will turn down some pretzel bread. Because I insisted on combining 3 recipes I found for pretzel bread, I failed a couple of times before finally getting it right this time. A lot of pretzel bread recipes use all-purpose flour, but I used bread flour. The difference is that bread flour has more gluten, and gluten is what gives bread that elasticity (which I believe is critical for pretzel bread). But, if you prefer a low gluten diet, go ahead and substitute all-purpose flour for the bread flour.
Pretzels, like bagels, are boiled before they’re baked. Many pretzel recipes have you boil the pretzel dough in plain water. The traditional way, though, is to boil the pretzels in an alkaline solution. This important step is what will give your pretzel sticks a rich brown color and that unique pretzel dough smell.
2/3 Cup Light Brown Sugar
4 1/2 TSP Active Dry Yeast (or 2 envelopes)
1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
5 3/4 Cups Bread Flour (see above note on using all-purpose flour)
1 Cup Baking Soda
1 Egg + 1 TBSP Water
Coarse Ground Sea Salt
1. Dissolve your light brown sugar in 2 cups of warm water in a mixer bowl. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, sprinkle the active dry yeast over the mixture and let it sit for about 8 minutes. You will see the yeast becoming bubbly on top.
2. Add the vegetable oil to the bowl and 3 cups of flour. Using the dough hook attachment for your mixer, mix the dough until it’s pretty uniform but sticky. Gradually add the remaining 2 and 3/4 cups of flour.
3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured table surface and knead it until it’s smooth. Place the dough ball into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and let it sit at room temperature for an hour. The dough should double in size.
4. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper and lightly butter the parchment paper. Transfer the dough to your table surface and knead it a little more. If your dough is still sticky make sure your table is lightly floured. My dough wasn’t sticky so I didn’t add any flour.
5. Cut your dough into 24 pieces. Roll each piece to the desired length and thickness. The pretzel sticks will grow a lot wider than you think (as mine did) so roll them thinner than I did. Place the sticks on the buttered parchment paper, cover them with a thin towel, and let them sit for about 30 minutes.
6. In a deep sauce pan or a large pot, bring 1 quart of water to a boil . Add 1 cup of baking soda to the boiling water. Keep the water boiling and add about 3 pretzel sticks into the water at a time. Boil the Pretzel sticks for about 30 second, turning them half way through. Remove the sticks from the boiling water using a spatula and place on paper towel to dry out. If you need to add more water to the pot, make sure you also add more baking soda as well.
7. Once the pretzel sticks are dried off, transfer them back to the buttered parchment paper. Cut little slits in the dough (these also get a lot bigger than you’d expect). Beat your egg in a cup with 1 tbsp of water. Brush the pretzels with the egg wash and sprinkle them with some coarse ground sea salt. Bake the pretzel sticks at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes or until they’ve turned a rich brown color. Serve them hot or at room temperature with some Dijon mustard.
Store the pretzel sticks in an air tight container ONLY after they have completely cooled off. If they’re still warm when you store them you will get condensation in the container, which will in turn dissolve the salt crystals. I stored my pretzel sticks in large Zip-Lock bags. To keep myself from eating these pretzels in an out-of-control manner I froze one of the large Zip-Lock bags. I don’t believe the salt crystals will hold up well to freezing and defrosting, but at least I won’t eat them all in one day!