Of all the comfort foods in the world, my favorite is a freshly baked soft pretzel. I love those bread-y delights! So salty, so buttery, so perfect for dipping. When I realized I could be making my own (instead of thawing them out), I decided to give it a go.
This soft pretzel bite recipe (though a little time consuming) is actually super easy. And despite the ease, the texture and flavor of these little gems are just as fabulous as the 'real thing'.
- 1 cup warm water (100° to 110°F)
- 1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast
- 3 C all-purpose flour plus more for work surface
- 1 tbsp coarse kosher salt
- 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
- 4 tbsp butter, well softened
- 1 tbsp butter, melted (for bowl lubrication)
- 8 C water
- 1/2 C baking soda
- 1/4 C salt (preferably pretzel salt, but any variation will work)
Mustard Thyme Dipping Sauce:
- 1/2 C spicy brown mustard
- 1/4 C sour cream
- 1/4 C mayonaise
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme
- 2 tbsp chopped capers
- Juice from 1/2 lemon
Make Pretzel Dough:
Stir together warm water and yeast in a small bowl and let stand until a foam develops on the surface, about 5 minutes. (A small pinch of sugar can aide the process.) If mixture doesn't foam, start over with new yeast.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, and brown sugar.
Add the yeast mixture and 4 tbsp butter to the flour mixture. Stir first with a wooden spoon and then with your hands until it forms a sticky dough. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough until it is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes, dusting with more flour as needed if dough sticks to work surface.
Shape the dough into a spherical mass and transfer to a large bowl lubricated with melted butter. Turn the dough over to fully coat with the butter. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a draft-free place at room temperature until doubled, 2 to 3 hours.
Knead the dough again until it returns to its original size and is smooth and elastic. Let dough rest at room temperature for 15 minutes, then transfer to lubricated bowl as above, and let rise in the refrigerator overnight (12 hours or up to 2 days).
Punch down dough and divide into quarters. Form each quarter into 4 balls. Roll each ball into a 12-inch-long rope. Cut each rope into six (2-inch) pieces.
Pre-heat oven to 450°F. Cover a 17"X12" baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a 4 to 5 quart saucepan, bring water and baking soda to a boil. Add 6 pretzel bites and allow to soak 30 seconds (they will rise to the surface almost immediately). Remove pretzel bites from the boil with a slotted spoon, apply the salt (while still wet, so it sticks), and set them in place on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pretzel bites, returning water to a boil between batches.
Bake pretzel bites in oven until deep chestnut brown, 8 to 10 minutes (watch closely toward end of baking; bites brown quickly in last few minutes). Immediately transfer pretzel bites to wire racks to cool.
Soft pretzel bites are best enjoyed fresh, but can be stored airtight in a refrigerator (and reheated) for up to a week.
Make Mustard Thyme Sauce:
Combine the spicy brown mustard, sour cream, mayonnaise, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Finely chop the fresh thyme and capers and add to mustard mixture. Throughly combine all ingredients and serve with warm pretzel bites.