We got the strangest craving to make soft pretzels the other day. Of course the fact that we were at Fenway Park nibbling ballpark food and watching the Red Sox play the Tampa Bay Rays at the time might have had something to do with it. Second only to hot dogs, soft pretzels are perfect baseball-watching food, don't you think?
We've had this recipe from Smitten Kitchen tagged for quite some time, and it sounded like just the thing to satisfy our craving:
• Soft Pretzels from the Smitten Kitchen
We'll start off by saying that if you've been wanting to get into bread baking but have been nervous to take the plunge, this is the perfect recipe for you!
The ingredients are likely already in your pantry, and it's easy to mix the dough by hand or with a mixer. You proof the yeast with a little sugar so you're 100% sure it's working. The dough also doesn't need to be kneaded for as long as a typical bread dough - just work it enough to make it into a smooth ball and you're done.
The only thing we'd add to the recipe comes in section on rolling and shaping. We had some trouble getting the dough to roll out without it shrinking back. Instead of working one piece at a time from start to finish, we rolled one piece half way, set it aside to rest, and then did the same with a few more pieces. By the time we got back to the first piece, the gluten had relaxed and we were able to roll it out into a rope long enough to shape into a pretzel.
And we'd recommend rolling those ropes out as long as you can! They puff up a lot once shaped, so you want to shape them very loosely to begin with.
Boiling the pretzels was a lot of fun and something that would be great to do with kids. There's something about watching little balls of dough bob in the water that feels so special! As long as you're careful not to splash, it's easy to turn the pretzels in the hot water and scoop them out again.
And the finished pretzels were absolutely perfect. The crust was chewy and slightly eggy and the interior was soft and tender. We ate the first several as soon as they were cool enough to eat with mustard on the side - just as the next night's game was coming on the television, as luck would have it!
Definitely give this recipe a try next time you're craving some concession stand food!
(Images: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)