Recipe courtesy of Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg

Soft Pretzels

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  • Yield: Makes about 5 pretzels
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The Pretzels:

The Boiling Pot:

The Dough


  1. On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with our and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit- size) piece. Divide the dough into 5 equal pieces. Dust each piece with more our and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Elongate the ball, dusting with additional our as necessary. Roll it back and forth with your hands on a flour-dusted surface to form a long rope about 20 inches long, approximately 1/2 inch in diameter at the center, and tapered on the ends. 
  2. Twist the dough rope into a pretzel shape by first forming a horse- shoe with the ends facing away from you. Fold the tapered ends down to the thick part of the rope, crossing them, one over the other. Extend the ends an inch beyond the bottom loop and gently press them together. 
  3. Preheat a baking stone near the middle of the oven to 450 degrees F (20 to 30 minutes), with an empty metal broiler tray on any shelf that won't interfere with rising pretzels. 
  4. Keep the pretzels covered loosely with plastic wrap as you repeat the process to shape the remaining dough. Let the pretzels rest at room temperature for 20 minutes. 
  5. Prepare the boiling pot: Bring a large saucepan or stockpot full of water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the baking soda and sugar. Drop the pretzels into the simmering water one at a time, making sure they are not crowding one another. They need enough room to float without touching or they will be misshapen. Let them simmer for 1 minute and then flip them over with a slotted spoon to cook the other side for another 30 seconds. 
  6. Remove them from the water using the slotted spoon, and place on a clean kitchen towel that has been dusted with flour. This will absorb some of the excess water from the pretzels. Then place them on a peel covered with whole wheat our. Sprinkle with coarse salt. 
  7. Slide the pretzels directly onto the hot stone. Pour 1 cup of hot water into the broiler tray and quickly close the oven door (see page 20 for steam alternatives). Bake for about 15 minutes, until deeply browned. If you want crisp pretzels, bake 5 to 10 minutes longer. 
  8. Serve these a bit warm, with a hefty stein of beer.

The Dough

  1. Mixing and storing the bagel dough: Mix the yeast, salt, and malt powder or sugar with the water in a 6-quart bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
  2. Mix in the our without kneading, using a spoon or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). If you're not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of our. 
  3. Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or attens on top), approximately 2 hours.
  4. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate the container of dough and use over the next 14 days.

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