Is there any snacker on earth who doesn't like pretzels? Their malty, subtle sweetness, generous crunch, and potent salt coating make for an easy-to-love snack that never really grows old. In Casey Barber's Classic Snacks Made from Scratch, the hard pretzels are a classic take on the form. No sourdough starter or fancy flours here, just good old yeast, brown sugar, and baking soda. Okay, actually there is one trick: To make the boiling mixture more alkaline without resorting to lye, Barber calls for a concentrated "baked soda." This, however, is easy to make. Simply pour out a box of baking soda onto an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet, and send it into a 250-degree oven for about an hour. Voila! Baked soda.
Why I picked this recipe: Hard pretzels have always been a go-to snack in my arsenal—I blame my salt-tooth.
What worked: Between the baked soda and the brown sugar, the malty flavor of these pretzels was totally on-point.
What did not: In a 375°F oven, my pretzels turned golden brown long before they became completely crisp. Next time, I'll lower the oven temperature to 350°F or even 325°F and bake them an extra 20 minutes or so to ensure they turn into crunchy logs before burning.
Suggested tweaks: The long logs can be a bit cumbersome, especially if your boiling pot is relatively narrow. Cutting the logs into bites would ease that difficulty.
Reprinted from Classic Snacks Made from Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats by Casey Barber. Copyright 2013. Published by Ulysses Press. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- For the Pretzels:
- 1 1/2 cups (6 3/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups (6 3/8 ounces) bread flour
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast (not active dry or rapid-rise)
- 2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup warm water
- Cooking spray or vegetable oil
- For the Poaching Liquid:
- 8 cups (2 quarts) water
- 1/2 cup baked soda
- 1/4 cup (1 7/8 ounces) packed light brown sugar
- For the Topping:
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 tablespoons pretzel salt or coarse sea salt
For the Pretzels: Stir the flours, yeast, brown sugar, and salt together in a large bowl, then stir in the warm water until a shaggy dough forms. (The water should feel as warm as a hot bath or Jacuzzi—not lukewarm but not boiling, either.)
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. The dough should feel smooth and satiny.
Spritz a large, clean bowl with cooking spray or grease lightly with vegetable oil. Place the dough ball in the bowl and cover with a spritzed or greased piece of plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 hour, until doubled in size.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Transfer the dough to a clean, unfloured surface and divide into 24 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 9 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Line up the ropes on the baking sheets and cover loosely with spritzed or greased plastic wrap. Let rise for another 30 minutes.
For the Poaching Liquid: Preheat the oven to 375°F (180°C) and prepare the poaching liquid. Bring 8 cups of water to a simmer in a large, wide saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add baked soda and brown sugar and stir until dissolved. The water will foam slightly.
Gently drop the dough ropes into the simmering water, a few at a time, and poach for 15 seconds. Remove the ropes gently using tongs, a slotted spoon, or a metal skimmer and return them to the baking sheets.
For the Topping: Whisk together egg and water to form egg wash. Brush ropes with egg wash and sprinkle with pretzel salt or sea salt. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until fully hardened, dark brown, and glossy, checking every few minutes after 30 minutes; switch the sheets between top and bottom racks halfway through. Transfer the baked pretzels to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving. Store the pretzels at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a week.