homemade hard pretzel rods
I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but: I’m becoming a snack eater.
To the general population this is nothing revelatory, I know. But to me, it changes everything. You see, I used to be big (no, HUGE) on eating only meal foods for meals — no snack food for meal time, thankyouverymuch. Give me a real-deal meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but leave the cheese chunks and crackers and nuts and fruit and other snacky foods for snack time.
And then, within the past year or two, something changed. It was slow, sneaky. I would add crackers as a side to soup for lunch. Then, eventually, I would add cheese to those crackers, too. Soon after, I’d drop the soup altogether and eat a big plate of cheese, crackers, fruit and nuts. Or granola bars, or olives, or veggies and hummus, or pretzels. And it hit me: I’m eating snack food for meal time. Then I questioned everything and had a good, long existential conversation with myself.
Just kidding. But I did come to terms with my all-day snackage. And when I did, I decided to make the most of it. That’s where these homemade hard pretzel rods come in (you’re like FINALLY, sheesh).
I think I’ve been eating hard pretzels since the dawn of time (my favorite way? Dipping them in a peanut butter jar, yesssss) but until recently, I’d only made soft pretzels from scratch. So when I happened upon a recipe for homemade hard pretzels, which are my true true love, I was ecstatic. I NEED THESE NOW, I said to myself (there has been a lot of self-talk recently, apparently). I am a new woman and I want to eat all the snacks! I said. And so I got to work.
And by work, I mean I made a dough, let it rise, shaped it, poached it and baked it. All easy-peasy stuff, I promise you. And then it was pretzel magic bliss/put-a-big-pile-of-pretzels-on-a-plate-with-mustard-and-cheese-dip-and-eat-them time. A.K.A., snack time — NO, lunch time. And maybe also dinner time, but I’ll never tell.
A short but important note about these pretzels: They are poached for 15 seconds in a baking soda bath, much like a soft pretzel. BUTBUTBUT the important thing to note is that the baking soda is actually baked soda. And by baked soda, I mean it’s baking soda that has been baked in the oven at 250 degrees F for about an hour (there’s a note about this in the recipe below, FYI). It’s an easy prep task, but it’s important to make the bath more alkaline without having to use lye. That, combined with the brown sugar in the bath, is what will give these pretzels their true hard pretzel-y flavor, so don’t skip it.
Have some flour, some yeast, some sugar, some salt and a serious hankering for a snack (oh um hai, that’s me always now, as evidenced above)? You’re on your way to homemade hard pretzel rod heaven. Don’t forget to bring
a bucket I mean a bowl of cheese dip (or peanut butter!) with you.
For the dough:
- 1 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees F), divided
- 2 teaspoons light brown sugar, divided
- 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups bread flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the baking soda bath:
- 8 cups water
- 1/2 cup baked soda*
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water (egg wash)
- 2 tablespoons pretzel salt or coarse sea salt
- *NOTE: Baked soda is not another term for baking soda. It’s actually baking soda that has been baked. To make baked soda, spread baking soda on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees F for 1 hour. That’s it!
- In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup warm water and 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar. Add yeast and stir to dissolve. Let sit 5 to 10 minutes until slightly foamy.
- In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, stir remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar, flours and salt until combined. Add yeast mixture and remaining 3/4 cup warm water; stir until a dough forms.
- Knead dough by hand on a lightly floured surface 5 to 10 minutes until smooth, satiny and elastic; OR, knead dough with dough hook attachment in stand mixer on medium speed 5 minutes until smooth, satiny and elastic. Shape dough into a ball and place in a large bowl lightly greased with oil or cooking spray. Cover bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm place 1 hour until doubled.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Punch down risen dough and divide into 24 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a roughly 9-inch-long rod (1/2-inch wide) and place 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Cover loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap and let rise 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare the baking soda bath: In a large, deep and wide saucepan or Dutch oven, bring water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add baked soda and brown sugar; stir to dissolve.
- Carefully drop a few dough rods into simmering bath. Poach 15 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon or tongs and return to lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough rods.
- Brush tops of rods with egg wash, then sprinkle with salt. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking, until rods are a deep golden brown and hardened. Transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.
- Fully cooled pretzel rods can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.