One of Jesse's favorite things is soft pretzels. I have never made any kind of bread product before so doing this was diving into very unknown territory. I discovered one major thing...I'm a yeast murderer. I tried one recipe (which I'm sure worked fine but I didn't repeat it) and totally failed. The dough seemed perfect until it REFUSED TO RISE. I was very confused. I thought I had done everything right. Apparently, yeast is picky. I learned that when you had yeast to something warm it should not be HOT.
I got a whole new recipe and some advice from Sally (Jesse's mom) and started over. After several hours and just as many more mistakes I finally had some tasty (and imperfect) pretzels. Here is the recipe I had success with:
Hot Buttered Pretzels from King Arthur Flour
2.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons regular instant yeast
7/8 to 1 cup warm water - use the greater amount in the winter, the lesser amount in the summer, and somewhere in between in the spring and fall. Your goal is a soft dough
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
coarse, kosher or pretzel salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat till well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, till it's soft, smooth, and quite slack. Flour the dough and place it in a bag, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat your over to 500F. Prepare two baking sheets by spraying them with vegetable oil spray, or lining them with parchment paper.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces. Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine with 1/2 cup warm water and the baking soda, and place it in a shallow bowl. Make sure the baking soda is thoroughly dissolved; if it isn't, it'll make your pretzels splotchy.
Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 28-30in long), and twist each rope into a pretzel. Dip each each pretzel in the baking soda wash (this will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color), and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them lightly with the salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Bake the pretzels for 8-9 minutes, or until they're golden brown, reversing the baking sheets halfway through.
Remove the pretzels from the over, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you've used it all up; it may seem like a lot, but that's what gives these pretzels their ethereal taste. (Obviously substituted the vegan butter substitute on this part).
These came out great. Pay attention to the recipe, I ended up having to fudge it a lot because I added double of one ingredient but didn't have double of all of them so I couldn't just double the recipe. Oh well :-p I did brush on some mustard sauce to some of them also and I actually prefer those. They just have a little extra flavor.
I highly recommend this recipe. It was a lot of fun to make and to eat :)