This is a cautionary tale of sorts, about a home cook who worked for nearly three hours to create a treat that goes from street to sublime when dressed with an elegant Herbes de Provence sea salt. These soft pretzels amaze with a chewy-crispy exterior that gives to a soft interior, all the while teasing your taste buds with lavender, rosemary and sea salt.
I found myself skipping lunch just so I could savor yet one more pretzel. Yes, they’re that good. So if you’re prepared to fall under the spell of warm, soft, homemade pretzels, read on. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I discovered this recipe through Jey of The Jey of Cooking, my assignment for this month’s secret recipe club. Last month I whipped up these M&M Peanut Butter Blondies which quickly caught the attention of some of my fellow San Diego Food Bloggers. This month, I switched from sweet to savory.
Jey and I have a lot in common. We both started our blogs to challenge ourselves to cook beyond our comfort level. Jey took her personal challenge a step further by creating 11 in ’11, her personal road map of recipes that she can’t wait to try. Encouraged by her determination, I picked pretzels from her list of 11 new recipes to try (she’s also got bagels and croissants on her list, I knew I liked this woman!).
Making soft pretzels by hand is time consuming, I won’t lie to you. But the process of breaking each step into tasks, of combining the science of baking with the creativity of intuition was thoroughly rewarding. This method involved hand kneading, which I find both therapeutic and rewarding. If you’re interested in using your electric mixer to knead the dough, check out this option by Alton Brown. Who wouldn’t want that precious little pretzel waiting for them? I thought so. And if you want to step it up a notch, consider using the herbed sea salt I used, which was a gift from friends of a friend at Sel Magique.
Gluten-free update: I haven’t tried making pretzels since going gluten-free, but when I do, I’ll give one of these recipes a try:
- How to Make Gluten-Free Soft Pretzels by Elizabeth Barbone
- Gluten-Free Soft Pretzels by Shauna Ahern
Soft Pretzels with Herbed Sea Salt
Standing electric mixer with dough hook
Baking sheets, preferably three or four
1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water, 110-115°
1 envelope dry active yeast
½ teaspoon white sugar (optional)
4 cups (17 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 quarts cold water
½ cup baking soda
Herbes de Provence Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
- Prepare the yeast: In a small glass bowl, mix 2 tablespoons warm water and the yeast; the water should be between 110° and 115° degrees, which is hotter than you think. Use a thermometer, or gauge this way: if the water’s too hot to run a kid’s hand through it, then it’s the right temperature.
- Let the mixture rest until foamy, like a beer when you first pour it. If you don’t notice any activity, add ½ teaspoon sugar, this should encourage the yeast to grow. This might take 10-30 minutes.
- Prepare the dough: Once the yeast mixture is foamy, scrape it into the bowl of a standing electric mixer. Add 1 1/3 cups warm water and the brown sugar, stir to combine.
- Add the flour and, using the dough hook, mix at medium-low speed until the dough comes together.
Sticky dough, just keep kneading
- Plop the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough for at least five minutes. This is a wet, sticky dough. To knead, pull it straight up from your work surface, then slap it back down, create a mound, then repeat. Resist the urge to add more flour; to prevent sticking, lightly splash your hands with water, but take care and don’t add too much extra water.
- Using a dough scraper, cut the dough in half and roll each half into a 12” roll. Cut each roll into 10 pieces; you should have 20 pieces, roughly the same size. Lightly cover with plastic wrap or, even better, a kitchen towel (but not one made of terrycloth). Let rest for 20 minutes.
Form a U, then cross the ends over the curve
- Shape the pretzels: Prepare two baking sheets: line each with parchment paper and lightly dust with flour. Using your hands, roll each piece of dough into a 12” long rope; you can lightly dust your hands with flour, but keep your work surface tacky. Pick up each end of the rope and form a U, lay the curve of the U on the baking sheet. Cross the two ends of the U, one over the other, almost like the U is crossing its arms. Pinch each end where it meets the curve of the U. Repeat for the remaining 19 pieces. Try to leave an inch or so of space between each pretzel on the baking sheet. Lightly spritz the pretzels with oil and cover with plastic wrap; let rest for at least 30 minutes.
Boil the pretzels in a baking soda bath
- Boil the pretzels: While the pretzels are resting, prepare the oven. Place the racks on the top and bottom third of the oven; preheat the oven to 425°. Meanwhile, in a large pot, boil 2 quarts cold water; when it boils, add the baking soda. Carefully slide 3 or 4 pretzels into the water, they’ll expand quickly so allow room. Boil for 30 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining pretzels.
- Bake the pretzels: Prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment paper and lightly oiling with vegetable or canola oil. Arrange the pretzels, right side up, allowing an inch or so of room. Sprinkle with the salt. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until browned all over. Remove from oven, let cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to clean cooling racks.
