Fresh from the oven, soft and oversized, sprinkled with salt or sugar, homemade pretzels are a snack that’s as much fun to make as they are to eat. These are very different from the hard pretzels that come in varied shapes and flavors on your market shelves.
Pretzels were first introduced in Germany centuries ago. When immigrating here, Germans who ended up settling in Pennsylvania, New York, and Maine brought their favorite recipes with them, especially one that became more and more popular with Americans as the years went on — pretzels.
The basic dough remains about the same; flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and water. Bakers see them as a simple introduction to bread making, especially with the fun of shaping and decorating into an individual snack or bread with a meal. The key difference in making pretzels is the “water bath,” which is when pretzels are dunked in a solution of water and baking soda before being baked. This process helps to bring out the starch from the flour and is what gives them their sheen.
Once you become comfortable with the basic recipe, it is time to involve the kids — they can experiment with different toppings and different shapes. Even though you will want to make a few classic pretzel twist shapes, children can mold the dough to spell their names, or form shapes such as hearts and logs.
When making regular pretzels make sure to use a coarse salt such as kosher salt.
1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional if needed
1/2 teaspoon canola or olive oil
For baking soda bath
1/3 cup baking soda
4 cups warm water
Place yeast, sugar, and warm water in a large mixing bowl and stir. Allow to sit for 10 minutes or until foamy.