Okay, that's a little hokey, but pretzels (hard or soft) are one of my all-time favorite foods. Our house is never without a bag of pretzel twists in the cabinet, and my favorite mall or stadium snack food is a soft pretzel with mustard (preferable honey mustard). I could not be more excited when I saw an entire episode of Good Eats devoted to pretzels. Unfortunately, after making a batch of these, the appeal of your standard food court pretzel will significantly drop.
These are have a slightly leathery crust, but they soft and chewy on the inside. And they make the whole house smell good as they bake.
You begin by mixing up the dough. First, you proof the yeast in water with sugar for a few minutes. Then, add the flour, salt, and butter. Use a stand mixer to mix everything together and then knead it for 4-5 minutes. Then, transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover, and let it rise for about an hour (or until its size doubles).
Look at that beautiful, smooth dough!
While the dough rises, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and get out 2 sheet pans (or cookie sheets in my case), and line them with parchment paper. Then, brush the paper with vegetable oil.
Then bring 2 1/2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot (a dutch oven works well), and once the water is rolling add baking soda.
While the water is coming up to a boil, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Then roll each piece into a 2-foot long log. Then, you twist. My twisting skills aren't up to par as is evident from the photo (I think I did one too many twists), but whatever shape you manuever your pretzels into, they will still be tasty.
Eight pieces of dough.
A slightly skewed pretzel.
As you shape each pretzel, put it on the parchment paper. Once all the pretzels are shaped, you can put them in the boiling water. I only put in 2 at a time, and you only need to boil them for 30 seconds. Remove the pretzels with a large slotted spoon (or something simalar) and return them to the baking sheet.
A pretzel after its spa treatment.
Brush each pretzel with the egg wash, and bake them for 12-16 minutes (or until dark golden brown).
Applying the egg wash.
Once the pretzels have acheived the correct level of goldiness, transfer them to a cooling rack. And then wait 5 loooong minutes before eating. These are best eaten on the day you bake them, but you can enjoy them the next day or freeze them.
Note: You don't have to use a stand mixer for this recipe. The first time I made it by "hand." It was more work but the results were the same-yummy!
Here's the full recipe for Alton Brown's Homemade Soft Pretzels.