- Serve warm.
Adapted from a recipe by Jey of The Jey of Cooking.
Jey @ The Jey of Cooking says
So glad you liked these! I’ve ended up making them a number of times and switching up the toppings. Herbs de Provence sea salt sounds amazing!
Aimee @ ShugarySweets says
I’ve got homemade pretzels on my list as well. You make it look easy though, and there is a great sense of accomplishment when you finish, I’m sure! Thanks for sharing the recipe,
Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray says
These look great! I love the step-by-step. I always give in to the temptation to add more flour–that stickiness gets me every time!
Lynne @ 365 Days of Baking says
I made pretzels and yes, they were time consuming, but so much fun and yummy, too! I LOVE the herbed salt idea! Definitely going to use that next time.
I love the idea of adding herbs to the salt. We make soft pretzels at least once a month in my house, but have never varied from the plain…time to kick it up a notch!
Jenny @ Savour the Senses says
My roommate has been begging me to make her soft pretzels, looks like now I don’t have an excuse… Great SRC post! Check out my post at http://savourthesensesblog.com/plum-crunch-my-src-post/ =)
oh wow these sound delicious. I love herbs and sea salt together.. and of course fresh warm pretzels. Adding this to my list!
Miz Helen says
This looks like a great recipe. It is fun cooking with you in the SRC. Hope you are having a great day and thanks for sharing!
Erin @ Making Memories says
These look wonderful! Great pick!
Emily | Nomnivorous says
Unlike myself and my SRC baking adventure, you bravely kneaded sticky dough without adding flour. I am impressed. I’m not sure if I could ever do that.
But the final product shows it all paid off!
I’m totally in love with soft pretzels and your herbed sea salt on top looks amazing! Visiting from SRC
Oh yum!! I have been meaning to make pretzels for-EVER….they were actually going to be my SRC choice this month until I ran out of time! I love the herbed sea salt on yours…genius!
Great job on the pretzels, they look wonderful.
If you haven’t already, I’d love for you to check out my group “A” SRC recipe this month: Welsh Cakes.
Cook Lisa Cook
Never thought about challenging myself with pretzels! Interesting to boil in baking soda water! I love her concept of 11 in 11 and I am glad you picked one of them!
I’ve wanted to make homemade pretzels for a while. It’s on the list for next weekend. A big thanks for the recipe and SRC!
These look really good! How long did the entire process of making them take u!
Those pretzels look delectable. With all that work going into them, they had to taste heavenly.
I’m so glad you tried making your own soft pretzels – they look great! I’ve made them before, and they are a lot of work, but the kids really enjoyed them.
Those pretzels look crazy good, especially with that sea salt topping. OMG.
The Gonzo Gourmet says
Hello hello!! A few of you have asked how long the process took … for me it was three hours, start to finish. But the pretzels rested, twice, they baked … so there was plenty of free time. To, you know, wash dishes! But ya know – make them at least once. It was fun, and Little GG got a kick out of twisting the dough. Happy cooking!
Jey @ The Jey of Cooking says
Yes, there’s plenty of downtime, but I think it took about two hours, including the rises and bake times.
Amy @ A Little nosh says
Those look amazing! I don’t have the counter space to make them but I’d love to try one day.
I’d love it if you’d stop by my SRC post for Turkey Sloppy Joes!
When I was glancing over the blog hop pics, this recipe immediately caught my eye! Your pretzels look soooo good! And I love the herbed sea salt addition. Looks a little difficult for my skills but yours is done like a pro 🙂
Check out my SRC post if you like – Molten Lava Cakes!!!
Suzanne Miller says
These look so fun, my kids would love to shape them! Love your photos!
Your website has inspired my sister in law to start her own, I was so excited about your write up in the UT I had to call her and tell her about you!!
I told her she couldn’t use your chili recipe though for our family contest as I will be using it.
Fresh, soft pretzels are one of life’s greatest pleasures! Great recipe selection!
I’m happy to join the SRC for the first time this month. I hope you’ll stop by for a visit.
Vivian thiele says
I love pretzels and my daughter keeps begging me to make some more for her. I will have to try your recipe.
I love pretzels and have never made them. YOu’ve inspired me to try. These look delicious. Visiting from SRC.
Carolyn Leslie says
Oh my goodness, my mouth just watered as I looked at the photos! I’m going to try these – and maybe make a herb salt from the lavender and rosemary growing in my garden.
I made pretzels for SRC too — great choice!
Beth Pollock says
Your pretzels look amazing. I’ll have to check out Jey’s blog too!
Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca) says
I would have never thought that you could boil dough!!! I am intrigued and amazed by this.