Clearly Thanksgiving was the big event this week, but I was also really looking forward to the Packers-Lions game, too. Since the game started at 12:30, David and I didn’t start our Thanksgiving cooking until late that afternoon. Since we had a small gathering to feed, we opted for a tiny 8-pound turkey, which roasted in about two and a half hours. We loaded up our table with sides of veggies: mashed potatoes, twice-baked sweet potatoes with goat cheese, cauliflower gratin, and roasted Brussels sprouts. I also made a cornbread stuffing (coming later next week). All these dishes had minimal prep time and simple cooking methods, which allowed for plenty of time to make game day snacks.
These soft pretzels are a perfect tailgating or party recipe. They take about 3 hours to make and taste best the same day, so spending a morning in the kitchen whipping these up before an afternoon game is really the perfect setting. I made these the first time for a finger-food-only cocktail party hosted by one of my friends in my nutrition program, but they went over so well, I’ll keep them in the repertoire for future parties.
There are a few elements in here that can be intimidating to first-time pretzel makers. I can’t tell you how many batches of yeast I’ve killed by using too-hot water for priming in my early years. This time, instead of heating water in a kettle, I just ran the tap and got the temperature to reach 105 to 110-degrees, which worked beautifully. Shaping the pretzels wasn’t too difficult, either. I think this guide does a really great job of illustrating the technique, but the pretzel dough can also be formed and cooked as simple twists. Finally, I swapped out a cup of the all-purpose flour for some whole wheat flour. It’s a quick substitution that doesn’t impart a strong flavor to the final product, but these kinds of small, healthful changes can add up to make a big difference over time.
Homemade Soft Pretzels
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 24 soft pretzels
- 2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast (1/4 ounce)
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- Vegetable oil, for baking sheets
- 3 tablespoons baking soda
- 1 tablespoon pretzel salt
- Mix yeast, coarse salt, sugar, and warm water (about 105-110 degrees) in a small bowl, whisking until sugar dissolves. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Mix flours in a large bowl. Using your fingers, work the butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Slowly pour yeast mixture over flour mixture, stirring to combine. Using your hands, gather dough together. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until it is no longer sticky, about 5 minutes. Cover with plastic, and let rise for 30-60 minutes.
- Cut dough half, and then cut each half into 12 pieces. Roll each section into a 10-inch rope. Form a U shape with 1 rope, and twist ends together twice. Fold twisted portion backward along center of U shape to form a circle, then gently press ends of rope onto dough to seal. Transfer to an oiled baking sheet, and repeat. Let the pretzel dough rise for another 20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add baking soda. Boil pretzels in batches until puffed and slightly shiny, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to wire racks to drain. Return to baking sheet, sprinkle with pretzel salt, and bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Pretzels will keep, uncovered, at room temperature for up to 12 hours. Rewarm in a 250-degree oven if desired, and serve with mustard for dipping.