Soft Sourdough Pretzels
There is just something about a warm, doughy, soft pretzel that I just can’t resist! Truth be told, there aren’t many pretzel varieties that I don’t like snacking on, but soft sourdough pretzels are definitely a weakness. A weakness that my children inherited as well. We can hardly pass up the opportunity to snack on a big, hot pretzel when we’re out shopping.
Did you know that April 26th is National Pretzel Day? No worries, I didn’t either. Part of the fun of homeschooling is sometimes celebrating the obscure. If you have younger children (or young at heart), try to find the book Walter the Baker, by Eric Carle. This book is a fun introduction to one of the myths behind the creation of the pretzel all done in the beautifully colorful Carle-style.
Read aloud and have a little fun making your own pretzels! This would be a great opportunity create a book focused lesson.
For the past two years there has been something growing in my refrigerator. It is pretty low-maintenance now, but every time I feed it I have to either make something from its waste or toss it in the trash. It’s sourdough.
I’ll admit, I’m not incredibly adventurous, yet. I typically just make a loaf of sourdough bread and call it a day. But pretzels are a fun way to use up some of our waste starter. There are a bunch of recipes out there, and I didn’t want to sift through a bunch to find something successful. Instead I adapted one I trust into a sourdough recipe. I’ve been familiar with the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day method for quite some time. It is a fridge-fermented dough, but it makes use of commercial yeast for more predictable (and faster) results instead of the wild-caught starter of traditional sourdough. Their recipe can be found here.
I wanted to accomplish two things in changing up the recipe, using my traditional sourdough starter and incorporating whole grain flour.
Here’s what I used:
- 1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 2 tablespoons raw honey
- 2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cups bread flour (or all-purpose)
- 2 cups sprouted whole wheat flour (or whole wheat)
First, I add the starter, water, honey, and yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix until combined. Then add the salt and flours, mix/knead with the dough hook until the dough comes together and pulls from the sides of the bowl. If the dough seems too wet, sprinkle in a little extra bread/all purpose flour. Be careful not to add too much. It should come together but not be a ‘dry’ dough.
Allow the dough to rise in the bowl, covered with a cloth or plastic wrap, until it doubles in size, approximately 1-2 hours. You can use it immediately after the first rise, or store it in the refrigerator. I prefer to store mine in the fridge for two reasons, it’s easier to handle and it gives more fermentation time which can be beneficial for digestion.
I prefer to work on an oiled surface instead of floured. I spray my hands and counter top with a little coconut oil and then break off a piece of dough (about the size of a golf ball). I roll it between my hands or on the counter until it is about a ‘finger width’ in thickness. Then make the magical twist. Hard to explain, so here are a few pictures.
Take an end in each hand, bring them up away from yourself, cross the ends over each other, add a twist and press the ends into the bottom. (Optionally, these make great pretzel bites. Just roll and cut into nuggets using the same process.) Place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet to proof for 20-30 minutes. Tip: While it’s tempting to roll thin mall-style pretzels, these recipe works best for smaller pretzels.
Part of the myth of the pretzel is the origin of the shape. Some sources claim it represents hands folded in prayer. In the book, Walter the Baker is commanded by the Duke to create a roll through which the sun would shine three times.
Preheat your oven to 450. You can also add a small pan on a rack below your baking rack, to which you’ll later add hot water to provide steam during baking.
To get that chewy crust, boil the pretzels in boiling water that has a teaspoon of baking soda and a tablespoon of cream of tartar added to it. Place 2-3 pretzels into your boiling water (leaving room for them to swim freely), boil for approximately 2 minutes on each side.
Remove with a slotted spoon and allow them to drain on a clean towel before placing on your parchment lined cookie sheet for baking. Sprinkle with coarse salt before baking, if desired.
Once your tray is full you’re ready to bake. Place in the oven and add hot water to your heated steam pan. Bake for approximately 15 minutes. The pretzels will be lightly browned.
Allow the finished sourdough pretzels to cool on a rack for a few minutes before enjoying. Feel free to dip into some caramel, spicy brown, or honey mustard for an extra treat!
What is your favorite pretzel variety? Have you ever tried making them?