Greetings from sunny, gorgeous, mountainous Denver! It’s where we’ve been the last couple of days and will continue to be for another day and a half to visit friends, climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow till we find — a beer and a burger, probably, because at that point we deserve it.
I wouldn’t be mad, though, if instead one of these homemade soft pretzels made its way to my face as a reward for all of this mountain-ing (and by mountain-ing, I basically mean we did one hike and then looked at a lot of mountains. It’s HOW I DO). I wouldn’t even be picky: cinnamon sugar, garlic Parmesan or za’atar sesame-topped, I would take any or all of them. Till I fiiiiind myyyy dreammmmm (please don’t leave I’m done I promise and hey look at these pretty pretzels!).
I have had many a soft pretzel in my day, and they’ve ranged from the super-stale, over-salted ballpark variety that comes with that fake neon cheese to the most amazing soft pretzel I’ve ever eaten in my life at a local place called The Happy Gnome where I swear they dip that pretzel in unicorn dust and miracles and then serve it with a beer cheese fondue that I have to hold myself back from faceplanting into, it’s so amazing. BUT I DIGRESS. Because even though I love that Happy Gnome pretzel with every pretzel-loving fiber in my body, I equally love the homemade soft pretzel because I can eat it straight out of the oven when it’s at its absolute best and I can top it with anything and everything I want.
In this case, I topped all of the pretzels with melted butter (NECESSARY), then sprinkled some with a sweet cinnamon-sugar mixture, others with a garlic-Parmesan mixture and the rest with a za’atar-sesame mixture. I can’t tell you which is my favorite because that would be like choosing a favorite child. I just love them all equally, OK? And you will, too.
I also left some of them just plain buttered, even without salt, because sometimes a plain pretzel is the way to go, especially if you’re planning to dip it in a delectable cheese sauce or cover it in grainy mustard (my two go-to options). The point is, these pretzels are inherently delicious on their own, and the toppings are just sweet or salty bonuses. They’d be perfect for an after-school snack, or a game day spread, or you can cut them in half and make pretzel sandwiches for lunch and make all of your co-workers/friends jealous. Then you can direct them to this recipe and be like, “See? Homemade pretzels are so easy. Go make your own.” In the most polite way possible.
I’m signing off to do some more Denver adventuring and pretzel daydreaming, but I wish you the best of Mondays and all the homemade soft pretzels your heart and hungry tummy desire.
- 1½ cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
- 4½ cups flour, divided
- 2 teaspooons salt
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 10 cups water
- ⅔ cup baking soda
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- Cinnamon Sugar: ¼ cup granulated sugar + 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- Garlic Parmesan: 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese + 3 teaspoons garlic powder + 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- Za'atar Sesame: 4 tablespoons za'atar spice + 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- In large bowl or bowl of stand mixer, combine water, sugar and yeast. Let rest 5 minutes until slightly foamy. Using wooden spoon or dough hook attachment on low speed, stir in 4 cups flour, salt and melted butter until dough forms.
- Transfer dough to well-floured surface and knead by hand 10 to 15 minutes, adding just enough remaining ½ cup flour until dough is smooth, soft, elastic and slightly firm; OR, using dough hook attachment on medium speed, knead dough in stand mixer 5 to 7 minutes, adding just enough remaining ½ cup flour until dough is smooth, soft, elastic and slightly firm. Shape dough into ball and place in lightly greased large bowl. Cover with tea towel and let rise 1 hour until doubled.
- Heat oven to 450 degrees F; line 2 baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper lightly sprayed with cooking spray. In large pot, bring water and baking soda to boil. Punch down risen dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into 2-foot-long rope; twist into pretzel shape (see photos in post for visual direction).
- Using slotted spoon, carefully dip 2 to 3 pretzels at a time into boiling water; boil 30 seconds. Remove pretzels with slotted spoon and transfer to lined baking sheets spaced 2 inches apart. When all pretzels are boiled, bake 12 to 14 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking, until pretzels are deep golden brown.
- While pretzels bake, mix desired toppings. Brush warm pretzels with butter, then sprinkle toppings on top (NOTE: amounts of toppings listed above are each for 8 pretzels; reduce amounts if you want to make all 3 varieties with 1 batch of pretzels). Serve warm.